Auguste Rodin: The Sculptor and the Photographic Enterprise

View Works

Rodin did not take pictures of his sculptures but he reserved the creative act for himself, actively directing the enterprise of photographing his work. He controlled staging, lighting, and background, and he was probably the first sculptor to enlist the camera to record the changing stages through which his work passed from conception to realization.

The photographers working with Rodin were diverse and their images of his work vary greatly, due partly to each individual’s artistic sensibility and partly to changes in the photographic medium over time. The radical viewing angles that Eugène Druet adopted in his pictures of hands around 1898 inspired the poet Rainer Maria Rilke to write, “There are among the works of Rodin hands, single small hands which without belonging to a body, are alive. Hands that rise, irritated and in wrath; hands whose five bristling fingers seem to bark like the five jaws of a dog of Hell.” Edward Steichen’s Rodin—The Thinker (1902) was made by combining two negatives: Rodin in dark silhouetted profile contemplating The Thinker (1880–82), his alter ego, set against the luminous Monument to Victor Hugo (1901). Steichen photographed a plaster model for Rodin’s Balzac in the sculptor’s garden at Meudon, spending a whole night taking varying exposures, from fifteen minutes to an hour, to secure a number of very different dramatic negatives.