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Title: Art
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  _Copyright, 1912 by Small, Maynard and Company, Inc._


                             AUGUSTE RODIN




                        SMALL, MAYNARD & COMPANY

                           _Copyright, 1912_
                      BY SMALL, MAYNARD & COMPANY




  From a photograph by Edouard J. Steichen, 1907


Not far from Paris, on the Seine, near Meudon, is a hamlet bearing the
delightful name of Val-Fleury. Crowning the little hill above this
village rises a group of buildings which in their charm and originality
at once attract interest. You might almost guess that they belonged to
an artist, and it is there, in fact, that Auguste Rodin has made his

Approaching, you find that the main buildings are three. The first, a
Louis XIII. pavilion of red brick and freestone with a high-gabled roof,
serves as his dwelling. Close by stands a great rotunda, entered through
a columned portico, which is the one that in 1900 sheltered the special
exhibition of Rodin’s work at the angle of the Pont de l’Alma in Paris;
as it pleased him, he had it reerected upon this new site and uses it as
his atelier. A little further on at the edge of the hill, which here
falls steeply away, you see an eighteenth-century château—or rather only
a façade—whose fine portal, under a triangular pediment, frames a
wrought-iron gate; of this, more later.

This group, so diverse in character, is set in the midst of an idyllic
orchard. The spot is certainly one of the most enchanting in the
environs of Paris. Nature has done much for it, and the sculptor who
settled here has beautified it with all the embellishments that his
taste could suggest.

Last year, at the close of a beautiful day in May, as I walked with
Auguste Rodin beneath the trees that shade his charming hill, I confided
to him my wish to write, from his dictation, his ideas upon Art.

“You are an odd fellow,” he said. “So you are still interested in Art!
It is an interest that is out-of-date.



  By Rodin

  Photograph reproduced by permission of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts

“To-day, artists and those who love artists seem like fossils. Imagine a
megatherium or a diplodocus stalking the streets of Paris! There you
have the impression that we must make upon our contemporaries. Ours is
an epoch of engineers and of manufacturers, not one of artists.

“The search in modern life is for utility; the endeavor is to improve
existence materially. Every day, science invents new processes for the
feeding, clothing, or transportation of man; she manufactures cheaply
inferior products in order to give adulterated luxuries to the greatest
number—though it is true that she has also made real improvements in all
that ministers to our daily wants. But it is no longer a question of
spirit, of thought, of dreams. Art is dead.

“Art is contemplation. It is the pleasure of the mind which searches
into nature and which there divines the spirit by which Nature herself
is animated. It is the joy of the intellect which sees clearly into the
Universe and which recreates it, with conscientious vision. Art is the
most sublime mission of man, since it is the expression of thought
seeking to understand the world and to make it understood.

“But to-day, mankind believes itself able to do without Art. It does not
wish to meditate, to contemplate, to dream; it wishes to enjoy
physically. The heights and the depths of truth are indifferent to it;
it is content to satisfy its bodily appetites. Mankind to-day is
brutish—it is not the stuff of which artists are made.

“Art, moreover, is taste. It is the reflection of the artist’s heart
upon all the objects that he creates. It is the smile of the human soul
upon the house and upon the furnishing. It is the charm of thought and
of sentiment embodied in all that is of use to man. But how many of our
contemporaries feel the necessity of taste in house or furnishing?
Formerly, in old France, Art was everywhere. The smallest bourgeois,
even the peasant, made use only of articles which pleased the eye. Their
chairs, their tables, their pitchers and their pots were beautiful.
To-day Art is banished from daily life. People say that the useful need
not be beautiful. All is ugly, all is made in haste and without grace by
stupid machines. The artist is regarded as an antagonist. Ah, my dear
Gsell, you wish to jot down an artist’s musings. Let me look at you! You
really are an extraordinary man!”



  From a drawing by William Rothenstein

  Reproduced by permission of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

“I know,” I said, “that Art is the least concern of our epoch. But I
trust that this book may be a protest against the ideas of to-day. I
trust that your voice may awaken our contemporaries and help them to
understand the crime they commit in losing the best part of our national
inheritance—an intense love of Art and Beauty.”

“May the gods hear you!” Rodin answered.

                  *       *       *       *       *

We were walking along the rotunda which serves as the atelier. There
under the peristyle many charming bits of antique sculpture have found
shelter. A little vestal, half-veiled, faces a grave orator wrapped in
his toga, while not far from them a cupid rides triumphant upon a great
sea-monster. In the midst of these figures two Corinthian columns of
charming grace raise their shafts of rose-colored marble. The collection
here of these precious fragments shows the devotion of my host to the
art of Greece and Rome.

Two swans were drowsing upon the bank of a deep pool. As we passed they
unwound their long necks and hissed with anger. Their savageness
prompted me to the remark that this bird lacks intelligence, but Rodin
replied, laughing:

“They have that of line, and that is enough!”

As we strolled on, small cylindrical altars in marble, carved with
garlands, appeared here and there in the shade. Beneath a bower, clothed
with the luxuriant green of a sophora, a young Mithra without a head
sacrificed a sacred bull. At a green crossway an Eros slept upon his
lion-skin, sleep having overcome him who tames the beasts.



  By Rodin

  Photograph reproduced by permission of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

“Does it not seem to you,” Rodin asked, “that verdure is the most
appropriate setting for antique sculpture? This little drowsy Eros—would
you not say that he is the god of the garden? His dimpled flesh is
brother to this transparent and luxuriant foliage. The Greek artists
loved nature so well that their works bathe in it as in their element.”

Let us notice this attitude of mind. We place statues in a garden to
beautify the garden. Rodin places them there that they may be beautified
by the garden. For him, Nature is always the sovereign mistress and the
infinite perfection.

A Greek amphora, in rose-colored clay, which in all probability had lain
for centuries under the sea, so encrusted is it with charming
sea-growths, lies upon the ground at the foot of a box-tree. It seems to
have been forgotten there, and yet it could not have been presented to
our eyes with more grace—for what is natural is the supreme of taste.

Further on we see a torso of Venus. The breasts are hidden by a
handkerchief knotted behind the back. Involuntarily one thinks of some
Tartuffe who, prompted by false modesty, has felt it his duty to conceal
these charms.

             “Par de pareils objêts les âmes sont blessées
             Et cela fait venir de coupables pensées.”

But surely my host has nothing in common with Molière’s prude. He
himself explained his reason.

“I tied that around the breast of this statue,” he said, “because that
part is less beautiful than the rest.”

Then, through a door which he unbolted, he led me on to the terrace
where he has raised the eighteenth-century façade of which I have

Seen close to, this noble fragment of architecture is imposing. It is a
fine portal raised upon eight steps. On the pediment, which is supported
by columns, Themis surrounded by Loves is carved.



  By Rodin

“Formerly,” said my host, “this beautiful château rose on the slope of a
neighboring hill at Issy. I often admired it as I passed. But the land
speculators bought it and tore it down.” As he spoke his eyes flashed
with anger. “You cannot imagine,” he continued, “what horror seized me
when I saw this crime committed. To tear down this glorious building! It
affected me as much as though these criminals had mangled the fair body
of a virgin before my eyes!”

Rodin spoke these words in a tone of deep devotion. You felt that the
firm white body of the young girl was to him the masterpiece of
creation, the marvel of marvels!

He continued:

“I asked the sacrilegious rascals not to scatter the materials and to
sell them to me. They consented. I had all the stones brought here to
put them together again as well as I could. Unfortunately, as you see, I
have as yet raised only one wall.”

In fact, in his impatience to enjoy this keen artistic pleasure, Rodin
has not followed the usual and logical method which consists in raising
all parts of a building at once. Up to the present time he has rebuilt
only one side of the château, and when you approach to look through the
iron entrance gate, you see only broken ground where lines of stones
indicate the plan of the building to be. Truly a château of dreams! An
artist’s château!

“Verily,” murmured my host, “those old architects were great men,
especially when one compares them with their unworthy successors of

So speaking, he drew me to a point on the terrace from which the outline
of the façade seemed to him most beautiful.

“See,” he cried, “how harmoniously the silhouette cuts the silvery sky,
and how it dominates the valley which lies below us.”

Lost in ecstasy, his loving gaze enveloped this monument of a day that
is past and all the landscape.



  By Rodin

From the height on which we stood our eyes took in an immense expanse.
There, below, the Seine, mirroring long lines of tall poplars, traces a
great loop of silver as it rushes towards the solid bridge at Sèvres....
Still further, the white spire of Saint-Cloud against a green hillside,
the blue heights of Suresnes and Mont Valerian seem powdered with a mist
of dreams.

To the right, Paris, gigantic Paris, spreads away to the horizon her
great seed plot, sown with innumerable houses, so small in the distance
that one might hold them in the palm of one’s hand. Paris, vision at
once monstrous and sublime, colossal crucible wherein bubbles
unceasingly that strange mixture of pains and pleasures, of active
forces and of fevered ideals!

                                                             PAUL GSELL.



 PREFACE                                                               5

                                CHAPTER I

 REALISM IN ART                                                       25

                               CHAPTER II

 TO THE ARTIST ALL IN NATURE IS BEAUTIFUL                             37

                               CHAPTER III

 MODELLING                                                            53

                               CHAPTER IV

 MOVEMENT IN ART                                                      65

                                CHAPTER V

 DRAWING AND COLOR                                                    93

                               CHAPTER VI

 THE BEAUTY OF WOMEN                                                 111

                               CHAPTER VII

 OF YESTERDAY AND OF TO-DAY                                          121

                              CHAPTER VIII

 THOUGHT IN ART                                                      151

                               CHAPTER IX

 MYSTERY IN ART                                                      175

                                CHAPTER X

 PHIDIAS AND MICHAEL ANGELO                                          191

                               CHAPTER XI

 AT THE LOUVRE                                                       211

                               CHAPTER XII

 ON THE USEFULNESS OF THE ARTIST                                     227

 TRANSLATIONS                                                        249

 INDEX                                                               255


 ETERNAL SPRING. By Rodin                                 _Frontispiece_

                                                             FACING PAGE

 AUGUSTE RODIN. From a photograph by Edouard J. Steichen,
   1907                                                                5

 THE FLIGHT OF LOVE. By Rodin                                          6

 AUGUSTE RODIN. From a drawing by William Rothenstein                  8

 THE CREATION OF MAN, OR ADAM. By Rodin                               10

 EVE. By Rodin                                                        12

 EVE. By Rodin                                                        14

 PLASTER CASTS OF THE GATE OF HELL. By Rodin                          26

 STUDY FOR A FIGURE. By Rodin                                         28

 STUDY FOR A HAND. By Rodin                                           28

 STUDY. By Rodin                                                      30

 STUDY. By Rodin                                                      30

 INVOCATION. By Rodin                                                 32

 STUDY. By Rodin                                                      34

 STUDY. By Rodin                                                      34

 THE OLD COURTESAN. By Rodin                                          38

 THE MAGDALENE. By Donatello                                          38

 A HAND IN BRONZE. By Rodin                                           40

 SEBASTIAN, FOOL OF PHILIP IV. By Velasquez                           42

 THE MAN WITH THE HOE. By Millet                                      44

 THE DANAÏD. By Rodin                                                 52

 VENUS DI MEDICI                                                      54

 ANTIQUE TORSO                                                        56

 A DRAWING. By Michael Angelo. _See page 98_                          56

 CROUCHING VENUS                                                      58

 FAUN. By Praxiteles                                                  60

 THE AGE OF IRON. By Rodin                                            64

 MAN WALKING. By Rodin                                                66

 THE TEMPEST. By Rodin                                                68

 MARSHAL NEY. By Rude                                                 70

 SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST. By Rodin                                     72

 SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST. By Rodin. (Two different
   aspects)                                                           74

 EUROPA. Italian School of the Fifteenth Century                      76

 EPSOM RACES. By Gericault                                            76


 THE MARSEILLAISE. By Rude                                            80

 THE BURGHERS OF CALAIS. By Rodin                                     82

 EUSTACHE DE SAINT-PIERRE. By Rodin                                   84

 ONE OF THE BURGHERS OF CALAIS. By Rodin                              84

 ONE OF THE BURGHERS OF CALAIS. By Rodin                              86

 ONE OF THE BURGHERS OF CALAIS. By Rodin                              86

 ONE OF THE BURGHERS OF CALAIS. By Rodin                              88

 CUPID AND PSYCHE. By Rodin                                           92

 THE EMBRACE. Study-sketch by Rodin                                   94

 STUDY OF THE NUDE. By Rodin                                          94

 TORSO OF A WOMAN. By Rodin                                           98

 A DRAWING. By Michael Angelo                                        100

 A DRAWING. By Rembrandt                                             102

 STUDY. By Rodin                                                     104

 STUDY FOR A FIGURE. By Rodin                                        104

 TRITON AND NEREID. By Rodin                                         106

 THE CARYATID. By Rodin                                              106

 THE BATHER. By Rodin                                                110

 TORSO OF A WOMAN. By Rodin                                          112

 TORSO OF A WOMAN. By Rodin                                          112

 PYGMALION AND GALATEA. By Rodin                                     114

 STUDY OF HANAKO, THE JAPANESE ACTRESS. By Rodin                     116

 STUDY OF THE NUDE. By Rodin                                         116

 MADAME X. By Rodin                                                  118

 MLLE. BRONGNIART. By Houdon                                         124

 EGYPTIAN SPARROW-HAWK. _See page 180_                               124

 VOLTAIRE. By Houdon                                                 126

 MIRABEAU. By Houdon                                                 126

 FRANCIS I. By Titian                                                130

 HENRI ROCHEFORT. By Rodin                                           138

 JEAN-PAUL LAURENS. By Rodin                                         140

 JULES DALOU. By Rodin                                               140

 PUVIS DE CHAVANNES. By Rodin                                        142

 THE SCULPTOR FALGUIÈRE. By Rodin                                    144

 STUDY FOR A HEAD, PRESUMABLY MADAME R. By Rodin                     146

 STUDY HEAD, FOR THE STATUE OF BALZAC. By Rodin                      146

 THE STATUE OF VICTOR HUGO. By Rodin                                 154

 BUST OF MLLE. CLAUDEL (LA PENSÉE). By Rodin                         156

 THE SHIPWRECK OF DON JUAN. By Delacroix                             158

 UGOLINO. By Rodin                                                   160

 ILLUSION, THE DAUGHTER OF ICARUS. By Rodin                          162

 NYMPH AND FAUN. By Rodin                                            164

 THE CENTAURESS. By Rodin                                            166

 ITALIAN LANDSCAPE. By Corot                                         168

 AN OLD MAN. By Rembrandt                                            170

 LAURA DIANTI. By Titian                                             170

 THE THINKER. By Rodin                                               174

 THE HAND OF GOD. By Rodin                                           176

 THE STATUE OF BALZAC. By Rodin                                      178

 THE GLEANERS. By Millet                                             182

 THE THREE FATES. From the Parthenon                                 184

 THE KISS. By Rodin                                                  186

 BUST OF MADAME MORLA VICUNA. By Rodin                               188

 A CAPTIVE. By Michael Angelo                                        198

 THE THREE GRACES. By Raphael                                        200

 DIADUMENES. By Polycletus                                           212

 VENUS OF MILO                                                       214

 THE VICTORY OF SAMOTHRACE                                           216

 A CAPTIVE. By Michael Angelo                                        218

 LA PIETÀ. By Michael Angelo                                         222

 ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE. By Rodin                                      226

 LA FRANCE. By Rodin                                                 228

 THE BROKEN LILY. By Rodin                                           230

 CERES. By Rodin                                                     234

 THE TORN GLOVE. By Titian                                           236

   Puvis de Chavannes                                                238

 MOTHER AND BABE. By Rodin                                           240

 SISTER AND BROTHER. By Rodin                                        242

 BUST OF MR. THOMAS FORTUNE RYAN. By Rodin                           244

                               CHAPTER I
                             REALISM IN ART

At the end of the long rue de l’Université, close to the Champ-de-Mars,
in a corner, so deserted and monastic that you might think yourself in
the provinces, is the Dépôt des Marbres.

Here in a great grass-grown court sleep heavy grayish blocks, presenting
in places fresh breaks of frosted whiteness. These are the marbles
reserved by the State for the sculptors whom she honors with her orders.

Along one side of this courtyard is a row of a dozen ateliers which have
been granted to different sculptors. A little artist city, marvellously
tranquil, it seems the fraternity house of a new order. Rodin occupies
two of these cells; in one he houses the plaster cast of his Gate of
Hell, astonishing even in its unfinished state, and in the other he

More than once I have been to see him here towards evening, when his day
of toil drew to its close, and taking a chair, I have waited for the
moment when the night would oblige him to stop, and I have studied him
at his work. The desire to profit by the last rays of daylight threw him
into a fever.

I see him now, rapidly shaping his little figures from the clay. It is a
game which he enjoys in the intervals of the more patient care which he
gives to his big figures. These sketches flung off on the instant
delight him, because they permit him to seize the fleeting beauty of a
gesture whose fugitive truth would escape deeper and longer study.

His method of work is singular. In his atelier several nude models walk
about or rest.



  By Rodin

Rodin pays them to furnish him constantly with the sight of the nude
moving with all the freedom of life. He observes them without ceasing,
and it is thus that he has long since become familiar with the sight of
muscles in movement. The nude, which for us moderns is an exceptional
revelation and which even for the sculptors is generally only an
apparition whose length is limited to a sitting, has become to Rodin a
customary sight. The constant familiarity with the human body which the
ancient Greeks acquired in watching the games—the wrestling, the
throwing of the discus, the boxing, the gymnastics, and the foot
races—and which permitted their artists to talk naturally on the subject
of the nude, the creator of the _Penseur_ has made sure of by the
continual presence of unclothed human beings who come and go before his
eyes. In this way he has learned to read the feelings as expressed in
every part of the body. The face is generally considered as the only
mirror of the soul; the mobility of the features of the face seems to us
the only exterior expression of the spiritual life. In reality there is
not a muscle of the body which does not express the inner variations of
feeling. All speak of joy or of sorrow, of enthusiasm or of despair, of
serenity or of madness. Outstretched arms, an unconstrained body, smile
with as much sweetness as the eyes or the lips. But to be able to
interpret every aspect of the flesh, one must have been drawn patiently
to spell out and to read the pages of this beautiful book. The masters
of the antique did this, aided by the customs of their civilization.
Rodin does this in our own day by the force of his own will.

He follows his models with his earnest gaze, he silently savors the
beauty of the life which plays through them, he admires the suppleness
of this young woman who bends to pick up a chisel, the delicate grace of
this other who raises her arms to gather her golden hair above her head,
the nervous vigor of a man who walks across the room; and when this one
or that makes a movement that pleases him, he instantly asks that the
pose be kept. Quick, he seizes the clay, and a little figure is under
way; then with equal haste he passes to another, which he fashions in
the same manner.



  By Rodin

  Photograph reproduced by permission of the Metropolitan Museum of Art



  By Rodin

  Photograph reproduced by permission of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

One evening when the night had begun to darken the atelier with heavy
shadows, I had a talk with the master on his method.

“What astonishes me in you,” said I, “is that you work quite differently
from your confrères. I know many of them and have seen them at work.
They make the model mount upon a pedestal called the throne, and they
tell him to take such or such a pose. Generally they bend or stretch his
arms and legs to suit them, they bow his head or straighten his body
exactly as though he were a lay figure. Then they set to work. You, on
the contrary, wait till your models take an interesting attitude, and
then you reproduce it. So much so that it is you who seem to be at their
orders rather than they at yours.”

Rodin, who was engaged in wrapping his _figurines_ in damp cloths,
answered quietly:

“I am not at their orders, but at those of Nature! My confrères
doubtless have their reasons for working as you have said. But in thus
doing violence to nature and treating human beings like puppets, they
run the risk of producing lifeless and artificial work.

“As for me, seeker after truth and student of life as I am, I shall take
care not to follow their example. I take from life the movements I
observe, but it is not I who impose them.

“Even when a subject which I am working on compels me to ask a model for
a certain fixed pose, I indicate it to him, but I carefully avoid
touching him to place him in the position, for I will reproduce only
what reality spontaneously offers me.

“I obey Nature in everything, and I never pretend to command her. My
only ambition is to be servilely faithful to her.”

“Nevertheless,” I answered with some malice, “it is not nature exactly
as it is that you evoke in your work.”



  By Rodin

  Photograph reproduced by permission of the Metropolitan Museum of Art



  By Rodin

  Photograph reproduced by permission of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

He stopped short, the damp cloth in his hands. “Yes, exactly as it is!”
he replied, frowning.

“You are obliged to alter—”

“Not a jot!”

“But, after all, the proof that you do change it is this, that the cast
would give not at all the same impression as your work.”

He reflected an instant and said: “That is so! Because the cast is less
true than my sculpture!

“It would be impossible for any model to keep an animated pose during
all the time that it would take to make a cast from it. But I keep in my
mind the ensemble of the pose and I insist that the model shall conform
to my memory of it. More than that,—the cast only reproduces the
exterior; I reproduce, besides that, the spirit which is certainly also
a part of nature.

“I see all the truth, and not only that of the outside.

“I accentuate the lines which best express the spiritual state that I

As he spoke he showed me on a pedestal near by one of his most beautiful
statues, a young man kneeling, raising suppliant arms to heaven. All his
being is drawn out with anguish. His body is thrown backwards. The
breast heaves, the throat is tense with despair, and the hands are
thrown out towards some mysterious being to which they long to cling.

“Look!” he said to me; “I have accented the swelling of the muscles
which express distress. Here, here, there—I have exaggerated the
straining of the tendons which indicate the outburst of prayer.”

And, with a gesture, he underlined the most vigorous parts of his work.

“I have you, Master!” I cried ironically; “you say yourself that you
have _accented_, _accentuated_, _exaggerated_. You see, then, that you
have changed nature.”

He began to laugh at my obstinacy.



  By Rodin

“No,” he replied. “I have not changed it. Or, rather, if I have done it,
it was without suspecting it at the time. The feeling which influenced
my vision showed me Nature as I have copied her.

“If I had wished to modify what I saw and to make it more beautiful, I
should have produced nothing good.”

An instant later he continued:

“I grant you that the artist does not see Nature as she appears to the
vulgar, because his emotion reveals to him the hidden truths beneath

“But, after all, the only principle in Art is to copy what you see.
Dealers in æsthetics to the contrary, every other method is fatal. There
is no recipe for improving nature.

“The only thing is to _see_.

“Oh, doubtless a mediocre man copying nature will never produce a work
of art; because he really looks without _seeing_, and though he may have
noted each detail minutely, the result will be flat and without
character. But the profession of artist is not meant for the mediocre,
and to them the best counsels will never succeed in giving talent.

“The artist, on the contrary, _sees_; that is to say, that his eye,
grafted on his heart, reads deeply into the bosom of Nature.

“That is why the artist has only to trust to his eyes.”



  By Rodin

  Photograph reproduced by permission of the Metropolitan Museum of Art



  By Rodin

  Photograph reproduced by permission of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

                               CHAPTER II

In Rodin’s great atelier at Meudon stands a cast of that statuette, so
magnificently ugly, which the great sculptor wrought upon the text of
Villon’s poem, _La Belle Heaulmière_.

The courtesan, once radiant with youth and grace, is now repulsive with
age and decrepitude. Once proud of her beauty, she is now filled with
shame at her ugliness.

                “Ha, vieillesse felonne et fière,
                Pourquoi m’as tu si tôt abattue?
                Qui me tient que je ne me fière (frappe)
                Et qu’à ce coup je ne me tue!”[1]

Footnote 1:

  See page 249.

The sculptor has followed the poet step by step. The old hag, more
shrivelled than a mummy, mourns her physical decay. Bent double,
crouching on her haunches, she gazes despairingly upon her breasts so
pitiably shrunken, upon her hideously wrinkled body, upon her arms and
legs more knotty than vine stocks.

        “Quand je pense, las! au bon temps,
        Quelle fus, quelle devenue,
        Quand me regarde toute nue
        Et je me vois si très changée.
        Pauvre, sêche, maigre, menue,
        Je suis presque tout enragée!
        Qu’est devenue ce front poli,
        Ces cheveux blonds....
        Ces gentes épaules menues,
        Petite tetins, hanches charnues,
        Elevées, propres, faictisse (faites à souhait)
        A tenir d’amoureuses lices;

        C’est d’humaine beauté l’issue!
        Les bras courts et les mains contraictes (contractées),
        Les épaules toutes bossue.
        Mamelles, quoi! toutes retraites (dessechées)
        Telles les hanches et que les tettes!
                Quant aux cuisses,
        Cuisses ne sont plus, mais cuissettes
        Grivelées comme saucisses!”[2]

Footnote 2:

  See page 249.



  By Rodin



  By Donatello

The sculptor does not fall below the poet in realism. On the contrary,
his work, in the horror which it inspires, is perhaps even more
impressive than the truculent verses of Maître Villon. The skin hangs in
flaccid folds upon the skeleton; the ribs stand out beneath the
parchment that covers them, and the whole figure seems to totter, to
tremble, to shrivel, to shrink away.

Yet from this spectacle, at once grotesque and heartrending, a great
sorrow breathes.

For what we have before us is the infinite distress of a poor foolish
soul which, enamoured of eternal youth and beauty, looks on helpless at
the ignominious disgrace of its fleshly envelope; it is the antithesis
of the spiritual being which demands endless joy and of the body which
wastes away, decays, ends in nothingness. The substance perishes, the
flesh dies, but dreams and desires are immortal.

This is what Rodin has wished to make us understand.

And I do not think that any other artist has ever pictured old age with
such savage crudity, except one. In the Baptistery at Florence you see
upon an altar a strange statue by Donatello—an old woman naked, or at
least draped only in the long, thin hair which clings foully to her
ruined body. It is Saint Magdalene in the desert, bowed with age,
offering to God the cruel mortifications to which she subjects her body
as a punishment for the care which she formerly lavished upon it.

The savage sincerity of the Florentine master is so great that it is not
even surpassed by Rodin himself. But, aside from this, the sentiment of
the two works differs completely, for, while Saint Magdalene in her
voluntary renunciation seems to grow more radiant as she sees herself
growing more repulsive, the old Heaulmière is terrified at finding
herself like a very corpse.



  By Rodin

The modern sculpture is, therefore, much more tragic than the older

One day, having studied this figure in the atelier for some moments in
silence, I said:

“Master, no one admires this astonishing figure more than I, but I hope
you will not be annoyed if I tell you the effect it produces upon many
of the visitors to the Musée du Luxembourg, especially upon the women.”

“I shall be much obliged to you if you will.”

“Well, the public generally turn away from it, crying, ‘Oh, how ugly it
is!’ and I have often seen women cover their eyes with their hands to
shut out the sight.”

Rodin laughed heartily.

“My work must be eloquent,” he said, “to make such a vivid impression,
and doubtless these are people who dread stern philosophic truths.

“But what solely matters to me is the opinion of people of taste, and I
have been delighted to gain their approbation for my _Vieille
Heaulmière_. I am like that Roman singer who replied to the jeers of the
populace: _Equitibus cano_. I sing only for the nobles! that is to say,
for the connoisseurs.

“The vulgar readily imagine that what they consider ugly in existence is
not fit subject for the artist. They would like to forbid us to
represent what displeases and offends them in nature.

“It is a great error on their part.

“What is commonly called _ugliness_ in nature can in art become full of
great beauty.

“In the domain of fact we call _ugly_ whatever is deformed, whatever is
unhealthy, whatever suggests the idea of disease, of debility, or of
suffering, whatever is contrary to regularity, which is the sign and
condition of health and strength: a hunchback is _ugly_, one who is
bandy-legged is _ugly_, poverty in rags is _ugly_.



  By Velasquez

“_Ugly_ also are the soul and the conduct of the immoral man, of the
vicious and criminal man, of the abnormal man who is harmful to society;
_ugly_ the soul of the parricide, of the traitor, of the unscrupulously

“And it is right that beings and objects from which we can expect only
evil should be called by such an odious epithet. But let a great artist
or a great writer make use of one or the other of these _uglinesses_,
instantly it is transfigured: with a touch of his fairy wand he has
turned it into beauty; it is alchemy; it is enchantment!

“Let Velasquez paint Sebastian, the dwarf of Philippe IV. He endows him
with such a touching gaze that we instantly read in it all the painful
secret of this poor afflicted creature, forced, for his livelihood, to
lower his human dignity, to become a plaything, a living bauble. And the
more poignant the martyrdom of the conscience lodged in this grotesque
body, the more beautiful is the artist’s work.

“Let François Millet represent a peasant resting for a moment as he
leans on the handle of his hoe, a wretched man worn by fatigue, baked by
the sun, as stupid as a beast of burden dulled by blows—he has only to
put into the expression of this poor devil a sublime resignation to the
suffering ordained by Destiny, to make this creature of a nightmare
become for us the great symbol of all Humanity.

“Let Beaudelaire describe a festering corpse, unclean, viscid, eaten by
worms, and let him but imagine his beloved mistress under this frightful
aspect, and nothing can equal in splendor his picture of this terrible
juxtaposition of beauty which we could wish eternal and the atrocious
disintegration which awaits it.

         “Et pourtant vous serez semblable à cette ordure,
             A cette horrible infection.
         Etoile de mes yeux, Soleil de ma nature,
             O mon ange et ma passion!
         Oui, telle vous serez, o la reine des Grâces
             Après les derniers sacrements.
         Quand vous irez sous l’herbe et les floraisons grasses
             Pourrir parmi les ossements.

         Alors, o ma Beauté, dîtes à la vermine
             Qui vous mangerez de baisers,
         Que j’ai gardé la forme et l’essence divine
             De mes amours décomposés![3]

Footnote 3:

  See page 250.



  By Millet

“It is the same when Shakespeare depicts Iago or Richard III., when
Racine paints Nero and Narcissus; moral ugliness when interpreted by
minds so clear and penetrating becomes a marvellous theme of beauty.

“In fact, in art, only that which has _character_ is beautiful.

“_Character_ is the essential truth of any natural object, whether ugly
or beautiful; it is even what one might call a _double truth_, for it is
the inner truth translated by the outer truth; it is the soul, the
feelings, the ideas, expressed by the features of a face, by the
gestures and actions of a human being, by the tones of a sky, by the
lines of a horizon.

“Now, to the great artist, everything in nature has character; for the
unswerving directness of his observation searches out the hidden meaning
of all things. And that which is considered ugly in nature often
presents more _character_ than that which is termed beautiful, because
in the contractions of a sickly countenance, in the lines of a vicious
face, in all deformity, in all decay, the inner truth shines forth more
clearly than in features that are regular and healthy.

“And as it is solely the power of _character_ which makes for beauty in
art, it often happens that the uglier a being is in nature, the more
beautiful it becomes in art.

“There is nothing ugly in art except that which is without character,
that is to say, that which offers no outer or inner truth.

“Whatever is false, whatever is artificial, whatever seeks to be pretty
rather than expressive, whatever is capricious and affected, whatever
smiles without motive, bends or struts without cause, is mannered
without reason; all that is without soul and without truth; all that is
only a _parade_ of beauty and grace; all, in short, that lies, is
_ugliness_ in art.

“When an artist, intending to improve upon nature, adds green to the
springtime, rose to the sunrise, carmine to young lips, he creates
ugliness because he lies.

“When he softens the grimace of pain, the shapelessness of age, the
hideousness of perversion, when he arranges nature—veiling, disguising,
tempering it to please the ignorant public—then he is creating ugliness
because he fears the truth.

“To any artist, worthy of the name, all in nature is beautiful, because
his eyes, fearlessly accepting all exterior truth, read there, as in an
open book, all the inner truth.

“He has only to look into a human face in order to read there the soul
within—not a feature deceives him; hypocrisy is as transparent as
sincerity—the line of a forehead, the least lifting of a brow, the flash
of an eye, reveal to him all the secrets of a heart.

“Or he may study the hidden mind of the animal. A mixture of feelings
and of thoughts, of dumb intelligences and of rudimentary affections, he
reads the whole humble moral life of the beast in its eyes and in its

“He is even the confidant of nature. The trees, the plants talk to him
like friends. The old gnarled oaks speak to him of their kindliness for
the human race whom they protect beneath their sheltering branches. The
flowers commune with him by the gracious swaying of their stalks, by the
singing tones of their petals—each blossom amidst the grass is a
friendly word addressed to him by nature.

“For him life is an endless joy, a perpetual delight, a mad
intoxication. Not that all seems good to him, for suffering, which must
often come to those he loves and to himself, cruelly contradicts his
optimism. But all is beautiful to him because he walks forever in the
light of spiritual truth.

“Yes, the great artist, and by this I mean the poet as well as the
painter and the sculptor, finds even in suffering, in the death of loved
ones, in the treachery of friends, something which fills him with a
voluptuous though tragic admiration.

“At times his own heart is on the rack, yet stronger than his pain is
the bitter joy which he experiences in understanding and giving
expression to that pain. In all existence he clearly divines the
purposes of Destiny. Upon his own anguish, upon his own gaping wounds,
he fixes the enthusiastic gaze of the man who has read the decrees of
Fate. Deceived by a beloved one, he reels beneath the blow; then,
standing firm, he looks upon the traitor as a fine example of the base.
He salutes ingratitude as an experience which shall enrich his soul. His
ecstasy is terrifying at times, but it is still happiness, because it is
the continual adoration of truth.

“When he sees beings everywhere destroying each other; when he sees all
youth fading, all strength failing, all genius dying, when he is face to
face with the will which decreed these tragic laws, more than ever he
rejoices in his knowledge, and, seized anew by the passion for truth, he
is happy.”



  By Rodin

                              CHAPTER III

One late afternoon, when I was with Rodin in his atelier, darkness set
in while we talked.

“Have you ever looked at an antique statue by lamplight?” my host
suddenly demanded.

“No, never,” I answered, with some surprise.

“I astonish you. You seem to consider the idea of studying sculpture
excepting by daylight as an odd whim. Of course you can get the effect
as a whole better by daylight. But, wait a moment. I want to show you a
kind of experiment which will doubtless prove instructive.”

He lighted a lamp as he spoke, took it in his hand, and led me towards a
marble statue which stood upon a pedestal in a corner of the atelier.

It was a delightful little antique copy of the _Venus di Medici_. Rodin
kept it there to stimulate his own inspiration while he worked.

“Come nearer,” he said.

Holding the lamp at the side of the statue and as close as possible, he
threw the full light upon the body.

“What do you notice?” he asked.

At the first glance I was extraordinarily struck by what was suddenly
revealed to me.

The light so directed, indeed, disclosed numbers of slight projections
and depressions upon the surface of the marble which I should never have
suspected. I said so to Rodin.

“Good!” he cried approvingly; then, “Watch closely.”



At the same time he slowly turned the moving stand which supported the
Venus. As he turned, I still noticed in the general form of the body a
multitude of almost imperceptible roughnesses. What had at first seemed
simple was really of astonishing complexity. Rodin threw up his head

“Is it not marvellous?” he cried. “Confess that you did not expect to
discover so much detail. Just look at these numberless undulations of
the hollow which unites the body to the thigh. Notice all the voluptuous
curvings of the hip. And now, here, the adorable dimples along the

He spoke in a low voice, with the ardor of a devotee, bending above the
marble as if he loved it.

“It is truly flesh!” he said.

And beaming, he added: “You would think it moulded by kisses and
caresses!” Then, suddenly, laying his hand on the statue, “You almost
expect, when you touch this body, to find it warm.”

A few moments later he said:

“Well, what do you think now of the opinion usually held on Greek art?
They say—it is especially the academic school which has spread abroad
this idea—that the ancients, in their cult of the ideal, despised the
flesh as low and vulgar, and that they refused to reproduce in their
works the thousand details of material reality.

“They pretend that the ancients wished to teach Nature by creating an
abstract beauty of simplified form which should appeal only to the
intellect and not consent to flatter the senses. And those who talk like
this take examples which they imagine they find in antique art as their
authority for correcting, for emasculating nature, reducing it to
contours so dry, cold, and meagre that they have nothing in common with
the truth.

“You have just proved how much they are mistaken.



  By Michael Angelo

  _See page 98_



  Bibliothèque Nationale

“Without doubt the Greeks with their powerfully logical minds
instinctively accentuated the essential. They accented the dominant
traits of the human type; nevertheless they never suppressed living
detail. They were satisfied to envelop it and melt it into the whole. As
they were enamoured of calm rhythms, they involuntarily subjected all
secondary reliefs which should disturb the serenity of a movement; but
they carefully refrained from entirely obliterating them.

“They never made a method out of falsehood.

“Full of respect and love for Nature, they always represented her as
they saw her. And on every occasion they passionately testified their
worship of the flesh. For it is madness to believe that they despised
it. Among no other people has the beauty of the human body excited a
more sensuous tenderness. A transport of ecstasy seems to hover over all
the forms that they modelled.

“Thus is explained the unbelievable difference which separates the false
academic ideal from Greek art. While among the ancients the
generalization of lines is totalization, a result made up of all the
details, the academic simplification is an impoverishment, an empty
bombastry. While life animates and warms the palpitating muscles of the
Greek statues, the inconsistent dolls of academic art look as if they
were chilled by death.”

He was silent for a time, then—

“I will tell you a great secret. Do you know how the impression of
actual life, which we have just felt before that Venus, is produced?

“By the _science of modelling_.

“These words seem banal to you, but you will soon gauge their

“The _science of modelling_ was taught me by one Constant, who worked in
the atelier where I made my début as a sculptor. One day, watching me
model a capital ornamented with foliage—‘Rodin,’ he said to me, ‘you are
going about that in the wrong way. All your leaves are seen flat. That
is why they do not look real. Make some with the tips pointed at you, so
that, in seeing them, one has the sensation of depth.’ I followed his
advice and I was astounded at the result that I obtained. ‘Always
remember what I am about to tell you,’ went on Constant. ‘Henceforth,
when you carve, never see the form in length, but always in thickness.
Never consider a surface except as the extremity of a volume, as the
point, more or less large, which it directs towards you. In that way you
will acquire the _science of modelling_.’



“This principle was astonishingly fruitful to me. I applied it to the
execution of figures. Instead of imagining the different parts of a body
as surfaces more or less flat, I represented them as projectures 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 within to the outside,
like life itself.

“Now I have discovered that the ancients practised precisely this method
of modelling. And it is certainly to this technique that their works owe
at once their vigor and their palpitating suppleness.”

Rodin contemplated afresh his exquisite Greek Venus. And suddenly he

“In your opinion, Gsell, is color a quality of painting or of

“Of painting, naturally.”

“Well, then, just look at this statue.”

So saying, he raised the lamp as high as he could in order to light the
antique torso from above.

“Just see the high lights on the breasts, the heavy shadows in the folds
of the flesh, and then this paleness, these vaporous half-tones,
trembling over the most delicate portions of this divine body, these
bits so finely shaded that they seem to dissolve in air. What do you say
to it? Is it not a great symphony in black and white?”

I had to agree.

“As paradoxical as it may seem, a great sculptor is as much a colorist
as the best painter, or rather, the best engraver.

“He plays so skilfully with all the resources of relief, he blends so
well the boldness of light with the modesty of shadow, that his
sculptures please one as much as the most charming etchings.



  By Praxiteles

“Now color—it is to this remark that I wished to lead—is the flower of
fine modelling. These two qualities always accompany each other, and it
is these qualities which give to every masterpiece of the sculptor the
radiant appearance of living flesh.”



  By Rodin

                               CHAPTER IV
                            MOVEMENT IN ART

There are two statues by Rodin at the Musée du Luxembourg which
especially attract and hold me; _l’Age d’Airain_ (the Iron Age) and
_Saint-Jean-Baptiste_. They seem even more full of life than the others,
if that is possible. The other works of the Master which bear them
company are certainly all quivering with truth; they all produce the
impression of real flesh, they all breathe, but these move.

One day in the Master’s atelier at Meudon I told him my especial
fondness for these two figures.

“They are certainly among those in which I have carried imitative art
farthest,” he replied. “Though I have produced others whose animation is
not less striking; for example, my _Bourgeois de Calais_, my _Balzac_,
my _Homme qui marche_ (Man walking).

“And even in those of my works in which action is less pronounced, I
have always sought to give some indication of movement. I have very
rarely represented complete repose. I have always endeavored to express
the inner feelings by the mobility of the muscles.

“This is so even in my busts, to which I have often given a certain
slant, a certain obliquity, a certain expressive direction, which would
emphasize the meaning of the physiognomy.

“Art cannot exist without life. If a sculptor wishes to interpret joy,
sorrow, any passion whatsoever, he will not be able to move us unless he
first knows how to make the beings live which he evokes. For how could
the joy or the sorrow of an inert object—of a block of stone—affect us?
Now, the illusion of life is obtained in our art by good modelling and
by movement. These two qualities are like the blood and the breath of
all good work.”



  By Rodin

“Master,” I said, “you have already talked to me of modelling, and I
have noticed that since then I am better able to appreciate the
masterpieces of sculpture. I should like to ask a few questions about
movement, which, I feel, is not less important.

“When I look at your figure of the _Iron Age_, who awakes, fills his
lungs and raises high his arms; or at your _Saint John_, who seems to
long to leave his pedestal to carry abroad his words of faith, my
admiration is mixed with amazement. It seems to me that there is sorcery
in this science which lends movement to bronze. I have also studied
other _chefs-d’œuvre_ of your great predecessors; for example, _Maréchal
Ney_ and the _Marseillaise_ by Rude, the _Dance_ by Carpeaux, as well as
Barye’s wild animals, and I confess that I have never found any
satisfactory explanation for the effect which these sculptures produce
upon me. I continue to ask myself how such masses of stone and iron can
possibly seem to move, how figures so evidently motionless can yet
appear to act and even to lend themselves to violent effort.”

“As you take me for a sorcerer,” Rodin answered, “I shall try to do
justice to my reputation by accomplishing a task much more difficult for
me than animating bronze—that of explaining how I do it.

“Note, first, that _movement is the transition from one attitude to

“This simple statement, which has the air of a truism, is, to tell the
truth, the key to the mystery.

“You have certainly read in Ovid how Daphne was transformed into a
bay-tree and Progne into a swallow. This charming writer shows us the
body of the one taking on its covering of leaves and bark and the
members of the other clothing themselves in feathers, so that in each of
them one still sees the woman which will cease to be and the tree or
bird which she will become. You remember, too, how in Dante’s _Inferno_
a serpent, coiling itself about the body of one of the damned, changes
into man as the man becomes reptile. The great poet describes this scene
so ingeniously that in each of these two beings one follows the struggle
between two natures which progressively invade and supplant each other.



  By Rodin

  Photograph reproduced by permission of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

“It is, in short, a metamorphosis of this kind that the painter or the
sculptor effects in giving movement to his personages. He represents the
transition from one pose to another—he indicates how insensibly the
first glides into the second. In his work we still see a part of what
was and we discover a part of what is to be. An example will enlighten
you better.

“You mentioned just now the statue of Marshal Ney by Rude. Do you recall
the figure clearly?”

“Yes,” I said. “The hero raises his sword, shouting ‘Forward’ to his
troops at the top of his voice.”

“Exactly! Well—when you next pass that statue, look at it still more
closely. You will then notice this: the legs of the statue and the hand
which holds the sheath of the sabre are placed in the attitude that they
had when he drew—the left leg is drawn back so that the sabre may be
easily grasped by the right hand, which has just drawn it; and as for
the left hand, it is arrested in the air as if still offering the

“Now examine the body. It must have been slightly bent toward the left
at the moment when it performed the act which I have described, but here
it is erect, here is the chest thrown out, here is the head turning
towards the soldiers as it roars out the order to attack; here, finally,
is the right arm raised and brandishing the sabre.

“So there you have a confirmation of what I have just said; the movement
in this statue is only the change from a first attitude—that which the
Marshal had as he drew his sabre—into a second, that which he had as he
rushes, arm aloft, upon the enemy.



  By Rude

“In that is all the secret of movement as interpreted by art. The
sculptor compels, so to speak, the spectator to follow the development
of an act in an individual. In the example that we have chosen, the eyes
are forced to travel upward from the lower limbs to the raised arm, and,
as in so doing they find the different parts of the figure represented
at successive instants, they have the illusion of beholding the movement

As it happened, the casts of the _Iron Age_ and of _Saint John the
Baptist_ stood in the great hall where we were. Rodin asked me to look
at them. And I at once recognized the truth of his words.

I noticed that in the first of these works the movement appears to
mount, as in the statue of Ney. The legs of the youth, who is not yet
fully awake, are still lax and almost vacillating, but as your eye
mounts you see the pose become firmer—the ribs rise beneath the skin,
the chest expands, the face is lifted towards the sky, and the two arms
stretch in an endeavor to throw off their torpor.

The subject of this sculpture is exactly that—the passage from
somnolence to the vigor of the being ready for action.

This slow gesture of awakening appears, besides, still more grand when
one understands its symbolic meaning. For it represents, as the title of
the work indicates, the first palpitation of conscience in a humanity
still young, the first victory of reason over the brutishness of the
prehistoric ages.

In the same way I next studied _Saint John_. And I saw that the rhythm
of this figure led, as Rodin had said, to a sort of evolution between
two balances. The figure leaning, at first, all its weight upon the left
foot, which presses the ground with all its strength, seems to balance
there while the eyes look to the right. You then see all the body bent
in that direction, then the right leg advances and the foot takes hold
of the ground. At the same time the left shoulder, which is raised,
seems to endeavor to bring the weight of the body to this side in order
to aid the leg which is behind to come forward. Now, the science of the
sculptor has consisted precisely in imposing all these facts upon the
spectator in the order in which I have stated them, so that their
succession will give the impression of movement.



  By Rodin

Moreover, the gesture of Saint John, like that of the Iron Age, contains
a spiritual significance. The prophet moves with an almost automatic
solemnity. You almost believe you hear his footsteps, as you do those in
the statue of the _Commander_. You feel that a force at once mysterious
and formidable sustains and impels him. So the act of walking, usually a
commonplace movement, here becomes majestic because it is the
accomplishment of a divine mission.

“Have you ever attentively examined instantaneous photographs of walking
figures?” Rodin suddenly asked me.

Upon my reply in the affirmative, “Well, what did you notice?”

“That they never seem to advance. Generally they seem to rest motionless
on one leg or to hop on one foot.”

“Exactly! Now, for example, while my Saint John is represented with both
feet on the ground, it is probable that an instantaneous photograph from
a model making the same movement would show the back foot already raised
and carried toward the other. Or else, on the contrary, the front foot
would not yet be on the ground if the back leg occupied in the
photograph the same position as in my statue.

“Now it is exactly for that reason that this model photographed would
present the odd appearance of a man suddenly stricken with paralysis and
petrified in his pose, as it happened in the pretty fairy story to the
servants of the Sleeping Beauty, who were all suddenly struck motionless
in the midst of their occupations.



  By Rodin

“And this confirms what I have just explained to you on the subject of
movement in art. If, in fact, in instantaneous photographs, the figures,
though taken while moving, seem suddenly fixed in mid-air, it is
because, all parts of the body being reproduced exactly at the same
twentieth or fortieth of a second, there is no progressive development
of movement as there is in art.”

“I understand you perfectly, Master,” I answered. “But it seems to me,
if you will excuse me for risking the remark, that you contradict

“How so?”

“Have you not declared many times to me that the artist ought always to
copy nature with the greatest sincerity?”

“Without doubt, and I maintain it.”

“Well, then, when in the interpretation of movement he completely
contradicts photography, which is an unimpeachable mechanical testimony,
he evidently alters truth.”

“No,” replied Rodin, “it is the artist who is truthful and it is
photography which lies, for in reality time does not stop, and if the
artist succeeds in producing the impression of a movement which takes
several moments for accomplishment, his work is certainly much less
conventional than the scientific image, where time is abruptly

“It is that which condemns certain modern painters who, when they wish
to represent horses galloping, reproduce the poses furnished by
instantaneous photography.

“Gericault is criticised because in his picture _Epsom Races_ (_Course
d’Epsom_), which is at the Louvre, he has painted his horses galloping,
fully extended, _ventre à terre_, to use a familiar expression, throwing
their fore feet forward and their hind feet backward at the same
instant. It is said that the sensitive plate never gives the same
effect. And, in fact, in instantaneous photography, when the forelegs of
a horse are forward, the hind legs, having by their pause propelled the
body onward, have already had time to gather themselves under the body
in order to recommence the stride, so that for a moment the four legs
are almost gathered together in the air, which gives the animal the
appearance of jumping off the ground, and of being motionless in this


  EUROPA. Italian School of the Fifteenth Century



  By Gericault

“Now I believe that it is Gericault who is right, and not the camera,
for his horses _appear_ to run; this comes from the fact that the
spectator from right to left sees first the hind legs accomplish the
effort whence the general impetus results, then the body stretched out,
then the forelegs which seek the ground ahead. This is false in reality,
as the actions could not be simultaneous; but it is true when the parts
are observed successively, and it is this truth alone that matters to
us, because it is that which we see and which strikes us.

“Note besides that painters and sculptors, when they unite different
phases of an action in the same figure, do not act from reason or from
artifice. They are naïvely expressing what they feel. Their minds and
their hands are as if drawn in the direction of the movement, and they
translate the development by instinct. Here, as everywhere in the domain
of art, sincerity is the only rule.”

I was silent for several instants, thinking over what he had said.

“Haven’t I convinced you?” he asked.

“Yes, indeed. But while admiring this miracle of painting and of
sculpture which succeeds in condensing the action of several moments
into a single figure, I now ask myself how far they can compete with
literature, and especially with the theatre, in the notation of
movement. To tell the truth, I am inclined to believe that this
competition does not go very far, and that on this score the masters of
the brush and chisel are necessarily inferior to those of language.”

“Our disadvantage,” he exclaimed, “is not as great as you would think.
If painting and sculpture can endow figures with motion, they are not
forbidden to attempt even more. And at times they succeed in equalling
dramatic art by presenting in the same picture or in the same sculptural
group several successive scenes.”



  By Watteau

“Yes,” I replied, “but they cheat, in a way. For I suppose that you are
talking of those old compositions which celebrate the entire history of
a personage, representing him several times on the same panel in
different situations.

“At the Louvre, for example, a small Italian painting of the fifteenth
century relates in this way the story of Europa. You first see the young
princess playing in the flowery field with her companions, who help her
to mount the bull, Jupiter, and further on the same heroine, terrified
now, is carried off through the waves by the god.”

“That is a very primitive method,” Rodin answered, “though it was
practised even by great masters—for example, in the ducal palace at
Venice this same fable of Europa has been treated in an identical manner
by Veronese. But it is in spite of this defect that Caliari’s painting
is admirable, and I did not refer to any such childish method: for, as
you may imagine, I disapprove of it. To make myself understood, I must
ask you first whether you can call to mind _The Embarkation for the
Island of Cythera_ by Watteau.”

“As plainly as if it was before my eyes,” I said.

“Then I shall have no trouble in explaining myself. In this masterpiece
the action, if you will notice, begins in the foreground to the right
and ends in the background to the left.

“What you first notice in the front of the picture, in the cool shade,
near a sculptured bust of Cypris garlanded with roses, is a group
composed of a young woman and her adorer. The man wears a cape
embroidered with a pierced heart, gracious symbol of the voyage that he
would undertake.



  By Rude

“Kneeling at her side, he ardently beseeches his lady to yield. But she
meets his entreaties with an indifference perhaps feigned, and appears
absorbed in the study of the decorations on her fan. Close to them is a
little cupid, sitting halfnaked upon his quiver. He thinks that the
young woman delays too long, and he pulls her skirt to induce her to be
less hard-hearted. But still the pilgrim’s staff and the script of love
lie upon the ground. This is the first scene.

“Here is the second: To the left of the group of which I have spoken is
another couple. The lady accepts the hand of her lover, who helps her to
arise. She has her back to us, and has one of those blonde napes which
Watteau painted with such voluptuous grace.

“A little further is the third scene. The lover puts his arm around his
mistress’s waist to draw her with him. She turns towards her companions,
whose lingering confuses her, but she allows herself to be led passively

“Now the lovers descend to the shore and all push laughing towards the
barque; the men no longer need to entreat, the women cling to their

“Finally the pilgrims help their sweethearts on board the little ship,
which, decked with flowers and floating pennons of red silk, rocks like
a golden dream upon the water. The sailors, leaning on their oars, are
ready to row away. And already, borne by the breezes, little cupids fly
ahead to guide the travellers towards that azure isle which lies upon
the horizon.”

“I see, Master, that you love this picture, for you have remembered
every detail,” I said.

“It is a delight that one cannot forget. But have you noted the
development of this pantomime? Truly now, is it the stage? or is it
painting? One does not know which to say. You see, then, that an artist
can, when he pleases, represent not only fleeting gestures, but a long
_action_, to employ a term of dramatic art.

“In order to succeed, he needs only to place his personages in such a
manner that the spectator shall first see those who begin this action,
then those who continue it, and finally those who complete it. Would you
like an example in sculpture?”



  By Rodin

Opening a book, he searched for a moment and drew out a photograph.

“Here,” he said, “is the _Marseillaise_ which Rude carved for one of the
piers of the Arc de Triomphe.

“Liberty, in a breastplate of brass, cleaving the air with unfolded
wings, roars in a mighty voice, ‘Aux armes, citoyens!’ She raises high
her left arm to rally all the brave to her side, and, with the other
hand, she points her sword towards the enemy. It is she, beyond
question, whom you first see, for she dominates all the work, and her
legs, which are wide apart as if she were running, seem like an accent
placed above this sublime war-epic. It seems as though one must hear
her—for her mouth of stone shrieks as though to burst your eardrum. But
no sooner has she given the call than you see the warriors rush forward.
This is the second phase of the action. A Gaul with the mane of a lion
shakes aloft his helmet as though to salute the goddess, and here, at
his side, is his young son, who begs the right to go with him—“I am
strong enough, I am a man, I want to go!” he seems to say, grasping the
hilt of a sword. “Come,” says the father, regarding him with tender

“Third phase of the action: a veteran bowed beneath the weight of his
equipment strives to join them—for all who have strength enough must
march to battle. Another old man, bowed with age, follows the soldiers
with his prayers, and the gesture of his hand seems to repeat the
counsels that he has given them from his own experience.

“Fourth phase: an archer bends his muscular back to bind on his arms. A
trumpet blares its frenzied appeal to the troops. The wind flaps the
standards, the lances point forward. The signal is given, and already
the strife begins.

“Here, again, we have a true dramatic composition acted before us. But
while _L’Embarquement pour Cythère_ recalls the delicate comedies of
Marivaux, the _Marseillaise_ is a great tragedy by Corneille. I do not
know which of the two works I prefer, for there is as much genius in the
one as in the other.”



  By Rodin



  By Rodin

And, looking at me with a shade of malicious challenge, he added, “You
will no longer say, I think, that sculpture and painting are unable to
compete with the theatre?”

“Certainly not.” At this instant, I saw in the portfolio where he had
replaced the reproduction of the _Marseillaise_, a photograph of his
wonderful _Burghers of Calais_. “To prove to you,” I said, “that I have
profited by your teaching, let me apply it to one of your most beautiful
works, for I see that you have yourself put into practice the principles
which you have revealed to me.

“Here, in your _Burghers of Calais_, I recognize a scenic succession
like that which you have cited in the _chefs-d’œuvre_ of Watteau and of

“The figure in the centre first attracts attention. No one can doubt
that it is Eustache de Saint-Pierre. He bows his venerable head with its
long gray hair. He does not hesitate, he is not afraid. He advances
steadily, his eyes half closed in silent communion. If he totters a
little, it is because of the privations that he has endured during a
long siege. It is he who inspires the others, it is he who offered
himself first as one of the six notables whose death, according to the
conditions of the conqueror, should save their fellow-townsmen from

“The burgher beside him is not less brave. But if he does not mourn for
his own fate, the capitulation of the city causes him terrible sorrow.
Holding in his hand the key which he must deliver to the English, he
stiffens his whole body in order to find the strength to bear the
inevitable humiliation.

“On the same plane with these two, to the left, you see a man who is
less courageous, for he walks almost too fast: you would say that,
having made up his mind to the sacrifice, he longs to shorten the time
which separates him from his martyrdom.



  By Rodin



  By Rodin

“And behind these comes a burgher who, holding his head in his hands,
abandons himself to violent despair. Perhaps he thinks of his wife, of
his children, of those who are dear to him, of those whom his going will
leave without support.

“A fifth notable passes his hand before his eyes as if to dissipate some
frightful nightmare. He stumbles, death so appals him.

“Finally, here is the sixth burgher, younger than the others. He seems
still undecided. A painful anxiety contracts his face. Is it the image
of his sweetheart that fills his thoughts? But his companions advance—he
rejoins them, his neck outstretched as if offered to the axe of fate.

“While these three men of Calais may be less brave than the three first,
they do not deserve less admiration. For their devotion is even more
meritorious, because it costs them more.

“So, in your _Burghers_, one follows the action, more or less prompt,
which was the outcome in each one of them according to his disposition
of the authority and example of Eustache de Saint-Pierre. One sees them,
gradually won by his influence, decide one after another to go forward
with him to pay the price of their city.

“There, incontestably, is the best confirmation of your ideas on the
scenic value of art.”

“If your opinion of my work were not too high,” Rodin answered, “I
should acknowledge that you had perfectly understood my intentions. You
have justly placed my burghers in the scale according to their degrees
of heroism. To emphasize this effect still more I wished, as you perhaps
know, to fix my statues one behind the other on the stones of the Place,
before the Town Hall of Calais, like a living chaplet of suffering and
of sacrifice.



  By Rodin

“My figures would so have appeared to direct their steps from the
municipal building toward the camp of Edward III.; and the people of
Calais of to-day, almost elbowing them, would have felt more deeply the
tradition of solidarity which unites them to these heroes. It would have
been, I believe, intensely impressive. But my proposal was rejected, and
they insisted upon a pedestal which is as unsightly as it is
unnecessary. They were wrong. I am sure of it.”

“Alas,” I said, “the artist has always to reckon with the routine of
opinion, too happy if he can only realize a part of his beautiful



  By Rodin

  Photogravure reproduced by permission of the Metropolitan Museum of

                               CHAPTER V
                           DRAWING AND COLOR

Rodin has always drawn a great deal. He has sometimes used the pen,
sometimes the pencil. Formerly he drew the outline with a pen, and then
added the shading with a brush. These wash-drawings so executed looked
as if made from bas-reliefs or from sculptured groups. They were purely
the visions of a sculptor.

Later he used a lead pencil for his drawings from the nude, washing in
the flesh tones in color. These drawings are freer than the first; the
attitudes are less set, more fugitive. In them the touch seems sometimes
almost frenzied—a whole body held in a single sweep of the pencil—and
they betray the divine impatience of the artist who fears that a
fleeting impression may escape him. The coloring of the flesh is dashed
on in three or four broad strokes, the modelling summarily produced by
the drying of the pools of color where the brush in its haste has not
paused to gather the drops left after each touch. These sketches fix the
rapid gesture, the transient motion which the eye itself has hardly
seized for one half second. They do not give you merely line and color;
they give you movement and life. They are more the visions of a painter
than of a sculptor.

Yet more recently Rodin, continuing to use the lead pencil, has ceased
to model with the brush. He is now content to smudge in the contours
with his finger. This rubbing produces a silvery gray which envelops the
forms like a cloud, rendering them of almost unreal loveliness; it
bathes them in poetry and mystery. These last studies I believe are the
most beautiful. They are at once luminous, living, and full of charm.



  Study-sketch by Rodin

  Photograph reproduced by permission of the Metropolitan Museum of Art



  By Rodin

  Photograph reproduced by permission of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

As I was looking at some with Rodin, I said to him how much they
differed from the over-finished drawings which the public usually

“It is true,” he said, “that it is inexpressive minutiæ of execution and
false nobility of gesture which please the ignorant. The crowd cannot
understand a daring impression which passes over useless details to
seize only upon the truth of the whole. It can understand nothing of
that sincere observation which, disdaining theatrical poses, interests
itself in the simple and much more touching attitudes of real life.

“It is difficult to correct the errors that prevail on the subject of

“It is a false idea that drawing in itself can be beautiful. It is only
beautiful through the truths and the feelings that it translates. The
crowd admires artists, who, strong in subject, elegantly pen contours
destitute of significance, and who plant their figures in pretentious
poses. It goes into ecstasies over poses which are never seen in nature,
and which are considered artistic because they recall the posturings of
the Italian models who offer themselves at the studio door. That is what
is generally called beautiful drawing. It is really only
sleight-of-hand, fit to astonish boobies.

“Of course, there is drawing in art as there is style in literature.
Style that is mannered, that strains after effect, is bad. No style is
good except that which effaces itself in order to concentrate all the
attention of the reader upon the subject treated, upon the emotion

“The artist who parades his drawing, the writer who wishes to attract
praise to his style, resemble the soldier who plumes himself on his
uniform but refuses to go into battle, or the farmer who polishes the
ploughshare instead of driving it into the earth.

“You never think of praising either drawing or style which is truly
beautiful, because you are carried away by the interest of all that they
express. It is the same with color. There is really neither beautiful
style, nor beautiful drawing, nor beautiful color; there is but one sole
beauty, that of the truth which is revealed. When a truth, when a
profound idea, when a powerful feeling bursts forth in a great work,
either literary or artistic, it is evident that the style, or the color
and the drawing, are excellent; but these qualities exist only as the
reflection of the truth.

“Raphael’s drawing is admired—and justly—but it should not be admired
only for itself, for its skilful balance of line; it should be admired
for what it signifies. What forms all its merit is the sweet serenity of
soul which saw with the eyes of Raphael and expressed itself with his
hand, the love in him which seems to overflow from his heart upon all
nature. Those who, lacking his soul, have sought to borrow the linear
cadences and the attitudes of his figures, have never executed any but
insipid imitations of the great master of Urbino.

“In the drawing of Michael Angelo it is not his manner, not the
audacious foreshortening nor the skilful anatomy that should be admired,
but the desperate force of the Titan. Those imitators who, without his
soul, have copied in their painting his buttressed attitudes and his
tense muscles have made themselves ridiculous.

“In the color of Titian, what should be admired is not merely a more or
less agreeable harmony, but the meaning that it offers. His color has no
true beauty except as it conveys the idea of a sumptuous and dominant

“In the color of Veronese, the true beauty exists in its power to evoke
in silvery play of color the elegant conviviality of patrician feasts.

“The color of Rubens is nothing in itself; its flaming wonder would be
vain did it not give the impression of life, of joy, and of robust



  By Rodin

“There does not perhaps exist a single work of art which owes its charm
only to balance of line or tone, and which makes an appeal to the eyes
alone. Take, for example, the stained-glass windows of the twelfth and
thirteenth centuries—if they enchant us with the velvety depths of their
blues, with the caress of their soft violets and their warm crimsons, it
is because their colors express the mystic joy which their pious
creators hoped to win in the heaven of their dreams. If certain bits of
Persian pottery, strewn with flowers of turquoise blue, are adorable
marvels of color, it is because, in some strange manner, their exquisite
shades transport the soul into I know not what valley of dreams and
faëry. So, all drawing and all harmony of colors offer a meaning without
which they would have no beauty.”

“But do you not fear that disdain of craft in art—?” I broke in.

“Who speaks to you of disdaining it? Craft is only a means. But the
artist who neglects it will never attain his end, which is the
interpretation of feeling, of ideas. Such an artist would be like a
horseman who forgot to give oats to his horse.

“It is only too evident that if drawing is lacking, if color is false,
the most powerful emotion cannot find expression. Incorrect anatomy
would raise a laugh when the artist wished to be most touching. Many
young artists incur this disgrace to-day. As they have never studied
seriously, their unskilfulness betrays them at every turn. Their
intentions are good, but an arm which is too short, a leg which is not
straight, an inexact perspective, repels the spectator.

“In short, no sudden inspiration can replace the long toil which is
indispensable to give the eyes a true knowledge of form and of
proportion and to render the hand obedient to the commands of feeling.

“And when I say that craft should be forgotten, my idea is not for a
moment that the artist can get along without science. On the contrary,
it is necessary to have consummate technique in order to hide what one
knows. Doubtless, to the vulgar, the jugglers who execute eccentric
flourishes of line, who accomplish astounding pyrotechnics of color, or
who write long phrases encrusted with unusual words, are the most
skilful men in the world. But the great difficulty and the crown of art
is to draw, to paint, to write with ease and simplicity.



  By Michael Angelo

“You see a picture, you read a page; you notice neither the drawing, the
color, nor the style, but you are moved to the soul. Have no fear of
making a mistake; the drawing, the color, the style are perfect in

“Yet, Master, can it not happen that great and touching _chefs-d’œuvre_
are wanting in technique? Is it not said, for instance, that Raphael’s
color is often bad and Rembrandt’s drawing debatable?”

“It is wrong, believe me. If Raphael’s masterpieces delight the soul, it
is because everything in them, color as well as drawing, contributes to
the enchantment. Look at the little _Saint George_ in the Louvre, at the
_Parnassus_ in the Vatican, at the cartoons for the tapestry at South
Kensington; the harmony in these works is charming. Sanzio’s color is
different from Rembrandt’s, but it is exactly suited to his inspiration.
It is clear and enamelled. It offers fresh, flowery, joyous tonalities.
It has the eternal youth of Raphael himself. It seems unreal, but only
because the truth as observed by the master of Urbino is not that of
purely material things; his is the domain of feeling, a region where
forms and colors are transfigured by the light of love. Doubtless an
out-and-out realist would call this coloring inexact; but a poet finds
it true.

“What is certain is that the color of Rembrandt or of Rubens joined to
Raphael’s drawing would be ridiculous and monstrous, just as Rembrandt’s
drawing differs from that of Raphael, but is not less good. Raphael’s
lines are sweet and pure; Rembrandt’s are often rude and jarring. The
great Dutchman’s vision was arrested by the roughness of garments, by
the asperity of wrinkled faces, by the callousness of plebeian hands;
for to Rembrandt beauty is only the antithesis between the triviality of
the physical envelope and the inner radiance. How could he express this
beauty composed of apparent ugliness and moral grandeur if he tried to
rival Raphael in elegance? You must recognize that his drawing is
perfect because it corresponds absolutely to the exigencies of his



  By Rembrandt

“So, according to you, it is an error to believe that the same artist
cannot be at once a great colorist and a great draughtsman?”

“Certainly, and I do not know how this idea has become as firmly
established as it seems to be. If the great masters are eloquent, if
they carry us away, it is clearly because they possess exactly all the
means of expression that are necessary to them. I have just proved it to
you in the case of Raphael and Rembrandt. The same demonstration could
be made in the case of all the great artists. For instance, Delacroix
has been accused of ignorance of drawing. On the contrary, the truth is
that his drawing combines marvellously with his color; like it, it is
abrupt, feverish, exalted, it is full of vivacity, of passion; like it,
it is sometimes mad, and it is then that it is the most beautiful. Color
and drawing, one cannot be admired without the other, for they are one.

“Where the demi-connoisseur deceives himself is in allowing for the
existence of but one kind of drawing; that of Raphael, or perhaps it is
not even that of Raphael, but that of his imitators, that of David or of
Ingres. There are really as many kinds of drawing and of color as there
are artists.

“Albrecht Dürer’s color is called hard and dry. It is not so at all. But
he is a German; he generalizes; his compositions are as exact as logical
constructions; his people are as solid as essential types. That is why
his drawing is so precise and his color so restrained.

“Holbein belongs to the same school. His drawing has none of the
Florentine grace; his color has none of the Venetian charm; but his line
and color have a power, a gravity, an inner meaning, which perhaps are
found in no other painter.



  By Rodin

  Photograph reproduced by permission of the Metropolitan Museum of Art



  By Rodin

  Photograph reproduced by permission of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

“In general, it is possible to say that in artists as deliberate, as
careful as these, drawing is particularly tight and the color is as cold
as the verity of mathematics. In other artists, on the contrary, in
those who are the poets of the heart, like Raphael, Correggio, Andrea
del Sarto, line has more suppleness and color, more winning tenderness.
In others whom we call _realists_, that is to say, whose sensibility is
more exterior, in Rubens, Velasquez, Rembrandt, for example, line has a
living charm with its force and its repose, and the color sometimes
bursts into a fanfare of sunlight, sometimes fades into mist.

“So, the modes of expression of men of genius differ as much as their
souls, and it is impossible to say that in some among them drawing and
color are better or worse than in others.”

“I understand, Master; but in refusing the usual classification of
artists as draughtsmen or colorists, you do not stop to think how you
embarrass the poor critics. Happily, however, it seems to me that in
your words those who like categories may find a new method of
classification. Color and drawing, you say, are only means, and it is
the soul of the artist that it is important to know. So painters should
be grouped according to their dispositions. For example, Albrecht Dürer
with Holbein—both are logicians. Raphael, Correggio, Andrea del Sarto,
whom you have named together, make a class in which sentiment is
predominant; they are in the front rank of the elegiacs. Another class
would be composed of the masters who are interested in active existence,
in daily life, and the trio of Rubens, Velasquez and Rembrandt would be
its greatest constellation. Finally, artists such as Claude Lorraine and
Turner, who considered nature as a tissue of brilliant and fugitive
visions, would comprise a fourth group.”

Rodin smiled. “Such a classification would not be wanting in ingenuity,”
he said, “and it would be much more just than that which divides the
colorists from the draughtsmen.



  By Rodin

  Photograph reproduced by permission of the Metropolitan Museum of Art



  By Rodin

  Photograph reproduced by permission of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

“However, because of the complexity of art, or rather of the human souls
who take art for a language, all classification runs the risk of being
futile. So Rembrandt is often a sublime poet and Raphael often a
vigorous realist.

“Let us force ourselves to understand the masters—let us love them—let
us go to them for inspiration; but let us refrain from labelling them
like drugs in a chemist’s shop.”



  By Rodin

                               CHAPTER VI
                          THE BEAUTY OF WOMEN

That fine old house known as “l’Hôtel de Biron,” which stands in a quiet
street on the left bank of the Seine in Paris, and which was but lately
the Convent of the Sacred Heart, has, since the suppression of the
sisterhoods, been occupied by several tenants, among whom is Rodin.

The Master, as we have seen, has other ateliers at Meudon and at the
Dépôt des Marbres in Paris, but he has a special liking for this one.

Built in the eighteenth century, the town house of a powerful family, it
is certainly as beautiful a dwelling as any artist could desire. The
great rooms are lofty, panelled in white, with beautiful mouldings in
white and gold. The one in which Rodin works is a rotunda opening by
high French windows into a delightful garden.

For several years now this garden has been neglected. But it is still
possible to trace, among the riotous weeds, the ancient lines of box
which bordered the alleys, to follow, beneath fantastic vines, the shape
of green trellised arbors; and there each spring the flowers reappear,
pushing through the grasses in the borders. Nothing induces a more
delicious melancholy than this spectacle of the gradual effacement of
human toil at the hands of invading nature.

At l’Hôtel de Biron Rodin passes nearly all his time in drawing.

In this quiet retreat he loves to isolate himself and to consign to
paper, in numberless pencil sketches, the graceful attitudes which his
models take before him.

One evening I was looking over a series of these studies with him, and
was admiring the harmonious lines by which he had reproduced all the
rhythm of the human body upon paper.



  By Rodin



  By Rodin

The outlines, dashed in with a single stroke, evoked the fire or the
_abandon_ of the movements, and his thumb had interpreted by a very
slight shade the charm of the modelling. As he studied the drawings he
seemed to see again in mind the models who were their originals. He
constantly exclaimed:

“Ah! this one’s shoulders, what a delight! A curve of perfect beauty! My
drawing is too heavy! I tried indeed, but—! See, here is a second
attempt from the same woman. This is more like her. And yet!

“And just look at this one’s throat, the adorable elegance of this
swelling line, it has an almost intangible grace!”

“Master,” I asked, “is it easy to find good models?”


“Then beauty is not very rare in France?”

“No, I tell you.”

“But tell me, do you not think that the beauty of the antique much
surpassed that of our day, and that modern women are far from equalling
those who posed for Phidias?”

“Not at all.”

“Yet the perfection of the Greek Venuses—”

“The artists in those days had eyes to see, while those of to-day are
blind; that is all the difference. The Greek women were beautiful, but
their beauty lived above all in the minds of the sculptors who carved

“To-day there are women just like them. They are principally in the
South of Europe. The modern Italians, for example, belong to the same
Mediterranean type as the models of Phidias. This type has for its
special characteristic the equal width of shoulders and hips.”

“But did not the invasion of the barbarians by a mixture of race alter
the standard of antique beauty?”



  By Rodin

  Photograph reproduced by permission of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

“No. Even if we suppose that the barbarians were less beautiful, less
well-proportioned than the Mediterranean race, which is possible, time
has effectually wiped out any stains produced by a mixed blood, and has
again produced the harmony of the ancient type. In a union of the
beautiful and the ugly, it is always the beautiful which triumphs in the
end. Nature, by a Divine law, tends constantly towards the best, tends
ceaselessly towards perfection. Besides the Mediterranean type, there
exists a Northern type, to which many Frenchwomen, as well as the women
of the Germanic and Slavic races, belong. In this type the hips are
strongly developed and the shoulders are narrower; it is this structure
that you observe, for example, in the nymphs of Jean Goujon, in the
Venus of the _Judgment of Paris_ by Watteau, and in the _Diana_ by
Houdon. In this type, too, the chest is generally high, while in the
antique and Mediterranean types the thorax is, on the contrary,
straight. To tell the truth, every human type, every race, has its
beauty. The thing is to discover it. I have drawn with infinite pleasure
the little Cambodian dancers who lately came to Paris with their
sovereign. The fine, small gestures of their graceful limbs had a
strange and marvellous beauty.

“I have made studies of the Japanese actress Hanako. Her muscles stand
out as prominently as those of a fox-terrier; her sinews are so
developed that the joints to which they are attached have a thickness
equal to the members themselves. She is so strong that she can rest as
long as she pleases on one leg, the other raised at right angles in
front of her. She looks as if rooted in the ground, like a tree. Her
anatomy is quite different from that of a European, but, nevertheless,
very beautiful in its singular power.”



  By Rodin

  Photograph reproduced by permission of the Metropolitan Museum of Art



  By Rodin

  Photograph reproduced by permission of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

An instant later, returning to the idea which is so dear to him, he
said: “In short, Beauty is everywhere. It is not she that is lacking to
our eye, but our eyes which fail to perceive her. Beauty is character
and expression. Well, there is nothing in nature which has more
character than the human body. In its strength and its grace it evokes
the most varied images. One moment it resembles a flower: the bending
torso is the stalk; the breasts, the head, and the splendor of the hair
answer to the blossoming of the corolla. The next moment it recalls the
pliant creeper, or the proud and upright sapling. ‘In seeing you,’ says
Ulysses to Nausicaa, ‘I seem to see a certain palm-tree which at Delos,
near the altar of Apollo, rose from earth to heaven in a single shoot.’
Again, the human body bent backwards is like a spring, like a beautiful
bow upon which Eros adjusts his invisible arrows. At another time it is
an urn. I have often asked a model to sit on the ground with her back to
me, her arms and legs gathered in front of her. In this position the
back, which tapers to the waist and swells at the hips, appears like a
vase of exquisite outline.

“The human body is, above all, the mirror of the soul, and from the soul
comes its greatest beauty.

          “‘Chair de la femme, argile idéale, o merveille,
          O pénétration sublime de l’esprit
          Dans le limon que l’Etre ineffable petrit.
          Matière où l’âme brille à travers son suaire.
          Boue où l’on voit les doigts du divine statuaire.
          Fange auguste appelant les baisers et le cœur.
          Si sainte qu’en ne sait, tant l’amour est vainqueur
          Tant l’âme est, vers ce lit mystérieux, poussée.
          Si cette volupté n’est pas une pensée.
          Et qu’on ne peut, à l’heure où les sens sont en feu.
          Etreindre la Beauté sans croire embrasser Dieu!’[4]

Footnote 4:

  See page 250.

“Yes, Victor Hugo understood! What we adore in the human body more even
than its beautiful form is the inner flame which seems to shine from
within and to illumine it.”



  By Rodin

  Photograph reproduced by permission of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

                              CHAPTER VII
                       OF YESTERDAY AND OF TO-DAY

A few days ago I accompanied Auguste Rodin, who was on his way to the
Louvre, to see once again the busts by Houdon.

We were no sooner in front of the bust of Voltaire than the Master

“What a marvel it is! It is the personification of malice. See! his
sidelong glance seems watching some adversary. He has the pointed nose
of a fox; it seems smelling out from side to side for abuses and
follies. You can see it quiver! And the mouth—what a triumph! It is
framed by two furrows of irony. It seems to mumble sarcasms.

“A cunning old gossip—that is the impression produced by this Voltaire,
at once so lively, so sickly, and so little masculine.”

After a moment of contemplation he continued:

“The eyes! I always come back to them. They are transparent. They are

“But you can say as much of all busts by Houdon. This sculptor
understood how to render the transparency of the pupils better than any
painter or pastellist. He perforated them, bored them, cut them out; he
cleverly raised a certain unevenness in them which, catching or losing
the light, gives a singular effect and imitates the sparkle of life in
the pupil. And what diversity in the expression of the eyes of all these
faces! Cunning in Voltaire, good fellowship in Franklin, authority in
Mirabeau, gravity in Washington, joyous tenderness in Madame Houdon,
roguishness in his daughter and in the two charming little Brongniart
children. To this sculptor the glance is more than half the expression.
Through the eyes he read souls. They kept no secrets from him. So there
is no need to ask if his busts were good likenesses.”

At that word I stopped Rodin. “You consider, then, that resemblance is a
very important quality?”

“Certainly; indispensable.”

“Yet many artists say that busts and portraits can be very fine without
being good likenesses. I remember a remark on this subject attributed to
Henner. A lady complained to him that the portrait which he had painted
of her did not look like her.

“‘Hé! Matame,’ he replied in his Alsatian jargon, ‘when you are dead
your heirs will think themselves fortunate to possess a fine portrait by
Henner and will trouble themselves very little to know if it was like
you or not.’”

“It is possible that the painter said that,” Rodin answered, “but it was
doubtless a sally which did not represent his real thought, for I do not
believe that he had such false ideas in an art in which he showed great

“But first let us understand the kind of resemblance demanded in a bust
or portrait.

“If the artist only reproduces superficial features as photography does,
if he copies the lineaments of a face exactly, without reference to
character, he deserves no admiration. The resemblance which he ought to
obtain is that of the soul; that alone matters; it is that which the
sculptor or painter should seek beneath the mask of features.

“In a word, all the features must be expressive—that is to say, of use
in the revelation of a conscience.”

“But doesn’t it sometimes happen that the face contradicts the soul?”


“Have you forgotten the precept of La Fontaine, ‘Il ne faut point juger
les gens sur l’apparence’?”



  _See page 180_



  By Houdon

“That maxim is only addressed to superficial observers. For appearances
may deceive their hasty examination. La Fontaine writes that the little
mouse took the cat for the kindest of creatures, but he speaks of a
little mouse—that is to say, of a scatterbrain who lacked critical
faculty. The appearance of a cat would warn whoever studied it
attentively that there was cruelty hidden under that sleepiness. A
physiognomist can easily distinguish between a cajoling air and one of
real kindness, and it is precisely the rôle of the artist to show the
truth, even beneath dissimulation.

“To tell the truth, there is no artistic work which requires as much
penetration as the bust and the portrait. It is sometimes said the
artist’s profession demands more manual skill than intelligence. You
have only to study a good bust to correct this error. Such a work is
worth a whole biography. Houdon’s busts, for example, are like chapters
of written memoirs. Period, race, profession, personal character—all are
indicated there.

“Here is Rousseau opposite Voltaire. Great shrewdness in his glance. It
is the quality common to all the personages of the eighteenth century;
they are critics; they question all the principles which were
unquestioningly accepted before; they have searching eyes.

“Now for his origin. He is the Swiss plebeian. Rousseau is as
unpolished, almost vulgar, as Voltaire is aristocratic and
distinguished. Prominent cheekbones, short nose, square chin—you
recognize the son of the watchmaker and the whilom domestic.

“Profession now: he is the philosopher; sloping, thoughtful forehead,
antique type accentuated by the classic band about his head. Appearance
purposely wild, hair neglected, a certain resemblance to some Diogenes
or Menippus; this is the preacher of the return to nature and to the
primitive life.

“Individual character: a general contraction of the face; this is the
misanthrope. Eyebrows contracted, forehead lined with care; this is the
man who complains, often with reason, of persecution.

“I ask you if this is not a better commentary on the man than his



  By Houdon



  By Houdon

“Now Mirabeau. Period; challenging attitude, wig disarranged, dress
careless; a breath of the revolutionary tempest passes over this wild
beast, who is ready to roar an answer.

“Origin; dominating aspect, fine arched eyebrows, haughty forehead; this
is the former aristocrat. But the democratic heaviness of the pockmarked
cheeks and of the neck sunk between the shoulders betrays the Count de
Riquetti to the sympathies of Thiers, whose interpreter he has become.

“Profession: the tribune. The mouth protrudes like a speaking-trumpet
ready to fling his voice abroad. He lifts his head because, like most
orators, he was short. In this type of man nature develops the chest,
the barrel, at the expense of height. The eyes are not fixed on any one;
they rove over a great assembly. It is a glance at once vague and
superb. Tell me, is it not a marvellous achievement to evoke in this one
head a whole crowd—more, a whole listening country?

“Finally, the individual character. Observe the sensuous lips, the
double chin, the quivering nostrils; you will recognize the faults—habit
of debauch and demand for enjoyment. All is there, I tell you.

“It would be easy to sketch the same character outline from all the
busts of Houdon.

“Here, again, is Franklin. A ponderous air, heavy falling cheeks; this
is the former artisan. The long hair of the apostle, a kindly
benevolence; this is the popular moralizer, good-natured Richard.

“A stubborn high forehead inclined forward, indicative of the obstinacy
of which Franklin gave proof in winning an education, in rising, in
becoming an eminent scholar, finally in freeing his country. Astuteness
in the eyes and in the corners of the mouth; Houdon was not duped by the
general massiveness, and he divined the prudent materialism of the
calculator who made a fortune, and the cunning of the diplomat who
wormed out the secrets of English politics. Here, living, is one of the
ancestors of modern America!

“Well! Here, in these remarkable busts, do we not find the fragmentary
chronicle of half a century? And, as in the finest written narratives,
what pleases most in these memoirs in terra-cotta, in marble and in
bronze, is the brilliant grace of the style, the lightness of the hand
that wrote them, the generosity of this charming personality, so
essentially French, who created them. Houdon is Saint-Simon without his
aristocratic prejudices; is Saint-Simon as witty but more magnanimous.
Ah! what a divine artist!”

“It must be very difficult,” I said, verifying in the busts before us
the interpretation of my companion, “to penetrate so profoundly into the
consciousness of others.”

“Yes, doubtless.” Then, with a shade of irony, “But the greatest
difficulties for the artist who models a bust or who paints a portrait
do not come from the work which he executes. They come from the client
for whom he works. By a strange and fatal law, the one who orders his
own likeness is the one who always desperately combats the talent of the
artist he has chosen. It is very seldom that a man sees himself as he
is, and even if he knows himself, he does not wish the artist to
represent him as he is. He asks to be represented under the most banal
and neutral aspect. He wishes to be an official or worldly marionette.
It pleases him to have the function he exercises, the rank he holds in
society, completely efface the man that is in him. The magistrate wishes
his robe, the general his gold-laced tunic. They care very little
whether one can read their characters.

“This explains the success of so many mediocre painters and sculptors
who are satisfied to give the impersonal appearance of their clients:
their gold lace and their official attitude. These are the artists who
are generally highest in favor because they lend their models a mask of
riches and importance. The more bombastic a portrait is, the more it
resembles a stiff, pretentious doll, the better the client is satisfied.



  By Titian

“Perhaps it was not always so.

“Certain seigneurs of the fifteenth century, for example, seem to have
been pleased to see themselves portrayed as hyenas or vultures on the
medals of Pisanello. They were doubtless proud of their individuality.
Or, better still, they loved and venerated art, and they accepted the
rude frankness of the artist, as though it were a penance imposed by a
spiritual director.

“Titian did not hesitate to give Pope Paul III. a marten’s snout, nor to
emphasize the domineering hardness of Charles V., or the salaciousness
of Francis I., and it does not appear to have damaged his reputation
with them. Velasquez, who portrayed King Philip IV. as a nonentity,
though an elegant man, and who unflatteringly reproduced his hanging
jaw, nevertheless kept his favor. And the Spanish monarch has acquired
from posterity the great glory of having been the protector of genius.

“But the men of to-day are so made that they fear truth and love a lie.
They seem to be displeased to appear in their busts as they are. They
all want to have the air of hairdressers.

“And even the most beautiful women, that is to say, those whose lines
have most style, are horrified at their own beauty when a sculptor of
talent is its interpreter. They beseech him to make them ugly by giving
them an insignificant and doll-like physiognomy.

“So, to execute a bust is to fight a long battle. The one thing that
matters is not to weaken and to rest honest with one’s self. If the work
is refused, so much the worse. So much the better perhaps; for often, it
proves that it is full of merit.

“As for the client who, though discontented, accepts a successful work,
his bad humor is only temporary; for soon the connoisseurs compliment
him on the bust and he ends by admiring it. Then he declares quite
naturally that he has always liked it.

“Moreover, it should be noticed that the busts which are executed
gratuitously for friends or relations are the best. It is not only
because the artist knows his models better from seeing them constantly
and loving them. It is, above all, because the gratuitousness of his
work confers on him the liberty of working as he pleases.

“Nevertheless, the best busts are often refused, even when offered as
gifts. Though masterpieces, they are considered insulting by those for
whom they are intended. The sculptor must go his own way and find all
his pleasure, all his reward, in doing his best.”

I was much interested in this psychology of the public with which the
artist has to deal; but it must be said that a good deal of bitterness
entered into Rodin’s irony.

“Master,” I said, “among the trials of your profession, there is one
that you seem to have omitted. That is, to do the bust of a client whose
head is without expression or betrays obvious stupidity.”

Rodin laughed. “That cannot count among the trials,” he replied. “You
must not forget my favorite maxim: _Nature is always beautiful_. We need
only to understand what she shows us. You speak of a face without
expression. There is no such face to an artist. To him every head is
interesting. Let a sculptor note the insipidity of a face, let him show
us a fool absorbed by his care of worldly parade, and there we have a
fine bust.

“Besides, what is called shallowness is often only a conscience which
has not developed owing to a lack of education, and in that case, the
face offers the mysterious and fascinating spectacle of an intellect
which seems enveloped in a veil.

“Finally—how shall I put it?—even the most insignificant head is the
dwelling-place of life, that magnificent force, and so offers
inexhaustible matter for the masterpiece.”

Several days later I saw in Rodin’s atelier at Meudon the casts of many
of his finest busts, and I seized the occasion to ask him to tell me of
the memories they recalled.

His _Victor Hugo_ was there, deep in meditation, the forehead strangely
furrowed, volcanic, the hair wild, almost like white flames bursting
from his skull. It was the very personification of modern lyricism,
profound and tumultuous.

“It was my friend Bazire,” said Rodin, “who presented me to Victor Hugo.
Bazire was the secretary of the newspaper, _La Marseillaise_, and later
of _l’Intransigeant_. He adored Victor Hugo. It was he who started the
idea of a public celebration of the great man’s eightieth birthday.

“The celebration, as you know, was both solemn and touching. The poet
from his balcony saluted an immense crowd who had come before his house
to acclaim him; he seemed a patriarch blessing his family. Because of
that day, he kept a tender gratitude for the man who had arranged it.
And that was how Bazire introduced me to his presence without

“Unfortunately, Victor Hugo had just been martyred by a mediocre
sculptor named Villain, who, to make a bad bust, had insisted on
thirty-eight sittings. So when I timidly expressed my desire to
reproduce the features of the author of _Contemplation_, he knit his
Olympian brows.

“‘I cannot prevent your working,’ he said, ‘but I warn you that I will
not pose. I will not change one of my habits on your account. Make what
arrangements you like.’

“So I came and I made a great number of flying pencil notes to
facilitate my work of modelling later. Then I brought my stand and some
clay. But naturally I could only install this untidy paraphernalia in
the veranda, and as Victor Hugo was generally in the drawing-room with
his friends, you may imagine the difficulty of my task. I would study
the great poet attentively, and endeavor to impress his image on my
memory; then suddenly with a run I would reach the veranda to fix in
clay the memory of what I had just seen. But often, on the way, my
impression had weakened so that when I arrived before my stand I dared
not touch the clay, and I had to resolve to return to my model again.

“When I had nearly finished my work, Dalou asked me to introduce him to
Victor Hugo, and I willingly rendered him this service, but the glorious
old man died soon after, and Dalou could only do his best from a cast
taken after death.”

Rodin led me as he spoke to a glass case which enclosed a singular block
of stone. It was the keystone of an arch, the stone which the architect
sets in the centre to sustain the curve. On the face of this stone was
carved a mask, squared along the cheeks and temples, following the shape
of the block. I recognized the face of Victor Hugo.

“I always imagine this the keystone at the entrance of a building
dedicated to poetry,” said the master sculptor.

I could easily fancy it. The brow of Victor Hugo thus supporting the
weight of a monumental arch would symbolize the genius on which all the
thought and all the activity of an epoch had rested.

“I give this idea to any architect who will put it into execution,”
Rodin added.

Close by stood the cast of the bust of Henri Rochefort. It is well
known; the head of an insurgent, the forehead as full of bumps as that
of a pugnacious child who is always fighting his companions, the wild
tuft of hair which seems to wave like a signal for mutiny, the mouth
twisted by irony, the mad beard; a continual revolt, the very spirit of
criticism and combativeness. Admirable work it is, in which one sees one
side of our contemporary mentality reflected.

“It was also through Bazire,” said Rodin, “that I made the acquaintance
of Henri Rochefort, who was editor-in-chief of his newspaper. The
celebrated polemic consented to pose to me. He had such a joyous spirit
that it was an enchantment to listen to him, but he could not keep still
for a single instant. He reproached me pleasantly for having too much
professional conscience. He said laughingly that I spent one sitting in
adding a lump of clay to the model and the next in taking it away.



  By Rodin

“When, some time after, his bust received the approbation of men of
taste, he joined unreservedly in their praises, but he would never
believe that my work had remained exactly as it was when I took it away
from his house. ‘You have retouched it very much,’ he would repeat. In
reality, I had not even touched it with my nail.”

Rodin, placing one of his hands over the tuft of hair and the other over
the beard, then asked me, “What impression does it make now?”

“You would say it was a Roman emperor.”

“That is just what I wanted to make you say. I have never found the
Latin classic type as pure as in Rochefort.”

If this ancient enemy of the Empire does not yet know this paradoxical
resemblance of his profile to that of the Cæsars, I wager that it will
make him smile.

When Rodin, a moment before, had spoken of Dalou, I had seen in thought
his bust of this sculptor which is at the Luxembourg. It is a proud,
challenging head, with the thin, sinewy neck of a child of the
faubourgs, the bristly beard of an artisan, a contracted forehead, the
wild eyebrows of an ancient communist, and the feverish and haughty air
of the irreducible democrat. For the rest, the large fine eyes and the
delicate incurvation of the temples reveal the passionate lover of

In answer to a question, Rodin replied that he had modelled this bust at
a moment when Dalou, profiting by the amnesty, had returned from

“He never took it away,” he said, “for our relations ended just after I
had introduced him to Victor Hugo.

“Dalou was a great artist, and many of his works have a superb
decorative value which allies them to the most beautiful groups of our
seventeenth century.



  By Rodin



  By Rodin

“If he had not had the weakness to desire an official position he would
never have produced anything but masterpieces. But he aspired to become
the Le Brun of our Republic and the leader of all our contemporary
artists. He died before he succeeded in his ambition.

“It is impossible to exercise two professions at once. All the activity
that is expended in acquiring useful relations and in playing a rôle is
lost to art. Intriguers are not fools; when an artist wishes to compete
with them he must expend as much effort as they do, and he will have
hardly any time left for work.

“Who knows? If Dalou had always stayed in his atelier peacefully
pursuing his calling, he would have without doubt brought forth marvels
whose beauty would have astonished all eyes, and common consent would
have perhaps awarded him that artistic sovereignty to whose conquest he
unsuccessfully used all his skill.

“His ambition, however, was not entirely vain for his influence at the
Hôtel de Ville gave us one of the great masterpieces of our time. It was
he who, in spite of the undisguised hostility of the administrative
committee, gave the order to Puvis de Chavannes for the decoration of
the stairway at the Hôtel de Ville. And you know with what heavenly
poetry the great painter illuminated the walls of the municipal

These words called attention to the bust of Puvis de Chavannes.

“He carried his head high,” Rodin said. “His skull, solid and round,
seemed made to wear a helmet. His arched chest seemed accustomed to
carry the breastplate. It was easy to imagine him at Pavia fighting for
his honor by the side of Francis I.”

In the bust you recognize the aristocracy of an old race. The high
forehead and eyebrows reveal the philosopher, and the calm glance,
embracing a wide outlook, betrays the great decorator, the sublime
landscapist. There is no modern artist for whom Rodin professes more
admiration, more profound respect, than for the painter of



  By Rodin

“To think that he has lived among us,” he cries; “to think that this
genius, worthy of the most radiant epochs of art, has spoken to us! That
I have seen him, have pressed his hand! It seems as if I had pressed the
hand of Nicolas Poussin!”

What a charming remark! To put the figure of a contemporary back into
the past, in order to range it there by one of those who shine
brightest, and then to be so moved at the very thought of physical
contact with this demi-god—could any homage be more touching?

Rodin continued: “Puvis de Chavannes did not like my bust of him, and it
was one of the bitter things of my career. He thought that I had
caricatured him. And yet I am certain that I have expressed in my
sculpture all the enthusiasm and veneration that I felt for him.”

The bust of Puvis made me think of that of Jean-Paul Laurens, which is
also in the Luxembourg.

A round head, the face mobile, enthusiastic, almost breathless—this is a
Southerner—something archaic and rude in the expression—eyes which seem
haunted by distant visions—it is the painter of half-savage epochs, when
men were robust and impetuous.

Rodin said: “Laurens is one of my oldest friends. I posed for one of the
Merovingian warriors who, in the decoration of the Pantheon, assist at
the death of Sainte-Geneviève. His affection for me has always been
faithful. It was he who got me the order for the _Bourgeois de Calais_.
Though it did not bring me much, because I delivered six figures in
bronze for the price they offered me for one, yet I owe him profound
gratitude for having spurred me to the creation of one of my best works.



  By Rodin

“It was a great pleasure to me to do his bust. He reproached me in a
friendly way for having done him with his mouth open. I replied that,
from the design of his skull, he was probably descended from the ancient
Visigoths of Spain, and that this type was characterized by the
prominence of the lower jaw. But I do not know whether he agreed to the
justice of this ethnographical observation.”

At this moment I perceived a bust of Falguière. Fiery, eruptive
character, his face sown with wrinkles and bumps like a land ravaged by
storms, the moustaches of a grumbler, hair thick and short.

“He was a little bull,” said Rodin.

I noted the thickness of the neck, where the folds of skin almost formed
a dewlap, the square of forehead, the head bent and obstinate, ready for
a forward plunge. A little bull! Rodin often makes these comparisons
with the animal kingdom. Such a one, with his long neck and automatic
gestures, is a bird which pilfers right and left; such another, too
amiable, too coquettish is a King Charles spaniel, and so on. These
comparisons evidently facilitate the work of the mind which seeks to
class all physiognomies in general categories.

Rodin told me under what circumstances he knew Falguière.

“It was,” he said, “when the Société des Gens de Lettres refused my
Balzac. Falguière, to whom the order was then given, insisted on showing
me, by his friendship, that he did not at all agree with my detractors.
Actuated by sympathy I offered to do his bust. He considered it a great
success when it was finished—he even defended it, I know, against those
who criticised it in his presence; and, in his turn, he did my bust,
which is very fine.”



  By Rodin

  Photograph reproduced by permission of the Metropolitan Museum of Art



  By Rodin

  Photograph reproduced by permission of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

As I was turning away I caught sight of a copy in bronze of the bust of
Berthelot. Rodin made it only a year before the death of the great
chemist. The great scholar rests in the knowledge of his work
accomplished. He meditates. He is alone, face to face with himself;
alone, face to face with the crumbling of ancient faiths; alone before
nature, some of whose secrets he has penetrated, but which remains so
immensely mysterious; alone at the edge of the infinite abyss of the
skies; and his tormented brow, his lowered eyes, are filled with
melancholy. This fine head is like the emblem of modern intelligence,
which, satiated with knowledge, weary of thought, ends by demanding
“What is the use?”

All the busts which I had been admiring and about which my host had been
talking now grouped themselves in my mind, and they appeared to me as a
rich treasure of documents upon our epoch.

“If Houdon,” I said, “has written memoirs of the eighteenth century, you
have written those of the end of the nineteenth. Your style is more
harsh, more violent than that of your predecessor, your expressions are
less elegant, but more natural and more dramatic, if I may say so.

“The scepticism which in the eighteenth century was distinguished and
full of raillery has become, in you, rough and sharp. Houdon’s people
were more sociable, yours are more self-centred. Those of Houdon
criticised the abuses of a _régime_, yours seem to question the value of
human life itself and to feel the anguish of unrealized desires.”

Rodin answered, “I have done my best. I have not lied; I have never
flattered my contemporaries. My busts have often displeased because they
were always very sincere. They certainly have one merit—veracity. Let it
serve them for beauty!”

                              CHAPTER VIII
                             THOUGHT IN ART

One morning, finding myself with Rodin in his atelier, I stopped before
the cast of one of his most impressive works.

It is a young woman whose writhing body seems a prey to some mysterious
torment. Her head is bent low, her lips and her eyes are closed, and you
would think she slept, did not the anguish in her face betray the
conflict of her spirit. The most surprising thing in the figure,
however, is that it has neither arms nor legs. It would seem that the
sculptor in a moment of discontent with himself had broken them off, and
you cannot help regretting that the figure is incomplete. I could not
refrain from expressing this feeling to my host.

“What do you mean?” he cried in astonishment. “Don’t you see that I left
it in that state intentionally? My figure represents _Meditation_.
That’s why it has neither arms to act nor legs to walk. Haven’t you
noticed that reflection, when persisted in, suggests so many plausible
arguments for opposite decisions that it ends in inertia?”

These words corrected my first impression and I could unreservedly
admire the fine symbolism of the figure. I now understood that this
woman was the emblem of human intelligence assailed by problems that it
cannot solve, haunted by an ideal that it cannot realize, obsessed by
the infinite which it can never grasp. The straining of this body marked
the travail of thought and its glorious, but vain determination to
penetrate those questions which it cannot answer; and the mutilation of
its members indicated the insurmountable disgust which contemplative
souls feel for actual life.

Nevertheless, this figure recalled a criticism which is often heard on
Rodin’s works, and, though without agreeing with it, I submitted it to
the Master to find out how he would answer it.

“Literary people,” I said, “always praise the essential truths expressed
in your sculptures. But certain of your censors blame you precisely for
having an inspiration which is more literary than plastic. They pretend
that you easily win the approbation of writers by providing them with
subjects which offer an opening for all their rhetoric. And they declare
that art is not the place for so much philosophic ambition.”

“If my modelling is bad,” Rodin replied sharply, “if I make faults in
anatomy, if I misinterpret movement, if I am ignorant of the science
which animates marble, the critics are right a hundred times. But if my
figures are correct and full of life, with what can they reproach me?
What right have they to forbid me to add meaning to form? How can they
complain if, over and above technique, I offer them ideas?—if I enrich
those forms which please the eye with a definite significance? It is a
strange mistake, this, to imagine that the true artist can be content to
remain only a skilled workman and that he needs no intelligence. On the
contrary, intelligence is indispensable to him for painting and for
carving even those figures which seem most lacking in spiritual
pretensions and which are only meant to charm the eye. When a good
sculptor models a statue, whatever it is, he must first clearly conceive
the general idea; then, until his task is ended, he must keep this idea
of the whole in his mind in order to subordinate and ally to it every
smallest detail of his work. And this is not accomplished without an
intense effort of mind and concentration of thought.

“What has doubtless led to the common idea that artists have little
intelligence is that it seems lacking in many of them in private life.
The biographies of painters and sculptors abound in anecdotes of the
simplicity of certain masters. It must be admitted that great men who
think ceaselessly of their work are frequently absent-minded in daily
life. Above all, it must be granted that many very intelligent artists
seem narrow because they have not that facility of speech and repartee
which, to superficial observers, is the only sign of cleverness.”



  By Rodin

“Surely,” I said, “no one can contest the mental vigor of the great
painters and sculptors. But, to return to our question—is there not a
sharp line dividing art from literature which the artist should not

“I insist that in matters which concern me I cannot stand these
limitations,” Rodin answered. “There is no rule, according to my idea,
that can prevent a sculptor from creating a beautiful work.

“What difference does it make whether it is sculpture or literature,
provided the public find profit and pleasure in it? Painting, sculpture,
literature, music are more closely related than is generally believed.
They express all the sentiments of the human soul in the light of
nature. It is only the means of expression which vary.

“But if a sculptor, by the means of his art, succeeds in suggesting
impressions which are ordinarily only procured by literature or music,
why should the world cavil? A publicist lately criticised my _Victor
Hugo_ in the Palais Royal, declaring that it was not sculpture, but
music. And he naïvely added that this work reminded him of a Beethoven
symphony. Would to Heaven that it were true!

“I do not deny, moreover, that it is useful to reflect upon the
differences which separate literary from artistic methods. First of all,
literature offers the peculiarity of being able to express ideas without
recourse to imagery. For example, it can say: _Profound reflection often
ends in inaction_, without the necessity of figuring a thoughtful woman
held in a block of stone.

“And this faculty of juggling with abstractions by means of words gives,
perhaps, to literature an advantage over other arts in the domain of



  By Rodin

“The next thing to be noticed is that literature develops stories which
have a beginning, a middle, and an end. It strings together different
events from which it draws a conclusion. It makes people act and shows
the consequences of their conduct. So the scenes that it conjures up
gain strength by their sequence, and even have no value except as they
make part of the progress of a plot.

“It is not the same with the arts of form. They never represent more
than a single phase of an action. That is why painters and sculptors are
wrong in taking subjects from writers, as they often do. The artist who
interprets a part of a story may be supposed to know the rest of the
text. His work must prop itself up on that of the writer; it only
acquires all its meaning if it is illuminated by the facts that precede
or follow it.

“When the painter Delaroche represents, after Shakespeare, or after his
pale imitator, Casimir Delavigne, the _Children of Edward_ (_les Enfants
d’Edouard_) clinging to each other, it is necessary to know, in order to
be interested, that they are the heirs to a throne, that they have been
imprisoned, and that hired murderers, sent by the usurper, are just
coming to assassinate them.

“When Delacroix, that genius whose pardon I beg for citing him next to
the very mediocre Delaroche, takes from Lord Byron’s poem the subject of
_Don Juan’s Shipwreck_ (_Naufrage de Don Juan_) and shows us a boat in a
storm-swept sea, where the sailors are engaged in drawing bits of paper
from a hat, it is necessary, in order to understand this scene, to know
that these unhappy creatures are starving and are drawing lots to see
which of them shall serve as food for the others.

“These two artists, in treating literary subjects, commit the fault of
painting pictures which do not carry in themselves their complete



  By Delacroix

“Yet, while that of Delaroche is bad because the drawing is cold, the
color hard, the feeling melodramatic, that of Delacroix is admirable
because this boat really pitches on the glaucous waves, because hunger
and distress convulse the faces of the shipwrecked, because the sombre
fury of the coloring announces some horrible crime—because, in short, if
Byron’s tale is found mutilated in the picture, in revenge, the fiery,
wild, and sublime soul of the painter is certainly wholly there.

“The moral of these two examples is this; when, after mature reflection,
you have laid down prohibitions which seem most reasonable in the matter
of art, you will rightly reproach the mediocre man because he does not
submit to them, but you will be surprised to observe that the man of
genius infringes them almost with impunity.”

Roving round the atelier while Rodin was talking, my eyes found a cast
of his _Ugolin_.

It is a figure of majestic realism. It does not at all recall Carpeaux’s
group; if possible, it is even more pathetic. In Carpeaux’s work, the
Pisan count, tortured by madness, hunger, and sorrow at the sight of his
dying children, gnaws his two fists. Rodin has pictured the drama
further advanced. The children of Ugolin are dead; they lie on the
ground, and their father, whom the pangs of hunger have changed into a
beast, drags himself on his hands and knees above their bodies. He bends
above their flesh—but, at the same time, he turns away his head. There
is a fearful contest within him between the brute seeking food and the
thinking being, the loving being, who has a horror of this monstrous
sacrifice. Nothing could be more poignant.

“There,” said I, “is an example to add to that of the shipwreck in
confirmation of your words; it is certain that it is necessary to have
read the _Divine Comedy_ in order to represent the circumstances of
Ugolin’s torment—but even if the stanzas of Dante were unknown, it would
be impossible to remain unmoved before the terrible inner conflict which
is expressed in the attitude and the features of your figure.”



  By Rodin

“It is true,” Rodin added, “when a literary subject is so well known the
artist can treat it and yet expect to be understood. Yet it is better,
in my opinion, that the works of painters and sculptors should contain
all their interest in themselves. Art can offer thought and imagination
without recourse to literature. Instead of illustrating scenes from
poems, it need only use plain symbols which do not require any written
text. Such has generally been my own method.”

What my host indicated, his sculptures gathered around us proclaimed in
their mute language. There I saw the casts of several of his works which
are most full of ideas.

I began to study them one by one.

I admired the reproduction of the _Pensée_, which is at the Musée du
Luxembourg. Who does not recall this singular work?

It is the head of a woman, very young, very fine, with features of
miraculous subtlety and delicacy. Her head is bent and aureoled with a
reverie which makes it appear almost immaterial. The edges of a light
coif which shadow her forehead seem the wings of her dreams. But her
neck and even her chin are still held in the heavy, massive block of
marble from which they cannot get free.

The symbol is easily understood. Thought expands within the breast of
inert matter, and illumines it with the reflection of her splendor—but
she vainly endeavors to escape from the heavy shackles of reality.

Next I turned to _Illusion, daughter of Icarus_ (_l’Illusion, fille
d’Icare_). It is the figure of a youthful angel. As she flew with her
great wings through space, a rude blast of wind dashed her to earth, and
her charming face was crushed against a rock. But her wings, unbroken,
still beat the air, and, immortal, she will rise again, take flight
again, fall again to earth, and this to the end of time. Untiring hopes,
eternal disappointments of illusion!



  By Rodin

Now my attention was attracted by a third sculpture, the _Centauress_.
The human bust of the fabulous creature yearns despairingly towards an
end which her longing arms can never attain; but the hind hoofs,
grappling the soil, are fast there, and the heavy horse’s flanks, almost
crouched in the mud, cannot kick free. It is the frightful opposition of
the poor monster’s two natures—an image of the soul, whose heavenly
impulses rest miserably captive to the bodily clay.

“In themes of this kind,” Rodin said, “the thought, I believe, is easily
read. They awaken the imagination of the spectators without any outside
help. And yet, far from confining it in narrow limits, they give it rein
to roam at will. That is, according to me, the rôle of art. The form
which it creates ought only to furnish a pretext for the unlimited
development of emotion.”

At this instant I found myself before a group in marble representing
Pygmalion and his statue. The sculptor passionately embraces his work,
which awakes to life within his arms.

“I am going to surprise you,” said Rodin, suddenly; “I will show you the
first sketch for this composition,” and he led me towards a plaster

I was indeed surprised. This had nothing whatever to do with the story
of Pygmalion. It was a faun, horned and hairy, who clutched a panting
nymph. The general lines were about the same, but the subject was very
different. Rodin seemed amused at my silent astonishment.

This revelation was somewhat disconcerting to me; for, contrary to all
that I had just heard and seen, my host proved himself indifferent, in
certain cases, to the subject. He watched me keenly.

“To sum it up,” he said, “you must not attribute too much importance to
the themes that you interpret. Without doubt, they have their value and
help to charm the public; but the principal care of the artist should be
to form living muscles. The rest matters little.” Then, suddenly, as he
guessed my confusion, he added, “You must not think that my last words
contradict what I said before.



  By Rodin

“If I say that a sculptor can confine himself to representing
palpitating flesh, without preoccupying himself with subject, this does
not mean that I exclude thought from his work; if I declare that he need
not seek symbols, this does not signify that I am a partisan of an art
deprived of spiritual significance.

“But, to speak truly, all is idea, all is symbol. So the form and the
attitude of a human being reveal the emotions of its soul. The body
always expresses the spirit whose envelope it is. And for him who can
see, the nude offers the richest meaning. In the majestic rhythm of the
outline, a great sculptor, a Phidias, recognizes the serene harmony shed
upon all nature by the divine wisdom; a simple torso, calm, balanced,
radiant with strength and grace, can make him think of the all-powerful
mind which governs the world.

“A lovely landscape does not appeal only by the agreeable sensations
that it inspires, but by the ideas that it awakens. The lines and the
colors do not move you in themselves, but by the profound meaning that
is in them. In the silhouette of trees, in the line of a horizon, the
great landscape painters, Ruysdael, Cuyp, Corot, Theodore Rousseau, saw
a meaning—grave or gay, brave or discouraged, peaceful or
troubled—according to their characters.

“This is because the artist, full of feeling, can imagine nothing that
is not endowed like himself. He suspects in nature a great consciousness
like his own. There is not a living organism, not an inert object, not a
cloud in the sky, not a green shoot in the meadow, which does not hold
for him the secret of the great power hidden in all things.



  By Rodin

“Look at the masterpieces of art. All this beauty comes from the
thought, the intention which their creators believed they could see in
the universe. Why are our Gothic cathedrals so beautiful? It is because
in all their presentment of life, in the human images which adorn their
portals, and even in the plants which flourish in their capitals, you
can discover a trace of the divine love. Those gentle craftsmen of the
Middle Ages saw infinite goodness shining everywhere. And, with their
charming simplicity, they have thrown reflections of this
loving-kindness even on the faces of their demons, to whom they have
lent a kindly malice and an air almost of relationship to the angels.

“Look at any picture by a master—a Titian, a Rembrandt, for example. In
all Titian’s seigneurs you notice a proud energy which, without doubt,
animated himself. His opulent, nude women offer themselves to adoration,
sure of their domination. His landscapes, beautified with majestic trees
and crimsoned with triumphant sunsets, are not less haughty than his
people: over all creation he has set a reign of aristocratic pride; it
was the constant thought of his genius.

“Another kind of pride illumines the wrinkled, smoke-dried face of the
artisans whom Rembrandt painted; he ennobled the smoky lofts and little
windows glazed with bottle ends; he illumined with sudden beauty these
flat, rustic landscapes, dignified the roofs of thatch which his
etching-point caressed with such pleasure on the copperplate. It was the
beautiful courage of the humble, the holiness of things common but
piously beloved, the grandeur of the humility which accepts and fulfils
its destiny worthily, which attracted him.

“And the mind of the great artist is so active, so profound, that it
shows itself in any subject. It does not even need a whole figure to
express it. Take any fragment of a masterpiece, you will recognize the
character of the creator in it. Compare, if you will, the hands painted
in two portraits by Titian and Rembrandt. The hands by Titian will be
masterful; those by Rembrandt will be modest and courageous. In these
limited bits of painting all the ideals of these masters are contained.”



  By Corot

As I listened to this profession of faith in the spirituality of art an
objection rose to my lips.

“Master,” I said, “no one doubts that pictures and sculptures can
suggest the most profound ideas; but many sceptics pretend that the
painters and sculptors never had these ideas, and that it is we
ourselves who put them into their works. They believe that artists work
by pure instinct, like the sibyl who from her tripod rendered the
oracles of God, without herself knowing what she prophesied. Your words
clearly prove that your hand, at least, is ever guided by the mind, but
is it so with all the masters? Have they always put thought into their
work? Have they always had this clear idea of what their admirers found
in them?”

“Let us understand each other,” Rodin said, laughing. “There are certain
admirers of such complicated brain that they attribute most unexpected
intentions to the artist. We are not talking of these. But you may rest
assured that the masters are always conscious of what they do.” And
tossing his head, “If the sceptics of whom you speak only knew what
energy it takes for the artist to translate, even feebly, what he thinks
and feels with the greatest strength, they would not doubt that all that
appears shining forth from a picture or sculpture was intended.” A few
moments later he continued: “In short, the purest masterpieces are those
in which one finds no inexpressive waste of forms, lines, and colors,
but where all, absolutely all, expresses thought and soul.

“Yet it may happen that when the masters animate the Nature of their
ideals, they delude themselves. It may be that it is governed by an
indifferent force or by a will whose design our intelligence is
incapable of penetrating. At least, the artist, in representing the
universe as he imagines it, formulates his own dreams. In nature he
celebrates his own soul. And so he enriches the soul of humanity. For in
coloring the material world with his spirit he reveals to his delighted
fellow-beings a thousand unsuspected shades of feeling. He discovers to
them riches in themselves until then unknown. He gives them new reasons
for loving life, new inner lights to guide them.



  By Rembrandt



  By Titian

“He is, as Dante said of Virgil, ‘their guide, their master, and their



  By Rodin

                               CHAPTER IX
                             MYSTERY IN ART

One morning, when I arrived at Rodin’s house at Meudon I found the
master in his dressing-gown, his hair in disorder, his feet in slippers,
sitting before a good wood fire, for it was November.

“It is the time of the year,” he said, “when I allow myself to be ill.
All the rest of the time I have so much work, so many occupations, so
many cares, that I have not a single instant to breathe. But fatigue
accumulates, and though I fight stubbornly to conquer it, yet towards
the end of the year I am obliged to stop work for a few days.”

Even as I listened to his words my eyes rested upon a great cross on the
wall, on which hung the Christ, a figure three-quarters life-size. It
was a very fine painted carving of most painful realism. The body
hanging from the tree looked so dead that it could never come to
life—the most complete consummation of the mysterious sacrifice.

“You admire my crucifix!” Rodin said, following my glance. “It is
amazing, is it not? Its realism recalls that one in the Chapel del
Santisimo Christo in Burgos—that image so moving, so terrifying, yes—so
horrible—that it looks like a real human corpse. This figure of the
Christ is much less brutal. See how pure and harmonious are the lines of
the body and arms!”

Seeing my host lost in contemplation, I ventured to ask him if he was

“It is according to the meaning that you give to the word,” he answered.
“If you mean by religious the man who follows certain practices, who
bows before certain dogmas, I am evidently not religious.



  By Rodin

  Photograph reproduced by permission of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

“But, to me, religion is more than the mumbling of a creed. It is the
meaning of all that is unexplained and doubtless inexplicable in the
world. It is the adoration of the unknown force which maintains the
universal laws and which preserves the types of all beings; it is the
surmise of all that in nature which does not fall within the domain of
sense, of all that immense realm of things which neither the eyes of our
body, nor even those of our spirit can see; it is the impulse of our
conscience towards the infinite, towards eternity, towards unlimited
knowledge and love—promises perhaps illusory, but which in this life
give wings to our thoughts. In this sense I am religious.” Rodin
followed the rapid flickering flames of the fire for a moment, and then
continued: “If religion did not exist, I should have had to invent it.
In short, true artists are the most religious of men.

“It is a general belief that we live only through our senses, and that
the world of appearances suffices us. We are taken for children who,
intoxicated with changing colors, amuse themselves with the shapes of
things as with dolls. We are misunderstood. Lines and colors are only to
us the symbols of hidden realities. Our eyes plunge beneath the surface
to the meaning of things, and when afterwards we reproduce the form, we
endow it with the spiritual meaning which it covers.

“An artist worthy of the name should express all the truth of nature,
not only the exterior truth, but also, and above all, the inner truth.

“When a good sculptor models a torso, he not only represents the
muscles, but the life which animates them—more than the life, the force
that fashioned them and communicated to them, it may be, grace or
strength, or amorous charm, or indomitable will.

“In the works of Michael Angelo, the creative force seems to rumble; in
those of Luca della Robbia it smiles divinely. So each sculptor,
following his temperament, lends to nature a soul either terrible or



  By Rodin

“The landscape painter, perhaps, goes even further. It is not only in
living beings that he sees the reflection of the universal soul; it is
in the trees, the bushes, the valleys, the hills. What to other men is
only wood and earth appears to the great landscapist like the face of a
great being. Corot saw kindness abroad in the trunks of the trees, in
the grass of the fields, in the mirroring water of the lakes. But there
Millet read suffering and resignation.

“Everywhere the great artist hears spirit answer to his spirit. Where,
then, can you find a more religious man?

“Does not the sculptor perform his act of adoration when he perceives
the majestic character of the forms that he studies?—when, from the
midst of fleeting lines, he knows how to extricate the eternal type of
each being?—when he seems to discern in the very breast of the divinity
the immutable models on which all living creatures are moulded? Study,
for example, the masterpieces of the Egyptian sculptors, either human or
animal figures, and tell me if the accentuation of the essential lines
does not produce the effect of a sacred hymn. Every artist who has the
gift of generalizing forms, that is to say, of accenting their logic
without depriving them of their living reality, provokes the same
religious emotion; for he communicates to us the thrill he himself felt
before the immortal verities.”

“Something,” I said, “like the trembling of Faust when he visited that
strange Kingdom of the Mothers, where he talked with the imperishable
heroines of the great poets and beheld all the generative ideas of
terrestrial realities.”

“What a magnificent scene!” Rodin cried, “and what a breadth of vision
Goethe had!” He continued: “Mystery is, moreover, like a kind of
atmosphere which bathes the greatest works of the masters.

“They express, indeed, all that genius feels in the presence of Nature;
they represent Nature with all the clearness, with all the magnificence
which a human being can discover in her; but they also fling themselves
against that immense Unknown which everywhere envelops our little world
of the known. For, after all, we only feel and conceive those things
which are patent to us and which impress our minds and our senses. But
all the rest is plunged in infinite obscurity. Even a thousand things
which should be clear to us are hidden because we are not organized to
seize them.”

Rodin stopped, and I recalled the following lines of Victor Hugo, which
I repeated:

          “Nous ne voyons jamais qu’un seul côté des choses;
          L’autre plonge en la nuit d’un mystère effrayant;
          L’homme subit l’effêt sans connaître les causes;
          Tout ce qu’il voit est court, inutile et fuyant.”[5]

Footnote 5:

  See page 251.

“The poet has put it better than I,” Rodin said, smiling, and he
continued: “Great works of art, which are the highest proof of human
intelligence and sincerity, say all that can be said on man and on the
world, and, besides, they teach that there is something more that cannot
be known.

“Every great work has this quality of mystery. You always find a little
‘fine frenzy.’ Recall the note of interrogation which hovers over all of
Leonardo da Vinci’s pictures. But I am wrong to choose that great mystic
as an example, for he proves my thesis too easily. Let us rather take
the _Concert Champêtre_ by Giorgione. Here is all the sweet joy of life,
but added to that there is a kind of melancholy intoxication. What is
human joy? Whence comes it? Where does it go? The puzzle of existence!

“Again, let us take, if you will, _The Gleaners_, by Millet. One of
these women who toil so hard beneath the blazing sun rises and looks
away to the horizon. And we feel that in that head a question has
flashed from the submerged mind: What is the meaning of it all?



  By Millet

“That is the mystery that floats over all great work. What is the
meaning of the law which chains these creatures to existence only to
make them suffer? What is the meaning of this eternal enticement which
makes them love life, however sad it is? Oh, agonizing problem!

“Yet it is not only the masterpieces of Christian civilization which
produced this impression of mystery. It is felt before the masterpieces
of antique art, before the _Three Fates_ of the Parthenon, for example.
I call them the Fates because it is the accepted name, though in the
opinion of many students they are other goddesses; it makes little
difference either way! They are only three women seated, but their pose
is so serene, so august, that they seem to be taking part in something
of enormous import that we do not see. Over them reigns the great
mystery, the immaterial, eternal Reason whom all nature obeys, and of
whom they are themselves the celestial servants.

“So, all the masters advance to the barrier which parts us from the
Unknowable. Certain among them have cruelly wounded their brows against
it; others, whose imagination is more cheerful, imagine that they hear
through that wall the melodious songs of the birds which people the
secret orchard.”

I listened attentively to my host, who was giving me his most precious
thoughts on his art. It seemed that the fatigue which had condemned his
body to rest before that hearth where the flames were leaping had left
his spirit, on the contrary, more free, and had tempted it to fling
itself passionately into dreams. I led the talk to his own works.

“Master,” I said, “you speak of other artists, but you are silent about
yourself. Yet you are one of those who have put into their art most
mystery. The torment of the invisible and of the inexplicable is seen in
even the least of your sculptures.”



  From the Parthenon

“Ah! my dear Gsell,” he said, throwing me a glance of irony, “if I have
expressed certain feelings in my works, it is utterly useless for me to
try to put them into words, for I am not a poet, but a sculptor, and
they ought to be easily read in my statues; if not, I might as well not
have experienced the feelings.”

“You are right; it is for the public to discover them. So I am going to
tell you all the mystery that I have found in your inspiration. You will
tell me if I have seen rightly. It seems to me that what has especially
interested you in humanity is that strange uneasiness of the soul bound
to the body.

“In all your statues there is the same impulse of the spirit towards the
ideal, in spite of the weight and the cowardice of the flesh.

“In your _Saint John the Baptist_, a heavy, almost gross body is
strained, uplifted by a divine mission which outruns all earthly limits.
In your _Bourgeois de Calais_, the soul enamoured of immortality drags
the hesitant body to its martyrdom, while it seems to cry the words,
‘Thou tremblest, vile flesh!’

“In your _Penseur_, meditation, in its terrible effort to embrace the
absolute, contracts the athletic body, bends it, crushes it. In your
_Baiser_, the bodies tremble as though they felt, in advance, the
impossibility of realizing that indissoluble union desired by their
souls. In your _Balzac_, genius, haunted by gigantic visions, shakes the
sick body, dooms it to insomnia, and condemns it to the labor of a
galley-slave. Am I right, master?”

“I do not contradict you,” Rodin answered, stroking his long beard

“And in your busts, even more perhaps, you have shown this impatience of
the spirit against the chains of matter. Almost all recall the lines of
the poet:

          “‘Ainsi qu’en s’envolant l’oiseau courbe la branche,
              Son âme avait brisé son corps!’[6]

Footnote 6:

  See page 251.

“You have represented all the writers with the head bent, as if beneath
the weight of their thoughts. As for your artists, they gaze straight at
nature, but they are haggard because their reverie draws them far beyond
what they see, far beyond all they can express.



  By Rodin

“That bust of a woman at the Musée du Luxembourg, perhaps the most
beautiful that you have carved, bows and vacillates as if the soul were
seized with giddiness upon plunging into the abyss of dreams.

“To sum it up, your busts often recall Rembrandt’s portraits, for the
Dutch master has also made plain this call of the infinite, by lighting
the brow of his personages by a light which falls from above.”

“To compare me with Rembrandt, what sacrilege!” Rodin cried quickly. “To
Rembrandt, the Colossus of art! Think of it, my friend! Let us bow
before Rembrandt, and never set any one beside him!

“But you have concluded justly in observing in my works the stirrings of
the soul towards that kingdom, perhaps chimerical, of unlimited truth
and liberty. There, indeed, is the mystery that moves me.” A moment
later he asked: “Are you convinced now that art is a kind of religion?”

“Yes,” I answered.

Then he added, with some malice: “It is very necessary to remember,
however, that the first commandment of this religion, for those who wish
to practise it, is to know how to model a torso, an arm, or a leg!”



  By Rodin

                               CHAPTER X
                       PHIDIAS AND MICHAEL ANGELO

One Saturday evening Rodin said to me, “Come and see me to-morrow
morning at Meudon. We will talk of Phidias and of Michael Angelo, and I
will model statuettes for you on the principles of both. In that way you
will quickly grasp the essential differences of the two inspirations,
or, to express it better, the opposed characteristics which divide

Phidias and Michael Angelo judged and commented upon by Rodin! It is
easy to imagine that I was exact to the hour of our meeting.

The Master sat down before a marble table and clay was brought to him.
It was winter, and as the great atelier was unheated, I was afraid that
he might take cold. But the attendant to whom I suggested this smiled as
he answered, “Never, when he works.”

And my disquietude vanished when I saw the fever which seized the Master
when he began to knead the clay. He had asked me to sit down beside him.
Rolling balls of clay on the table, he began rapidly to model a figure,
talking at the same time.

“This first figure,” he said, “will be founded on the conception of
Phidias. When I pronounce that name I am really thinking of all Greek
sculpture, which found its highest expression in the genius of Phidias.”

The clay figure was taking shape. Rodin’s hands came and went, adding
bits of clay; gathering it in his large palms, with swift, accurate
movements; then the thumb and the fingers took part, turning a leg with
a single pressure, rounding a hip, sloping a shoulder, turning the head,
and all with incredible swiftness, almost as if he were performing a
conjuring trick. Occasionally the Master stopped a moment to study his
work, reflected, decided, and then rapidly executed his idea.

I have never seen any one work so fast: evidently sureness of mind and
eye ends by giving an ease to the hand of a great artist which can only
be compared to the adroitness of a juggler, or, to make a comparison
with a more honored profession, to the skill of a great surgeon. And
this facility, far from excluding precision and vigor, involves them,
and has, consequently, nothing whatever to do with a superficial

While I drew these conclusions, Rodin’s statuette grew into life. It was
full of rhythm, one hand on the hip, the other arm falling gracefully at
her side and the head bent.

“I am not fatuous enough to believe that this quick sketch is as
beautiful as an antique,” the Master said, laughing, “but don’t you find
that it gives you a dim idea of it?”

“I could swear that it was the copy of a Greek marble,” I answered.

“Well, then, let us examine it and see from what this resemblance
arises. My statuette offers, from head to feet, four planes which are
alternatively opposed.

“The plane of the shoulders and chest leads towards the left
shoulder—the plane of the lower half of the body leads towards the right
side—the plane of the knees leads again towards the left knee, for the
knee of the right leg, which is bent, comes ahead of the other—and
finally, the foot of this same right leg is back of the left foot. So, I
repeat, you can note four directions in my figure which produce a very
gentle undulation through the whole body.

“This impression of tranquil charm is equally given by the balance of
the figure. A plumb-line through the middle of the neck would fall on
the inner ankle bone of the left foot, which bears all the weight of the
body. The other leg, on the contrary, is free—only its toes touch the
ground and so only furnish a supplementary support; it could be lifted
without disturbing the equilibrium. The pose is full of _abandon_ and of

“There is another thing to notice. The upper part of the torso leans to
the side of the leg which supports the body. The left shoulder is, thus,
at a lower level than the other. But, as opposed to it, the left hip,
which supports the whole pose, is raised and salient. So, on this side
of the body the shoulder is nearer the hip, while on the other side the
right shoulder, which is raised, is separated from the right hip, which
is lowered. This recalls the movement of an accordion, which closes on
one side and opens on the other.

“This double balance of the shoulders and of the hips contributes still
more to the calm elegance of the whole.

“Now look at my statuette in profile.

“It is bent backwards; the back is hollowed and the chest slightly
expanded. In a word, the figure is convex and has the form of the letter

“This form helps it to catch the light, which is distributed softly over
the torso and limbs and so adds to the general charm. Now the different
peculiarities which we see in this statuette may be noted in nearly all
antiques. Without doubt, there are numerous variations, doubtless there
are some derogations from these fundamental principles; but in the Greek
works you will always find most of the characteristics which I have

“Now translate this technical system into spiritual terms; you will then
recognize that antique art signifies contentment, calm, grace, balance,
reason.” Rodin cast a glance at his figure. “I could carry it further,”
he said, “but it would be only to amuse us, because, as it stands, it
has sufficed me for my demonstration. The details, moreover, would add
very little to it. And now, by the way, an important truth. When the
planes of a figure are well placed, with decision and intelligence, all
is done, so to speak; the whole effect is obtained; the refinements
which come after might please the spectator, but they are almost
superfluous. This science of planes is common to all great epochs; it is
almost ignored to-day.”

Pushing aside the clay figure, he went on: “Now I will do you another
after Michael Angelo.”

He did not proceed at all in the same way as for the first. He turned
the two legs of the figure to the same side and the torso to the
opposite side. He bent the body forward; he folded one arm close against
the body and placed the other behind the head. The attitude thus evoked
offered a strange appearance of effort and of torture. Rodin had
fashioned this sketch as quickly as the preceding one, only crushing his
balls of clay with more vigor and putting almost frenzy into the strokes
of his thumb.

“There!” he cried. “What do you think of it?”

“I should take it for a copy of a Michael Angelo—or rather for a replica
of one of his works. What vigor, what tension of the muscles!”

“Now! Follow my explanation. Here, instead of four planes, you have only
two; one for the upper half of the statuette and the other, opposed, for
the lower half. This gives at once a sense of violence and of
constraint—and the result is a striking contrast to the calm of the

“Both legs are bent, and consequently the weight of the body is divided
between the two instead of being borne exclusively by one. So there is
no repose here, but work for both the lower limbs.

“Besides, the hip corresponding to the leg which bears the lesser weight
is the one which is the more raised, which indicates that the body is
pushing this way.

“Nor is the torso less animated. Instead of resting quietly, as in the
antique, on the most prominent hip, it, on the contrary, raises the
shoulder on the same side so as to continue the movement of the hip.



  By Michael Angelo

“Now note that the concentration of the effort places the two limbs one
against the other, and the two arms, one against the body and the other
against the head. In this way there is no space left between the limbs
and the body. You see none of those openings which, resulting from the
freedom with which the arms and legs were placed, gave lightness to
Greek sculpture. The art of Michael Angelo created statues all of a
size, in a block. He said himself that only those statues were good
which could be rolled from the top of a mountain without breaking; and
in his opinion all that was broken off in such a fall was superfluous.

“His figures surely seem carved to meet this test; but it is certain
that not a single antique could have stood it; the greatest works of
Phidias, of Praxiteles, of Polycletus, of Scopas and of Lysippus would
have reached the foot of the hill in pieces.

“And that proves how a formula which may be profoundly true for one
artistic school may be false for another.

“A last important characteristic of my statuette is that it is in the
form of a console; the knees constitute the lower protuberance; the
retreating chest represents the concavity, the bent head the upper
jutment of the console. The torso is thus arched forward instead of
backward as in antique art. It is that which produces here such deep
shadows in the hollow of the chest and beneath the legs.

“To sum it up, the greatest genius of modern times has celebrated the
epic of shadow, while the ancients celebrated that of light. And if we
now seek the spiritual significance of the technique of Michael Angelo,
as we did that of the Greeks, we shall find that his sculpture expressed
restless energy, the will to act without the hope of success—in fine,
the martyrdom of the creature tormented by unrealizable aspirations.



  By Raphael

“You know that Raphael, during one period of his life, tried to imitate
Michael Angelo. He did not succeed. He could not discover the secret of
the condensed passion of his rival. It was because he was formed by the
Greek school, as is proved by that divine trio of the Graces at
Chantilly, in which he copied an adorable antique group at Siena.
Without knowing it, he constantly returned to the principles of the
masters he preferred. Those of his figures in which he wished to put
most strength always kept the rhythm and gracious balance of the
Hellenic masterpieces.

“When I went to Italy myself, with my head full of the Greek models
which I had so passionately studied at the Louvre, I found myself
completely disconcerted before the Michael Angelos. They constantly
contradicted all those truths which I believed that I had definitely
acquired. ‘Look here,’ I said to myself, ‘why this incurvation of the
body, this raised hip, this lowered shoulder?’ I was very much upset.

“And yet Michael Angelo could not have been mistaken! I had to
understand. I kept at it and I succeeded.

“To tell the truth, Michael Angelo does not, as is often contended, hold
a unique place in art. He is the culmination of all Gothic thought. It
is generally said that the Renaissance was the resurrection of pagan
rationalism and its victory over the mysticism of the Middle Ages. This
is only half true. The Christian spirit continued to inspire a number of
the artists of the Renaissance, among others, Donatello, the painter
Ghirlandajo, who was the master of Michael Angelo, and Buonarotti

“He is manifestly the descendant of the image-makers of the thirteenth
and fourteenth centuries. You constantly find in the sculpture of the
Middle Ages this form of the console to which I called your attention.
There you find this same restriction of the chest, these limbs glued to
the body, and this attitude of effort. There you find above all a
melancholy which regards life as a transitory thing to which we must not

As I thanked my host for his precious instruction, he said: “We must
complete it one of these days by a visit to the Louvre. Don’t forget to
remind me.” At this moment a servant announced Anatole France, whom
Rodin was expecting. The master sculptor had invited the great writer to
come and admire his collection of antiques.

They formed a great contrast to each other. Anatole France is tall and
thin. His face is long and fine; his black eyes are set deep in their
sockets; his hands are delicate and slender; his gestures are vivacious
and emphasize all the play of his irony. Rodin is thick-set, he has
strong shoulders, his face is broad; his dreamy eyes, often half-closed,
open wide at times and disclose pupils of clear blue. His beard gives
him the look of one of Michael Angelo’s prophets. His movements are slow
and dignified. His large hands, with short fingers, are strongly supple.

The one is the personification of deep and witty analysis, the other of
passion and strength.

The sculptor led us to his antiques, and the conversation naturally
returned to the subject which we had just been discussing.

A Greek stele roused the admiration of Anatole France. It represented a
young woman seated. A man is gazing at her lovingly, and behind her,
bending over her shoulders, stands a serving-maid.

“How the Greeks loved life!” cried the author of _Thaïs_. “See! Nothing
on this funeral stone recalls death. The dead woman is here amid the
living, and seems still to take part in their existence. Only she has
become very weak, and as she can no longer stand she must remain seated.
It is one of the characteristics which designate the dead on these
antique monuments: their limbs being without strength, they must lean
upon a staff, or against a wall, or else sit down.

“There is also another detail which frequently distinguishes them. While
the living who are figured around them all regard them with tenderness,
their own eyes wander far and rest on no one. They no longer see those
who see them. Yet they continue to live like beloved invalids among
those who cherish them. And this half-presence, this half-absence, is
the most touching expression of the regret which, according to the
ancients, the light of day inspired in the dead.”

Rodin’s collection of antiques is large and well chosen. He is
especially proud of a Hercules, whose vigorous slimness filled us with
enthusiasm. It is a statue which does not in the least resemble the huge
Farnese _Hercules_. It is marvellously graceful. The demi-god, in all
his proud youth, has a body and limbs of extreme slenderness.

“This is indeed,” said our host, “the hero who outran the Arcadian stag
with the brazen hooves. The heavy athlete of Lysippus would not have
been capable of such a feat of prowess. Strength is often allied to
grace, and true grace is strong; a double truth of which this Hercules
is a proof. As you see, the son of Alcmene seems even more robust
because his body is harmoniously proportioned.”

Anatole France stopped before a charming little torso of a goddess.
“This,” he said, “is one of the numberless chaste Aphrodites which were
more or less free reproductions of Praxiteles’ masterpiece, the _Cnidian
Venus_. The _Venus of the Capitol_ and the _Venus di Medici_ are, among
others, only variations of this much-copied model.

“Among the Greeks, many excellent sculptors spent their skill in
imitating the work of some master who had preceded them. They modified
the general idea but slightly, and only showed their own personality in
the science of the execution. It would seem, besides, that devotional
zeal, becoming fond of a sculptural image, forbade artists afterwards to
change it. Religion fixes once and for all the divine types that it
adopts. We are astonished to find so many chaste Venuses, so many
crouching Venuses. We forget that these statues were sacred. In a
thousand or two thousand years they will exhume in the same way numbers
of statues of the _Virgin of Lourdes_, all much alike, with a white
robe, a rosary, and a blue girdle.”

“What a kindly religion this of the Greeks must have been,” I cried,
“which offered such charming forms to the adoration of its worshippers!”

“It was beautiful,” Anatole France replied, “since it has left us these
Venuses; but do not believe that it was kindly. It was intolerant and
tyrannical, like all forms of pious fervor. In the name of these
Aphrodites of quivering flesh many noble souls were tortured. In the
name of Olympus the Athenians offered the cup of hemlock to Socrates.
And do you recall that verse of Lucretius:—

                ‘Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum!’

“You see, if the gods of antiquity are sympathetic to us to-day it is
because, fallen, they can no longer harm us.”

                               CHAPTER XI
                             AT THE LOUVRE

Several days later, Rodin, putting his promise into execution, asked me
to accompany him to the Musée du Louvre.

We were no sooner before the antiques than he showed by his happy air
that he was among old friends.

“How many times,” he said, “have I come here when I was not more than
fifteen years old! I had a violent longing at first to be a painter.
Color attracted me. I often went upstairs to admire the Titians and
Rembrandts. But, alas! I hadn’t enough money to buy canvases and tubes
of color. To copy the antiques, on the contrary, I needed only paper and
pencils. So I was forced to work in the lower rooms, and there such a
passion for sculpture seized me that I could think of nothing else.”

As I listened to Rodin while he told of his long study of the antique, I
thought of the injustice done him by those false classicists who have
accused him of being an insurgent against tradition. Tradition! It is
this pretended revolutionary who, in our own day, has known it best and
respected it most!

He led me to the room full of casts and, pointing out the _Diadumenes_
by Polycletus, the original of which is in the British Museum, he said:
“You can observe here the four directions that I indicated the other day
in my clay statuette. Just examine the left side of this statue: the
shoulder is slightly forward, the hip is back; again the knee is
forward, the foot is back; and thence a gentle undulation of the whole



  By Polyclitus

“Now notice the balance of the levels—the level of the shoulders lower
towards the right, the level of the hips lower towards the left. Note
that the plumb-line passing through the neck falls on the inner ankle
bone of the right foot; note the free poise of the left leg. Finally,
view in profile the convexity of the back of the statue, in form like a

Rodin repeated this demonstration with a number of other antiques.
Leaving the casts, he led me to the wonderful torso of Periboëtos by

“Here the direction of the shoulders is towards the left, direction of
the hips towards the right—level of the right shoulder higher, level of
the left hip higher.” Then, passing to less theoretic impressions: “How
charming!” he cried. “This young torso, without a head, seems to smile
at the light and at the spring, better than eyes and lips could do.”
Then we reached the Venus of Milo.

“Behold the marvel of marvels! Here you find an exquisite rhythm very
like that in the statue which we have been admiring; but something of
thought as well; for here we no longer find the form of the =C=; on the
contrary, the body of this goddess bends slightly forward as in
Christian sculpture. Yet there is nothing restless or tormented here.
This work is the expression of the greatest antique inspiration; it is
voluptuousness regulated by restraint; it is the joy of life cadenced,
moderated by reason.

“Such masterpieces affect me strangely. They bring vividly before my
mind the atmosphere and the country where they had birth. I see the
young Greeks, their brown hair crowned with violets and the maidens with
floating tunics as they pass to offer sacrifice to the gods in those
temples whose lines were pure and majestic, whose marble had the warm
transparency of flesh. I imagine the philosophers walking in the
outskirts of the town, conversing upon beauty, close to some old altar
which recalls to them the earthly adventure of some god. The birds sing
amidst the ivy, in the great plane-trees, in the bushes of laurel and of
myrtle, and the brooks shine beneath the serene blue sky, which domes
this sensuous and peaceful land.”



An instant later we were before the _Victory of Samothrace_.

“Place it, in your mind, upon a golden shore, whence, beneath the olive
branches, you may see the blue and shining sea cradling its white
islands! Antique marbles need the full light of day. In our museums they
are deadened by too heavy shadows. The reflection of the sun-bathed
earth and of the Mediterranean aureoled them with dazzling splendor.
Their _Victory_—it was their _Liberty_—how it differs from ours! She did
not gather back her robe to leap barriers; she was clothed in fine
linen, not in coarse cloth; her marvellous body in its beauty was not
formed for daily tasks; her movements, though vigorous, were always
harmoniously balanced.

“In truth she was the Liberty not of the whole world, but only of the
intellectually elect. The philosophers contemplated her with delight.
But the conquered, the slaves who were beaten in her name, had no love
for her.

“That was the fault of the Hellenic ideal. The Beauty conceived by the
Greeks was the order dreamed of by intelligence, but she only appealed
to the cultivated mind; she disdained the humble; she had no tenderness
for the broken; she did not know that in every heart there is a ray of

“She was tyrannous to all who were not capable of high thought; she
inspired Aristotle to an apology for slavery; she admitted only the
perfection of form and she did not know that the expression of the most
abject creature may be sublime. She destroyed the malformed children.



“But this very order which the philosophers extolled was too limited.
They had imagined it according to their desires and not as it exists in
the vast universe. They had arranged it according to their human
geometry. They figured the world as limited by a great crystal sphere;
they feared the unlimited. They also feared progress. According to them
creation had never been as beautiful as, at its birth, when nothing had
yet troubled its primitive balance. Since then all had continually grown
worse; each day a little more confusion had made its way into the
universal order. The age of gold which we glimpse on the horizon of the
future they placed behind them in the remoteness of time.

“So this passion for order betrayed them. Order reigns without doubt in
the immensity of nature, but it is much more complex than man in the
first efforts of his reason can represent it—and besides, it is
eternally changing.

“Yet sculpture was never more radiant than when it was inspired by this
narrow order. It was because that calm beauty could find entire
expression in the serenity of transparent marbles; it was because there
was perfect accord between the thought and the matter that it animated.
The modern spirit, on the contrary, upsets and breaks all forms in which
it takes body.

“No; no artist will ever surpass Phidias—for progress exists in the
world, but not in art. The greatest of sculptors who appeared at a time
when the whole human dream could blossom in the pediment of a temple
will remain for ever without an equal.”

We passed on to the room which holds the work of Michael Angelo. To
reach it we crossed that of Jean Goujon and of Germain Pilon.

“Your elder brothers,” I said.

“I should like to think so,” Rodin answered with a sigh. We were now
before the _Captives_, by Michael Angelo. We first looked at the one on
the right, which is seen in profile. “Look! only two great planes. The
legs to one side, the body to the opposite side. This gives great
strength to the attitude. No balance of levels. The right hip is the
higher, and the right shoulder is also higher. So the movement acquires
amplitude. Observe the line of plumb—it falls not on one foot, but
between the two; so both legs bear the body and seem to make an effort.



  By Michael Angelo

“Let us consider, finally, the general aspect. It is that of a console;
the bent legs project, the retreating chest forms a hollow. It is the
confirmation of what I demonstrated in my studio with the clay model.”

Then, turning towards the other captive: “Here again the form of the
console is designed, not by the retreating chest, but by the raised
elbow, which hangs forward. As I have already told you, this particular
silhouette is that of all the statuary of the Middle Ages.

“You find this form of the console in the Virgin seated leaning over her
child; in the Christ nailed on the cross, the legs bent, the body bowed
towards the men whom His suffering would redeem; in the Mater Dolorosa
who bends above the body of her Son.

“Michael Angelo, I repeat, is only the last and greatest of the Gothics.

“The soul thrown back upon itself, suffering, disgust of life,
contention against the bonds of matter—such are the elements of his

“The captives are held by bonds so weak that it seems easy to break
them. But the sculptor wished to show that their bondage is, above all,
a moral one. For, although he has represented in these figures the
provinces conquered by Pope Julius II., he has given them a symbolic
value. Each one of his prisoners is the human soul which would burst the
bounds of its corporeal envelope in order to possess unlimited liberty.
Look at the captive on the right. He has the face of Beethoven. Michael
Angelo has divined the features of that most unhappy of great musicians.

“His whole existence proved that he was himself frightfully tortured by
melancholy. ‘Why do we hope for more of life and of pleasure?’ he said
in one of his most beautiful sonnets. ‘Earthly joy harms us even more
than it delights.’ And in another verse, ‘He who dies soon after birth
enjoys the happiest fate!’

“All his statues are so constrained by agony that they seem to wish to
break themselves. They all seem ready to succumb to the pressure of
despair which fills them. When Michael Angelo was old he actually broke
them. Art did not content him. He wanted infinity. ‘Neither painting nor
sculpture,’ he writes, ‘can charm the soul turned towards that divine
love which, upon the cross, opens its arms to receive us.’ These are
also the exact words of the great mystic who wrote the _Imitation of
Jesus Christ_: ‘The highest wisdom is to reach the kingdom of heaven
through contempt of the world. It is vanity to cling to what is but
passing and not to hasten towards that joy which is without end.’”

There was silence for a time, then Rodin spoke his thought: “I remember
being in the Duomo at Florence and regarding with profound emotion that
_Pietà_ by Michael Angelo. The masterpiece, which is ordinarily in
shadow, was lighted at the moment by a candle in a silver candlestick.
And a beautiful child, a chorister, approached the candlestick, which
was as tall as himself, drew it towards him, and blew out the light. I
could no longer see the marvellous sculpture. And this child appeared to
figure to me the genius of Death, which puts an end to life. I have kept
that precious picture in my heart.”

He paused, then went on: “If I may speak of myself a little, I will tell
you that I have oscillated all my life between the two great tendencies
of sculpture, between the conception of Phidias and that of Michael

“I began by following the antique, but when I went to Italy I was
carried away by the great Florentine master, and my work has certainly
felt the effects of this passion.

“Since then, especially more of late years, I have returned to the



  By Michael Angelo

“The favorite themes of Michael Angelo, the depths of the human soul,
the sanctity of effort and of suffering, have an austere grandeur. But I
do not feel his contempt of life. Earthly activity, imperfect as it may
be, is still beautiful and good. Let us love life for the very effort
which it exacts.

“As for me, I ceaselessly endeavor to render my outlook on nature ever
more calm, more just. We should strive to attain serenity. Enough of
Christian anxiety, in the face of the great mystery, will always remain
in us all.”



  By Rodin

  Photogravure reproduced by permission of the Metropolitan Museum of

                              CHAPTER XII


The day before the _vernissage_ (varnishing day), I met Auguste Rodin at
the Salon de la Société Nationale in Paris. He was accompanied by two of
his pupils, themselves past-masters: the sculptor Bourdelle, who was
this year exhibiting a fierce Hercules piercing the Stymphalian birds
with his arrows, and Despiau, who models exquisitely clever busts.

All three had stopped before a figure of the god Pan, which Bourdelle
had whimsically carved in the likeness of Rodin, and the creator of the
work was excusing himself for the two small horns which he had set upon
the master’s forehead.

“You had to do it,” Rodin replied, laughing, “because you are
representing Pan. Michael Angelo gave just such horns to his _Moses_.
They are the emblem of omnipotence and omniscience, and I assure you
that I am flattered to have been so favored by your attentions.”

As it was now noon, Rodin invited us all three to lunch with him
somewhere in the neighborhood.

We passed out into the Avenue des Champs Élysées, where beneath the
crude young green of the chestnut-trees the motors and carriages slipped
by in shining files, all the brilliance of Parisian life flashing here
from its brightest and most fascinating setting.

“Where are we going to lunch?” Bourdelle asked, pausing with comical
anxiety. “In the big restaurants about here we shall be waited upon by
solemn men-servants in dress-coats, which I cannot bear. They frighten
me. I advise some quiet little restaurant where the cabbies go.”



  By Rodin

  Presented to the people of the United States of America by the French
    nation for the base of the Champlain Monument at Crown Point

“The food is really better there than in these gorgeous places,” Despiau
declared. “Here the food is too sophisticated.”

He had expressed Bourdelle’s secret thought; for Bourdelle, in spite of
his pretended modesty, is a gourmand.

Rodin agreeing, allowed them to lead him to a little eating-house hidden
in a side-street off the Champs Élysées, where we chose a quiet corner
and installed ourselves comfortably.

Despiau, who has a lively disposition, began teasing Bourdelle. “Help
yourself, Bourdelle,” he said, passing him a dish, “though you know you
don’t deserve to be fed, because you are an artist—that is to say, of no
use to any one.”

“I pardon you this impertinence,” Bourdelle answered, “because you take
half for yourself.” He began gayly, but ended in a momentary crisis of
pessimism, as he added: “But I won’t contradict you. It is true that we
are good for nothing. When I think of my father, who was a stonecutter,
I say to myself, ‘His work was necessary to society. He prepared the
building materials for men’s houses.’ I can see him now, good old man,
conscientiously sawing his blocks of freestone, winter and summer, in
the open workshop. His was a rugged type such as we do not see nowadays.
But I—but we—what service do we render to our kind? We are jugglers,
mountebanks, dreamers, who amuse the people in the market-place. They
scarcely deign to take an interest in our efforts. Few people are
capable of understanding them. And I do not know whether we really
deserve their good-will, for the world could very well get on without


It was Rodin who answered. “I do not believe that our friend Bourdelle
means a word of what he says. As for me, my opinion is entirely opposed
to his. I believe that artists are the most useful of men.”



  By Rodin

Bourdelle laughed. “You are blinded by love of your profession.”

“Not at all, for my opinion rests on very sound reasons, which I will
tell you. But first have some of this wine which the _patron_
recommends. It will put you in a better frame of mind to listen to me.”
When he had poured it out for us, he resumed: “To begin with—have you
reflected that in modern society artists, I mean true artists, are about
the only men who take any pleasure in their work?”

“It is certain that work is all our joy, all our life,” Bourdelle cried,
“but that does not mean that—”

“Wait! It seems to me that what is most lacking in our contemporaries is
love of their profession. They only accomplish their tasks grudgingly.
They would willingly _strike_. It is so from the top to the bottom of
the social ladder. The politician sees in his office only the material
advantages which he can gain from it, and he does not seem to know the
pride which the old statesmen felt in the skilful direction of the
affairs of their country.

“The manufacturer, instead of upholding the honor of his brand, strives
only to make as much money as he can by adulterating his products. The
workman, feeling a more or less legitimate hostility for his employer,
slights his work. Almost all the men of our day seem to regard work as a
frightful necessity, as a cursed drudgery, while it ought to be
considered as our happiness and our excuse for living.

“You must not think that it has always been so. Most of the objects
which remain to us from the old days, furniture, utensils, stuffs, show
a great conscientiousness in those who made them.

“Man likes to work well, quite as much as to work badly. I even believe
that it is more agreeable to him, more natural to him, that he _prefers_
to work well. But he listens sometimes to good, sometimes to bad advice,
and gives preference to the bad.

“And yet, how much happier humanity would be if work, instead of a means
to existence, were its end! But, in order that this marvellous change
may come about, all mankind must follow the example of the artist, or,
better yet, become artists themselves; for the word _artist_, in its
widest acceptation, means to me the _man who takes pleasure in what he
does_. So it would be desirable were there artists in all trades—artist
carpenters, happy in skilfully raising beam and mortice—artist masons,
spreading the plaster with pleasure—artist carters, proud of caring for
their horses and of not running over those in the street. Is it not true
that that would constitute an admirable society?

“You see, then, that artists set an example to the rest of the world
which might be marvellously fruitful.”

“Well argued,” cried Despiau; “I take back what I said, Bourdelle. I
acknowledge that you deserve your food. Do take a little more


“Ah, Master!” I said, “you doubtless have the gift of persuasion. But,
after all, what is the good of proving the usefulness of artists?
Certainly, as you have shown us, their passion for work might set a good
example. But is not the work which they do at the bottom useless, and is
it not that precisely which gives it value in our eyes?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, that happily works of art do not count among useful things,
that is to say, amongst those that serve to feed us, to clothe us, to
shelter us—in a word, to satisfy our bodily needs. On the contrary, they
tear us from the slavery of practical life and open before us an
enchanted land of contemplation and of dreams.”

“The point is, my dear friend, that we are usually mistaken in what is
useful and what is not,” Rodin answered. “I admit that we must call
useful all that ministers to the necessities of our material life. But
to-day, besides that, riches are also considered useful, though their
display only arouses vanity and excites envy; these riches are not only
useless, but cumbersome.



  By Rodin

  Photograph reproduced by permission of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts

“As for me, I call _useful all that gives us happiness_. Well, there is
nothing in the world that makes us happier than contemplation and
dreams. We forget this too much in our day. The man who, with just a
sufficiency, wisely enjoys the numberless wonders which meet his eyes
and mind at every turn—who rejoices in the beauty and vigor of the youth
about him; who sees in the animals, those wonderful living machines, all
their supple and nervous movements and the play of their muscles; who
finds delight in the valleys and upon the hillsides where the spring
spends itself in green and flowery festival, in waves of incense, in the
murmur of bees, in rustling wings and songs of love; who feels an
ecstasy as he watches the silver ripples, which seem to smile as they
chase each other upon the surface of the water; who can, with renewed
enthusiasm, each day watch Apollo, the golden god, disperse the clouds
which Earth wraps closely around her; the man who can find joy in all
this walks the earth a god.

“What mortal is more fortunate than he? And since it is art which
teaches us, which aids us to appreciate these pleasures, who will deny
that it is infinitely useful to us? It is not only a question of
intellectual pleasures, however, but of much more. Art shows man his
_raison d’être_. It reveals to him the meaning of life, it enlightens
him upon his destiny, and consequently points him on his way. When
Titian painted that marvellously aristocratic society, where each person
carries written in his face, imprinted in his gestures and noted in his
costume, the pride of intellect, of authority and of wealth, he set
before the patricians of Venice the ideal which they wished to realize.
When Poussin composed his clear, majestic, orderly landscapes, where
Reason seems to reign; when Puget swelled the muscles of his heroes;
when Watteau sheltered his charming yet melancholy lovers beneath
mysterious shades; when Houdon caused Voltaire to smile, and Diana, the
huntress, to run so lightly; when Rude, in carving the _Marseillaise_,
called old men and children to his country’s aid—these great French
masters polished in turn some of the facets of our national soul; this
one, order; this one, energy; this one, elegance; this one, wit; this
one, heroism; and all, the joy of life and of free action, and they kept
alive in their compatriots the distinctive qualities of our race.



  By Titian

“Take the greatest artist of our time, Puvis de Chavannes—did he not
strive to shed upon us the serenity to which we all aspire? Are there
not wonderful lessons for us in his sublime landscapes, where holy
Nature seems to cradle upon her bosom a loving, wise, august, simple
humanity? Help for the weak, love of work, self-denial, respect for high
thought, this incomparable genius has expressed it all! It is a
marvellous light upon our epoch. It is enough to look upon one of his
masterpieces, his _Sainte Geneviève_ in the Pantheon, his _Holy Wood_
(_Bois Sacré_) in the Sorbonne, or his magnificent _Homage to Victor
Hugo_ (_Hommage à Victor Hugo_) on the stairway of the Hôtel de Ville in
Paris, to feel oneself capable of noble deeds.

“Artists and thinkers are like lyres, infinitely delicate and sonorous,
whose vibrations, awakened by the circumstances of each epoch, are
prolonged to the ears of all other mortals.

“Without doubt, very fine works of art are appreciated only by a limited
number; and even in galleries and public squares they are looked at only
by a few. But, nevertheless, the thoughts they embody end by filtering
through to the crowd. Below the men of genius there are other artists of
less scope, who borrow and popularize the conceptions of the masters:
writers are influenced by painters, painters by writers; there is a
continual exchange of thought between all the brains of a generation—the
journalists, the popular novelists, the illustrators, the makers of
pictures bring within the reach of the multitude the truths discovered
by the powerful intellects of the day. It is like a spiritual stream,
like a spring pouring forth in many cascades, which finally meet to form
the great moving river which represents the mentality of an era.



  By Puvis de Chavannes

“And it should not be said, as it is sometimes, that artists only
reflect the feeling of their surroundings. Even this would be much; for
it is well to hold up a mirror in which other men may see themselves,
and so to aid them to self-knowledge. But artists do more. Certainly
they draw largely from the common fund amassed by tradition, but they
also increase this treasure. They are truly inventors and guides.

“In order to convince oneself of this, it is enough to observe that most
of the masters preceded, and sometimes by a long period, the time when
their works won recognition. Poussin painted a number of masterpieces
under Louis XIII. whose regular nobility foretold the character of the
following reign; Watteau, whose nonchalant grace would seem to have
presided over all the reign of Louis XV., did not live under that King,
but under Louis XIV., and died under the Regent; Chardin and Greuze,
who, in celebrating the bourgeois home, would seem to have announced a
democratic society, lived under a monarchy; Prudhon, mystical, sweet and
weary, claimed, in the midst of strident imperial fanfares, the right to
love, to meditate, to dream, and he affirmed it as the forerunner of the
romantics. Nearer to us, Courbet and Millet, under the Second Empire,
pictured the sorrows and the dignity of the people, who since then,
under the Third Republic, have won so preponderant a place in society.

“I do not say that these artists determined these great currents, I only
say that they unconsciously contributed to form them; I say that they
made part of the intellectual élite who created these tendencies. And it
goes without saying that this élite is not composed of artists only, but
also of writers, philosophers, novelists and publicists.



  By Rodin

“What still further proves that the masters bring new ideas and
tendencies to their generations is that they have often great trouble in
winning acknowledgment for them. They sometimes pass nearly all their
lives in striving against routine. And the more genius they have, the
more chance they run of being long misunderstood. Corot, Courbet,
Millet, Puvis de Chavannes, to cite no more, were not unanimously
acclaimed until the end of their careers.

“It is impossible to do good to mankind with impunity. But, at least,
the masters of art, by their determination to enrich the human soul,
have deserved that their names should be held sacred after their deaths.

“There, my friends, is what I wished to say to you upon the usefulness
of artists.”


I declared that I was convinced.

“I only want to be,” said Bourdelle, “for I adore my work, and my
grumbling was doubtless the effect of a passing mood; or, perhaps,
anxious to hear an apology for my profession, I behaved like a coquette
who complains of being ugly in order to provoke a compliment.”

There was silence for several instants, for we were thinking of what had
been said.

Then, realizing that Rodin had modestly omitted himself in indicating
the influence of the masters, I said: “Master, you have yourself
exercised an influence on your epoch, which will certainly be prolonged
to succeeding generations.



  By Rodin

  Photograph reproduced by permission of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts

“In emphasizing so strongly the inner truth, you will have aided in the
evolution of our modern life. You have shown the immense value which
each one of us to-day attaches to his thoughts, to his affections, to
his dreams, and often to his wandering passions. You have recorded the
intoxication of love, maiden reveries, the madness of desire, the
ecstasy of meditation, the transports of hope, the crises of dejection.
You have ceaselessly explored the mysterious domain of the individual
conscience, and you have found it ever more vast. You have observed that
in this era upon which we have entered, nothing has more importance for
us than our own feelings, our own intimate personality. You have seen
that each one of us, the man of thought, the man of action, the mother,
the young girl, the lover, places the centre of the universe in his own
soul. And this disposition, of which we were ourselves almost
unconscious, you have revealed to us.

“Following upon Victor Hugo, who, celebrating in his poetry the joys and
the sorrows of private existence, sang the mother rocking the cradle,
the father at the grave of his child, the lover absorbed in happy
memories, you have expressed in sculpture the deepest, most secret
emotions of the soul.

“And there is no doubt but that this powerful wave of individualism
which is passing over the old society will modify it little by little.
There is no doubt but that, thanks to the efforts of the great artists
and the great thinkers, who ask each one of us to consider himself as an
end sufficient unto himself, and to live according to the dictates of
his own heart, humanity will end by sweeping aside all the tyrannies
which still oppress the individual and will suppress the social
inequalities which subject one to another, the poor to the rich, the
woman to the man, the weak to the strong.

“You, yourself, by the sincerity of your art, will have worked towards
the coming of this new order.”

But Rodin answered with a smile:

“Your great friendship accords me too large a place among the champions
of modern thought. It is true, at least, that I have striven to be of
use by formulating as clearly as I could my vision of people and of



  By Rodin

  Photograph reproduced by permission of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

In a moment he went on:

“If I have insisted on our usefulness, and if I still insist upon it, it
is because this consideration alone can recall to us the sympathy which
is our due in the world in which we are living. To-day, every one is
engrossed by self-interest; but I would like to see this practical
society convinced that it is at least as much to its advantage to honor
the artist as to honor the manufacturer and the engineer.”


                                Page 37

Ah! proud and traitorous old age!

Why have you so soon brought me low? Why do you hold me so that I cannot
strike and with the stroke end my sorrow?

                            Pages 38 and 39

When I think wearily on what I was, of what I am, when I see how changed
I am—poor, dried-up, thin—I am enraged! Where is my white forehead—my
golden hair—my beautiful shoulders, all in me made for love? This is the
end of human beauty! These short arms, these thin hands, these humped
shoulders. These breasts—these hips—these limbs—dried and speckled as

                            Pages 44 and 45

Yet one day you will be like this—like this horrible contamination—thou
star of my eyes, thou sun of my nature, oh my angel and my passion! Yes,
such will you be, oh Queen of the Graces, after the last sacraments—when
you are laid under the grass and the flowers, there to crumble among the
bones. Then oh, my beautiful one! tell the worms, when they devour you
with kisses, that in spite of them, in spite of all, I have kept the
form and the divine essence of my love who has perished.

                                Page 118

Flesh of the woman, ideal clay; oh sublime penetration of the spirit in
the slime; matter, where the soul shines through its shroud; clay, where
one sees the fingers of the divine sculptor; august dust, which draws
kisses, and the heart of man; so holy that one does not know—so entirely
is love the conqueror, so entirely is the soul drawn—whether this
passion is not a divine thought; so holy that one cannot, in the hour
when the senses are on fire, hold beauty without embracing God!

                                Page 181

We never see but one side of things—the other is plunged in night and
mystery. Man suffers the effect without knowing the cause. All that he
sees is short, useless, and fleeting.

                                Page 186

As when, in taking flight, the bird bends the branch, so his soul had
bruised his body.


 _Age d’Airain_, Rodin’s, 65, 67, 71, 73

 Andrea del Sarto, 105, 106

 Arc de Triomphe, 83

 Aristotle, 216

 Art, realism in, 25–34;
   character in, 37–50;
   movement in, 65–89;
   drawing and color in, 93–107;
   thought in, 151–171;
   mystery in, 175–188

 Art, modern, Rodin’s views on, 6

 Artist, usefulness of, 227–245

 _Baiser_, Rodin’s, 186

 _Balzac_, Rodin’s, 66, 146, 186

 Baptistery, Florence, 40

 Barye, 67

 Bazire, 135, 138

 Beaudelaire, 44

 Beauty of women, 113–118

 _Belle Heaulmière_, Rodin’s, 37–42

 Berthelot, Rodin’s bust of, 146

 Biron, l’Hôtel de, 111

 _Bois Sacré_, Chavannes’, 238

 Bourdelle, 227–242

 _Bourgeois de Calais_, Rodin’s, 66, 85, 144, 185

 British Museum, 212

 Brongniart children, Houdon’s bust of, 122

 _Burghers of Calais._ See _Bourgeois de Calais_

 Busts, Rodin’s, 134–148, 186

 Busts, Rodin’s views on, 121–148

 Byron, Lord, 158

 Calais, 88

 Caliari, 79

 Cambodian dancers, 116

 _Captives_, Michael Angelo’s, 218

 Carpeaux, 67, 159

 _Centauress_, Rodin’s, 163

 Chantilly, 201

 Character in nature, 45

 Chardin, 240

 _Charles V_, Titian’s, 131

 Chavannes, Puvis de, 237, 238, 241;
   Rodin’s bust of, 143

 _Children of Edward_, Delavigne’s. See _Enfants d’Edouard_

 Claude Lorraine, 106

 _Cnidian Venus_, 206

 Color, Rodin’s views on, 96–107

 Color in sculpture, 60

 _Commander_, the, 73

 _Concert Champêtre_, Giorgione’s, 182

 _Confessions_, Rousseau’s, 126

 Constant, 58

 Corneille, 85

 Corot, 166, 179, 241

 Correggio, 105, 106

 Courbet, 240, 241

 _Course d’Epsom_, Gericault’s, 76

 Cuyp, 166

 Dalou, 140–142;
   Rodin’s bust of, 140

 _Dance_, Carpeaux’s, 67

 Dante, 69

 _Daughter of Icarus_, Rodin’s. See _Fille d’Icare_

 David, 104

 Delacroix, 103, 158

 Delaroche, 157

 Delavigne, Casimir, 157, 158

 Della Robbia. See _Luca della Robbia_

 Dépôt des Marbres, 25, 111

 Despiau, 227, 229, 233

 _Diadumenes_, 212

 _Diana_, Houdon’s, 115, 237

 _Divine Comedy_, 160

 _Don Juan’s Shipwreck_, Delacroix’s. See _Naufrage de Don Juan_

 Donatello, 40, 202

 Drawing, Rodin’s views on, 93–107

 Ducal Palace, Venice, 79

 Duomo, the, 221

 Dürer, Albrecht, 104, 106

 Egyptian sculpture, 180

 _Embarkation for the Island of Cythera_, Watteau’s. See _Embarquement_,

 _Embarquement pour Cythère_, Watteau’s, 80, 84

 _Enfants d’Edouard_, Delavigne’s, 157

 _Epsom Races._ See _Course d’Epsom_

 Europa, 79

 Falguière, Rodin’s bust of, 145–146

 _Fille d’Icare_, Rodin’s, 162

 Flesh, the, 56, 57

 France, Anatole, 203–207

 _Francis I_, Titian’s, 131

 Franklin, Houdon’s bust of, 122, 128

 Gericault, 76, 77

 Ghirlandajo, 202

 Giorgione, 182

 _Gleaners_, Millet’s, 182

 Goethe, 180

 Gothic cathedrals, 166

 Goujon, Jean, 115, 218

 _Graces_, Raphael’s, 201

 Greek sculpture, 11, 27, 56, 57, 114, 192–196, 212–218

 Greuze, 240

 Hanako, 116

 Henner, 123

 _Hercules_, Bourdelle’s, 227

 Hercules, statue of, 205

 Holbein, 104, 106

 _Holy Wood._ See _Bois Sacré_

 _Hommage à Victor Hugo_, Chavannes’, 238

 _Homme qui marche_, Rodin’s, 66

 Houdon, his busts, 115, 121, 122, 125–129, 147, 148, 237

 Houdon, Mme., Houdon’s bust of, 122

 Hugo, Victor, 118, 135–138, 181, 243

 Hugo, Rodin’s bust of, 135, 136, 137, 138, 156

 _Illusion_, Rodin’s, 162

 Ingres, 104

 _l’Intransigeant_, 135

 _Iron Age._ See _Age d’Airain_

 Issy, 13

 Italians, the modern, 114

 _Judgment of Paris_, Watteau’s, 115

 Laurens, Jean-Paul, Rodin’s bust of, 144

 Literature, its relation to art, 153–161

 Louvre, the, 76, 79, 101, 201, 211–223

 Luca della Robbia, 178

 Lucretius, 207

 Luxembourg, Musée du, 41, 65, 140, 144, 161, 187

 Lysippus, 199, 205

 _Man with the Hoe_, Millet’s, 44

 _Maréchal Ney_, Rude’s, 67, 69

 Marivaux, 84

 _Marseillaise, La_ (newspaper), 135

 _Marseillaise_, Rude’s, 67, 83, 84, 85, 237

 _Meditation._ See _Penseur_

 Meudon, 5, 37, 111, 134, 175

 Michael Angelo, 97, 178;
   his work expounded by Rodin, 196–202, 218–223

 Millet, François, 43, 179, 182, 240, 241

 Mirabeau, Houdon’s bust of, 122, 127

 Modelling, 53–61, 66

 Models, 26

 _Moses_, Michael Angelo’s, 228

 Movement in art, 65–89

 Mystery in art, 175–188

 Nature, as seen by Rodin, 30–34, 37–50

 _Naufrage de Don Juan_, Delacroix’s, 158

 Nude, the, 27

 Ovid, 68

 Palais Royal, 156

 _Pan_, Bourdelle’s, 227

 Pantheon, the, 144, 238

 Paris, 15, 111, 238

 _Parnassus_, 101

 Parthenon, the, 183

 _Paul III_, Titian’s, 131

 _Pensée_, Rodin’s, 161

 _Penseur_, Rodin’s, 151–152, 185

 Periboëtos, torso of, 213

 Phidias, 114, 165, 218, 222;
   his work expounded by Rodin, 192–196

 _Philip IV_, Velasquez’s, 131

 Photographs, instantaneous, 73, 74, 75, 76

 _Pietà_, Michael Angelo’s, 222

 Pilon, Germain, 218

 Pisanello, 131

 Polycletus, 199, 212

 Pont de l’Alma, 5

 Portraits, 123–125, 129–134

 Pottery, 99

 Poussin, 236, 239

 Praxiteles, 199, 206, 213

 Prudhon, 240

 Puget, 236

 _Pygmalion_, Rodin’s, 163, 164

 Racine, 45

 Raphael, 97, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 200

 Realism in art, 25–34

 Rembrandt, 101, 102, 103, 105, 106, 107, 167, 168, 187

 Robbia, della. See _Luca della Robbia_

 Rochefort, Henri, 138, 139

 Rochefort, Rodin’s bust of, 138, 139

 Rodin, Auguste, his home at Val-Fleury, 5;
   at the Dépôt des Marbres, 25;
   his method of work, 26-34;
   at “l’Hôtel de Biron,” 111;
   his religion, 175-177;
   his views on modern art, 6;
   on nature, 30-34, 37-50;
   on modelling, 53-61;
   on drawing and color, 93-107;
   on beauty of women, 111-118;
   on busts and portraits, 121-148;
   on thought in art, 151-171;
   on mystery in art, 175-188;
   on Phidias and Michael Angelo, 191-207, 218-223;
   on usefulness of artists, 227-245

 Rousseau, Houdon’s bust of, 125

 Rousseau, Theodore, 166

 Rubens, 98, 105, 106

 Rude, 67, 69, 83, 85, 237

 Ruysdael, 166

 _Sainte Geneviève_, Chavannes’, 238

 _Saint George_, 101

 _Saint-Jean-Baptiste_, Rodin’s, 65, 67, 71, 72, 73, 74, 185

 _Saint John_, Rodin’s. See _Saint-Jean-Baptiste_

 _Sainte Magdalene_, Donatello’s, 40

 Saint-Pierre, Eustache de, 86, 88

 Santisimo Christo, Chapel del, Burgos, 175

 Sanzio, 101

 Scopas, 199

 Sculpture, Egyptian, 180

 Sculpture, Greek, 11, 27, 56, 57, 114, 192-196, 212-218

 _Sebastian_, Velasquez’s, 43

 Shakespeare, 45

 Siena, 201

 Société des Gens de Lettres, 146

 Sorbonne, the, 238

 South Kensington, 101

 Stained-glass, 98

 Thiers, 127

 _Three Fates_, 183

 Titian, 98, 131, 167, 168

 Truth in art, 31, 45

 Turner, 106

 Ugliness in nature, 42

 _Ugolin_, Rodin’s, 159

 Val-Fleury, Rodin’s home at, 5

 Vatican, the, 101

 Velasquez, 43, 105, 106, 131

 _Venus, the Cnidian_, 206

 _Venus of the Capitol_, 206

 _Venus di Medici_, 54, 206

 _Venus of Milo_, 213

 Veronese, 79, 98

 _Victory of Samothrace_, 215

 Villain, 136

 Villon, 37

 Vinci, Leonardo da, 182

 Voltaire, Houdon’s bust of, 121, 122, 126, 237

 Washington, Houdon’s bust of, 122

 Watteau, 80, 81, 85, 115, 237, 240

 Women, beauty of, 113-118


                          TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES

 1. Silently corrected typographical errors and variations in spelling.
 2. Retained anachronistic, non-standard, and uncertain spellings as
 3. Enclosed italics font in _underscores_.
 4. Enclosed bold font in =equals=.

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