Summary: the Thinker by Auguste Rodin

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French sculptor, Auguste Rodin, known for his sumptuous bronze and marble figures, considered by some critics to be the greatest portraitist in the history of sculpture, created one of the most world famous bronze statues to exist, Le Penseur or the Thinker. The 6-foot, 1.8-metre bronze statue was made in 1902, Paris over the course of 37 years. The physical sculpture didn’t take that long but the preparation that came with it did. Rodin grew up apart of a poor family and struggled to be accepted for art schools. After 5 years of being determined and failing to gain an art education, he decided to make a living in decorative stonework. Eventually, he was invited to share designs with other artists and found an entry into his new life-long career of bronze sculptures. His style of work consisted of being realism The realism of the work contrasted so greatly with the statues of Rodin’s contemporaries that he was accused of having formed its mold upon a living person.

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Rodin’s artistic method of making his bronze sculpture was done through modelling and plaster casting. He began work on the Thinker by drawing basic designs of what he wished to sculpt. His preferred practice was to record all the model’s profiles and to observe the body from different heights, even with the sometimes use of a step ladder. Rodin strived on sand casting which is also the main method used in Paris since the mid 19th century for bronze sculptures.In sand casting, the model is pressed into special sand to leave a negative imprint from which a solid positive cast is then made.

The casts are usually hollow. This is achieved by positioning a core, slightly smaller than the intended final cast, within the negative imprint. It is secured with pins to keep it away from the sand, thus leaving space for the molten bronze. After the bronze is removed from the cast, it is cooled and then carved. Finer details of the Thinker were produced during this stage along with finishing touches such as removing seam lines etc. The process of making the sculpture was subtractive for it included carving.

The Thinker was originally part of the compositional piece Rodin created as an entranceway for the proposed Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. Many of Rodin’s most famous works came out of this piece and The Thinker was originally intended to sit at the top of the door way and represent Dante, as he composed the poem. By choosing to depict The Thinker as a strong, athletic figure, Rodin conveyed that the act of thinking is a powerful exercise.The statue can be found in many different museums and art galleries around the world but the original statue can be found in Rodin Museum on 77 Rue de Varenne, 75007 Paris, France. It is presented in a garden upon a pedestal as you can see here, displaying its greatness. It is a free-standing sculpture for it has space around all sides.

Auguste Rodin created The Thinker in a way that mirrors the heroes of Michelangelo. The nude figure is muscular, taunt, and valiant. This demonstrates to the viewer the high regard with which Rodin held Dante and creative thinkers in general. The seating of the figure is interesting as it immediately invokes the contemplative mood of this piece that would have been hard to create were the man stood up or looking out into the distance. The hunched torso is simple but adds to the sense of power that is apparent but by no means threatening. Rodin’s brilliance at representing the character and feeling of his sitters is beautifully displayed here.

The sculpture gives off a feeling of ease and calmness even though it is not a frivolous or peaceful piece of art. The Thinker conjures up images of intelligence and deep thought, themes that are universal in their appeal. Unlike some of Rodin’s more complex or abstract works The Thinker is relatively simple in its design and this may go some way to explain its popularity. During its use as a public monument in Paris from 1906 onwards, The Thinker became known as a symbol of the socialist movement in France during a time of political and social turmoil.

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