Harrisburg Area Community College
“What Makes My Thinker Think…”
Humanities 201: World Mythology
27 April 2013
27 April 2013
“What Makes My Thinker Think…”
The processes used to record the myths, stories and events of history come in many different forms. The most common mode of capturing the past is the ever-familiar writings found in the endless pages of written documents and books. More recently, the Internet has become the method of choice in replacing the pen and paper in capturing and recording the incidents of days past. While these techniques are a noble source to document and remember the teachings of yester-year, the best method that will guarantee a spark of interest in both the young and old is the art pieces, statues and sculptures that populate every corner of the world. This recording skill chronicles the past in a visual format that inspires on-lookers to dig deeper into the hidden secrets stored in the paints and other substances used to create the piece of art. In this paper I’ll take you on a journey back to 1880 and we will explore the stories hidden in one of my favorite pieces and probably the most recognized statues in the world, “The Thinker” (fig.1). While it is not my intent to document the life of the artist, this paper would not be complete without a formal introduction of the man behind the creation, Auguste Rodin. Rodin was born on November 12, 1840 in the Rue de l’Arbalète, a poor area of Paris (Cedric). Rodins natural talent in art can be traced back to the age of 14 when he persuaded his father to let him attend the “Petite École”, a prestigious school of art in Paris. While there he learned and practiced skills that primarily related to painting. He studied the traditional techniques of art and he perfected his power of observation and mastered the ability to draw from memory (Cedric). Rodin spent four years at the school. Throughout his life, he created several well known drawings and paintings that decorate some of the most prominent homes and museums around the world. As a point of interest, Rodins life as a sculptor didn’t come as easy as his accomplishments in painting and drawing. Though he is now regarded as one of the most remarkable sculptors of all time, Rodin left the “Petite École” and applied to the École des Beaux-Arts to study sculpture. After failing the entrance examination three times in a row he was forced to pursue his artistic career outside of official channels (Cedric). This path ultimately earned him international respect as an artist and a multitude of distinguished awards. Topping the list of his greatest and best-known works is the masterpiece known as The Thinker. Rodin first designed the thinker between 1880 and 1881 as a small sculpture (Chicago). He later developed the larger and better-known version of the statue sometime between 1902 and 1904; from the original cast, twenty-one statues are known to exist (Chicago). What many connoisseurs of art may not realize is The Thinker is actually part of a larger collection created by Rodin in1880 when he was commissioned by the French Government to create a portal type doorway for a new Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris (Chicago). As expected, Rodin created a monumental doorway for the museum; ironically, the museum would never open (Luna). Rodin based the theme of his project on “The Divine Comedy of Dante” and the work as a whole was called “The Gates of Hell” (fig.2) (Chicago). Each of the statues in the piece represented one of the main characters in the epic poem with The Thinker representing the creator (Luna). The Thinker was originally called The Poet and was a depiction of Dante himself. The statue sits centered at the top of the door looking down at the hellish scene below. This positioning brings Dante to life at the helm of the Gates of Hell as he ponders...
Cited: Artble. The Thinker. http://www.artble.com/artists/auguste_rodin/sculpture/the_thinker. 2013. Web. 18 Apr 2013.
Columbia College. The Thinker, by Auguste Rodin, 1902. http://www.college.columbia.edu/core/content/thinker-auguste-rodin-1902. n.d. Web. 19 Apr 2013
Chicago University. Smart Museum of Art. http://smartcollection.uchicago.edu/view/objects/asitem/230/11/title- asc?t:state:flow=dae62d24-54c3-436f-a7c2-bbc7b7c417e1. 2013. Web. 12 Apr 2013.
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