The Prodigal Son Next time you venture to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, go and have a look at The Prodigal Son. Study it for a few minutes; take a deep breath, stop thinking, and try to feel with your emotions. I felt sorrow and then pity as I quickly moved from compassion to empathy. Mixed with that pity was the relief that I do not know the tension and emotional pain the figure projects. Earth hath no sorrow that heaven cannot heal Thomas Moore.
Auguste Rodin embodied these words in his work entitled The Prodigal Son. Source: Auguste Rodin Sculptures and Drawings. G. Nerret B. Tasche 1994 I chose this work because like many of Rodin ‘s works it contains a vast amount of energy and something akin to life force. Although not as delightful as his more famous sensual erotic works, it demonstrates Rodin’s ability to capture and project intense emotion in a sculpture.
“The Prodigal Son” was produced in 1889 although it genesis was much earlier. The figure appears in the incredible “Gate of Hell ” upon which Rodin worked from 1880 until his death in 1917. Source: Auguste Rodin Sculptures and Drawings. G.
Nerret B. Tasche 1994 The Gate of Hell seems to have acted as a data bank of Rodin’s creations. They contain one hundred and eighty-seven figures absolutely seething with life. The small figures are captured in amazing poses, the work is so charged that I find it overwhelming. The figures writhe in pleasure and pain, a nightmare rendered in three dimensions. some of the figures are drawn directly from the characters in Dantes Inferno.
Jesus uses parables when teaching. Parables are earthly stories that have a heavenly meaning. Parables also have a spiritual meaning. In using parables, the Lord is able to teach a spiritual concept in such a way that even the most illiterate person is able to understand. The parable of the “Prodigal Son” is an earthly story that shows how pleased God is when a sinner repents and comes back to ...
Others reflect Rodin’s dark imagination in Gothic mode. Many of Rodin’s larger sculptures can be found on the’ Gate. The Prodigal Son was modelled from Paolo one of Ugulino’s sons (Dante’s Inferno) who are the inspiration for many of Rodin’s works. Source: Auguste Rodin Sculptures and Drawings. G.
Nerret B. Tasche 1994 The figure was first used as “Sorrow” in 1882. Rodin loved the human body and all its expressions. He captured many of the poses he utilised in a wonderful manner. He would ask a number of naked models to move continuously about his studio.
He would study them intently and periodically ask one to pause exactly as they were currently posing. He would then quickly sketch the figure in clay. He would then ask the models to continue until he found another pose. Rodin spent hours observing the body in motion and in various situations. He became familiar with the subtle play of muscle bone and sinews, as a harmonious entity.
He was able to translate his unique observations into inorganic expressions of physical and emotional life. Rodin was able to work the surface of his material to achieve complex planes that reflected and absorbed light so as to demonstrate emotion by the look of the body. He said “The sculpture must learn to reproduce the surface, which means all that vibrates on the surface, soul, love, passion, life… Sculpture is thus the art of hollows and mounds, not of smoothness, or even polished planes.” Rodin’s sculpture is his own interpretation of the human condition, both directly from his experience and his translation of the experience of others.
The Prodigal Son figure was next used in “Fugit Amor” (Fleeting Love) which also features in various parts of the Gate of Hell. Here the figure is combined with a female form. The figures represent the adulterous Paolo and Francesca whom Dante prescribed a punishment of forever riding a whirlwind, together but never joined in love. Rodin liked very much these grand themes for his sculpture unlike his contemporary Degas who liked to express more mundane scenes in his impressionistic sculpture, eg: “The Dancer.” Source: Auguste Rodin Sculptures and Drawings. G. Nerret B.
The Thinker was a sculpture created by Auguste Rodin in 1882. It was originally made of plaster, but other recreations of it are made of bronze. The Thinker was originally part of The Gates of Hell, which represented the poet Dante as he contemplated writing The Divine Comedy. The size of the statue varies between the many copies, but the original was around 2 feet. The original Thinker had a ...
Tasche 1994 These figures powerfully express the physical and emotional torture of the eternal damnation imagined by Dante. They are far removed from the Classical sculptural traditions and go beyond naturalism in their contorted and improbable pose, that is full of life. The Prodigal Son was exhibited at the International Exposition in Paris in 1900. An art critic of the time called Lawton, wrote the following about it. “Kneeling and suppliant, the arms flung aloft and the face straining upward, it presented a most pathetic picture of deep contrition and ardent yearning for forgiveness.” I would have said, the forlorn abandoned and pitiful figure arches his body spasmodically and stretches his arms to God. The anguished face cries out in pain, sorrow and futility.
Although the torso and outstretched arms attempt to command your attention, it is the face that betrays the intention of this work. There is desperation in this face. Futility, horror, loneliness and sorrow. The skin is taut, devoid of detail and the eyes seem blind to earthly vision. Rodin said of the Prodigal Son, ” I made the muscles project emphatically to express distress… I exaggerated the separation of the tendons to show the ardour of prayer.
.” He succeeded emphatically. The hands seem proportionately larger and project the energy of the figure upwards capturing the space above the form so that it seems all space between those hands and God belongs to this sculpture. Although it reaches stridently for the sky the figure is firmly anchored to the earth by the kneeling lower legs. The thighs bulge, particularly the right thigh, they seem about to unleash a mighty futile spring.
Their energy however pours into the sinuous arched torso. It strains upwards, barely able to contain the tension. It seems about to explode. the tension of the body flows into the shoulders then the arms and also into the stretched neck. The head is tilted abruptly towards heaven, directly up, as if focusing the energy emitted from the body.
The back is taut as are the buttocks, however they seem mere shadows of the thrusting energy evident on the front of the body. The sexuality of the figure is muted. The genitals are small and to some extent allow the figure to be perceived as either man or woman. Despite or perhaps assisted by this the figure contains sexual energy common to so many of Rodin’s works. This work is more impressionistic than many of Rodin ‘s other works. One explanation is that it derives from a much smaller figure on the Gate of Hell, many of the works on the Gate are impressionistic, however the gate also contains small classical and natural forms, such as the ” Thinker” and Falling Man.” The impressionistic method is most likely linked with Rodin’s intention to portray intense emotion and bodily tension to successfully honour the title.
"I think I was probably about eleven when I first decided I wanted to be a sculptor. I remember quite clearly the instant. As a boy, at school, I liked the art lessons, I liked drawing. I used to get my elder brother to draw horses and other things for me from as early as I can remember" (The Documents of 20 th Century Art, Philip James, 31). Henry Moore was born on July 30, 1898 in the small ...
Rodin also used this work to illustrate the dramatic value of exaggerating the strain and pull of muscles. Rodin ‘s technique in creating this and his other works can be summarised in his own words: Instead of imagining the different parts of the body as surfaces more or less flat, I represented them as projectors of interior volumes. I forced myself to express in each swelling of the torso or of the limbs the efflorescence of a muscle or of a bone, which lay deep beneath the skin. And so the truth of my figures, instead of being merely superficial, seems to blossom from with-in to the outside, like life itself The contours, hollows and mounds of the sinuous body are a radical departure from classical works and Rodin successfully demonstrated the power of this form of sculpture. Rodin is widely regarded as the father of modern sculpture; he revolutionise d the conventions of composition, gesture and pose.
If you look around the Gallery at works completed contemporaneously, you will see they are either classical or natural, Rodin pushed the boundaries outward and contributed significantly to Symbolist and anti-naturalistic art. The Prodigal Son is a good example of Rodin’s uncompromising approach to the expression of his imagination and genius. The Prodigal son was a new type of sculpture at that time. The definition of the body is abrupt and forceful, unlike the smooth lines portrayed in more classical sculptures. The ‘finish’ on this sculpture provides a definitive break from the pre-occupation with the more classical ‘finish’ which existed in Sculptural works pre-ceding Rodin’s. The Prodigal Son is also a great Expressionist work, completed well before this category evolved.
Like some artists, Rodin was not an overnight success. Even though he was rejected numerous times from art schools because of his art style, he prevailed in the end. Rodin, like many artists, got their inspiration from other great and famous artists. In Rodin's case, his inspiration came from Michelangelo. In Rodin's more famous works, one can see the similarities between the two artists' artwork. ...
It is the expression of tension, dejection and futility of this sculpture that I most like about this work. The Prodigal Son has the presence of an immovable object and I can easily imagine it kneeling over a kilometre high at the Gate of Hell. Reference: Art: Conversations Collected by Paul G sell 1911. Rodin, ART London 1912 pp 30-31 Rodin Sculptures Phaidon 1970 Auguste Rodin Sculptures and Drawings Taschen 1994. Rodin on Art and Artists Philosophical Library New York 1957. Oxford Concise Dictionary of Art and Artists I.
Chivers 1996 Pelican History of Art, Painting and Sculpture in Europe 1880-1940 G. H. Hamilton 1967.