An Explosion of Thought

Rodin The Thinker, Cleveland Museum of ArtSeveral museums in the United States have an example of Rodin’s The Thinker. There’s the Nelson-Atkins in Kansas City, The Rodin Museum in Philadelphia, as well as examples in Louisville, Baltimore and California. More than 20 monumental-sized bronze casts of the sculpture are in museums around the world. In addition, there are sculptures of different study size scales and plaster models in both monumental and study sizes. My favorite, however is in Cleveland.

In the early morning hours of March 24, 1970, dynamite was placed between the legs of Rodin’s work. The lower part of the sculpture was destroyed, and the entirity was knocked off its pedestal. Pieces of bronze damaged the building 20 yards away. The act of terrorism may have been conducted by the Weatherman.

Experts at the museum of course needed to plan some course of action, eventually arriving at a decision not to restore the sculpture. Writing on the opinion, Professor Albert Elsen, Stanford University wrote to Sherman Lee at the Cleveland Museum expressing that “Rodin was the first sculptor in history to take seriously the partial figure as a complete work of art and to accept, court and even welcome chance and accident in the making or subsequent history of his sculptures.”

He continued “in 1900, Rodin actually exhibited a fragmented version of the Thinker and it can be seen in a photo on page 186 of the Descharnes and Chabrun book on Rodin. (The plaster lacks at least the head.) In Rodin’s view, his sculptures were so well made, so beautifully formed and expressive throughout, that like classical fragments, parts of his work could hold up as being complete in themselves. Even in its present, ruined state, your Thinker is still an impressive sculpture and supports Rodin’s view. Only Rodin’s work by its history and the way it was made can withstand such a tragedy, with any degree of dignity.”

I couldn’t agree more.

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