The first time I saw a great collection of Rodin's works was three summers ago when I trudged over to Musée d'Orsay after I discovered that the Louvre Museum was closed on Mondays. I was already super tired from backpacking around Europe and basically museumed out by the time I got to Paris. I walked around with what seemed like the capacity of a pea-sized brain and tried to admire the works of great masters. I don't remember much from that experience except for one piece of work called "Celle qui fut la belle heaulmière" or "She who was the Helmet-Maker's once beautiful Wife." It is more simply known as "The Old Woman."
I remember my visceral reaction when I saw the work for the first time. It was tragic and mournful yet beautiful and celebratory at the same time. The old, wrinkled body evoked the feeling of inevitability of the passing of time and yet it seemed to celebrate the strength of the human spirit that lives on in that frail body.
Rodin said: "Commonly ... ugliness in nature can in art become full of great beauty. In art, only that which has character is beautiful. Character is the essential truth of any natural object."
Rodin's sculptures and drawings went on international tours for the first time and I got to see many of his works again in Seoul. Although I didn't see "The Old Woman" again, I saw the great beauty of character in his works. Maybe it's the nostalgia evoked by the quality of impressionist sculptures, but I was emotionally moved by the experience.
Also, I learned about his pupil and lover, Camille Claudel and their love story. An artist is incomplete without a passionate, and stormy love story that often ends in tragedy. She ended up dying in a psychiatric hospital.
A version of this sculpture lives in the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC. I visit her every time I'm in town. I love her too.ReplyDelete