"I can only work from a model. The sight of human forms feeds and comforts me."
Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) was a French sculptor most famous for his iconic masterpiece "The Thinker."
Unlike sculptors before him, he did not stick to the conventions of the past which had traditionally portrayed mythological scenes or icons in the neoclassical style, as was popular at the time. Rodin was very much an experimental artist, though not as a form of rebellion as we find with other artists such as Courbet, but from a genuine curiosity. For the early part of his life, his work was largely unappreciated. While studying at the Petite Ecole, a beginners school of arts and mathematics, he submitted his sculptures to the more advanced Grande Ecole three times, and was rejected by them every time.
An interesting aspect to Auguste Rodin's method was the fact that he never made initial drawings before working on a sculpture, preferring to form his vision directly from the clay. This almost freeform method extended to other areas of Rodin's art, in particular his erotic drawings.
Rodin's drawing style is unique. To a casual observer the drawings may appear lacking technique, or as one of our commentators more bluntly put it "a very amateur study of humans". This couldn't be further from the truth. Their unique imagery comes down to the unique was in which these drawings were created. One observer of Rodin while he drew described the scene as follows :
"Equipped with a sheet of ordinary paper posed on a board, and with a lead pencil--sometimes a pen--he has his model take an essentially unstable pose, and then he draws spiritedly, without taking his eyes off the model. The hand goes where it will: often the pencil falls off the page; the drawing is thus decapitated or loses a limb by amputation..."
Madness you may say. But there is method to it. Auguste Rodin describes this technique :
"What is this drawing? Not once in describing the shape of that mass did I shift my eyes from the model. Why? Because I wanted to be sure that nothing evaded my grasp of it. Not a thought about the technical problem of representing it on paper could be allowed to arrest the flow of my feelings about it, from my eye to my hand. The moment I drop my eyes that flow stops."
Even when working from a model, other artists have always drawn from memory as they take their eyes off the model to their pencil. Rodin drew directly from the observation of his models.