Art@Site Auguste Rodin Le Penseur, The Thinker (copy)

Auguste Rodin


Le Penseur, The Thinker (copy)

Haagsche Bluf, Passage
The Thinker (French: Le Penseur) is a bronze sculpture by Auguste Rodin, usually placed on a stone pedestal. The work shows a nude male figure of over life-size sitting on a rock with his chin resting on one hand as though deep in thought and is often used as an image to represent philosophy. There are about 28 full size castings, in which the figure is about 186 centimetres (73 in) high, though not all were made during Rodin's lifetime and under his supervision, as well as various other versions, several in plaster, studies, and posthumous castings, in a range of sizes. Rodin first conceived the figure as part of another work in 1880, but the first of the familiar monumental bronze castings did not appear until 1904.
Originally named The Poet (French: Le Po├Ęte), The Thinker was initially a figure in a large commission, begun in 1880, for a doorway surround called The Gates of Hell. Rodin based this on The Divine Comedy of Dante, and most of the many figures in the work represented the main characters in the epic poem. Some critics believe The Thinker, at the centre of the composition over the doorway and at about 70 cm high larger than most other figures, was originally intended to depict Dante at the gates of Hell, pondering his great poem. However, there are questionable aspects to this interpretation, including that the figure is naked, Dante is fully clothed throughout his poem, and that the figure, as used, in no way corresponds to Dante's effete figure. The sculpture is nude, as Rodin wanted a heroic figure in the tradition of Michelangelo, to represent intellect as well as poetry.
This detail from the Gates of Hell was first named The Thinker by foundry workers, who noted its similarity to Michelangelo's statue of Lorenzo de Medici called"Il Penseroso" (The Thinker). Rodin decided to treat the figure as an independent work, at a larger size. The figure was designed to be seen from below, and is normally displayed on a fairly high plinth, though the heights chosen by the various owners for these vary considerably.
The mood of this piece is one of calm. Rodin captures the very human emotion of The Thinker which may go some way as to explain how this piece became one of the artist's most famous works.
Reception during the artist's Lifetime: The Thinker was first exhibited as a large-scale individual sculpture in 1904 at the Salon in Paris. The reaction to this piece was unprecedented and it became a favorite of the press at that time. Due to the fact that long before The Thinker was exhibited critics had been ridiculing Rodin's Monument to Balzac in the same gallery, one critic in particular felt that The Thinker more than made up for the abstract and unusual Balzac.
Gabriel Mourey was the editor of a magazine called"Les Arts de la vie", which was a popular art publication of the time. Mourey started a subscription for The Thinker so that it could be purchased for the people of Paris to enjoy. By doing this, the memory of Rodin's disastrous Monument to Balzac was largely forgotten and Rodin cemented his place as the most influential sculptor of modern times.
After the Artist's Death: Although some of Rodin's work fell out of favor as the 20th century progressed, The Thinker has remained one of the his most popular works. Some critics have noted that this could be because The Thinker relates to everyone and the very human nature of the piece is much easier to understand than some of Rodin's more abstract works.
The immense popularity of the piece has frequently been credited to the familiar emotion it projects, of being lost deep in thought, frozen from action. Rodin explained, "What makes my Thinker think is that he thinks not only with his brain, with his knitted brow, his distended nostrils and compressed lips, but with every muscle of his arms, back, and legs, with his clenched fist and gripping toes.