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Title: Rodin: The Man and his Art - With Leaves from his Note-book
Author: Cladel, Judith
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Of Auguste Rodin one thing may be said without fear of contradiction:
among his contemporaries to-day he is preëminently the master. Born
at Paris, 1840,--the natal year of his friends, Claude Monet and
Zola--in humble circumstances, without a liberal education, the young
Rodin had to fight from the beginning; fight for bread as well as
an art schooling. He was not even sure of his vocation. An accident
determined it. He became a workman in the atelier of the sculptor,
Carrier-Belleuse, though not until he had failed at the Beaux-Arts (a
stroke of luck for his genius), and after he had enjoyed some tentative
instruction under the animal sculptor, Barye (he was not a steady
pupil of Barye, nor did he care to remain with him) he went to Belgium
and "ghosted" for other sculptors; it was his privilege or misfortune
to have been the anonymous assistant of a half dozen sculptors. He
mastered the technique of his art by the sweat of his brow before he
began to make music upon his own instrument. How his first work, "The
Man with the Broken Nose," was refused by the Salon jury is history.
He designed for the Sèvres porcelain works. He executed portrait busts,
architectural ornaments, caryatids; all styles that were huddled in the
studios and yards of sculptors he essayed. No man knew his trade better,
although it is said that with the chisel of the _practicien_ Rodin was
never proficient; he could not, or would not, work at the marble _en
bloc_. His sculptures to-day are in the museums of the world, and he is
admitted to possess "talent" by academic men. Rivals he has none. His
production is too personal. Like Richard Wagner he has proved a upas
tree for lesser artists--he has deflected, or else absorbed them. His
friend Eugene Carrière warned young sculptors not to study Rodin too
curiously. Carrière was wise, yet his art of portraiture was influenced
by Rodin; swimming in shadow his enigmatic heads have more the quality
of Rodin's than the mortuary art of academic sculpture.

A profound student of light and movement, Rodin by deliberate
amplification of the surfaces of his statues, avoiding dryness and
harshness of outline, secures a zone of radiancy, a luminosity which
creates the illusion of reality. He handles values in clay as a
painter does his tones. He gets the design of the outline by movement
which continually modifies the anatomy; the secret of the Greeks,
he believes. He studies his profiles successively in full light,
obtaining volume--or planes--at once and together; successive views
of one movement. The light plays with more freedom upon his amplified
surfaces, intensified in the modeling by enlarging the lines. The edges
of certain parts are amplified, deformed, falsified, and we enjoy
light-swept effects, luminous emanations. This deformation, he declares,
was always practised by the great sculptors to snare the undulating
appearance of life. Sculpture, he asserts, is the "art of the hole and
lump, not of clear, well-smoothed, unmodeled figures." Finish kills
vitality. Yet Rodin can chisel a smooth nymph, if he so wills, but her
flesh will ripple and run in the sunlight. His art is one of accents.
He works by profile in depth, not by surfaces. He swears by what he
calls "cubic truth"; his pattern is a mathematical figure; the pivot of
Unity haunts him. He is a believer in the correspondence of things, of
continuity in nature. He is mystic, as well as a geometrician. Yet such
a realist is he that he quarrels with any artist who does not recognize
"the latent heroic in every natural movement."

Therefore he does not force the pose of his model, preferring attitudes
or gestures voluntarily adopted. His sketch books, as vivid, as copious,
as the drawings of Hokusai--he is studious of Japanese art--are swift
memoranda of the human machine as it dispenses its normal muscular
motions. Rodin, draughtsman, is as surprisingly original as the sculptor
Rodin. He will study a human foot for months, not to copy it, but to
master the secret of its rhythms. His drawings are the swift notations
of a sculptor whose eye is never satisfied, whose desire to pin to paper
the most evanescent vibrations of the human machine is almost a mania.
The model may tumble down anywhere, in any contortion or relaxation
he or she wishes. Practically instantaneous is the method of Rodin
to register the fleeting attitudes, the first shivering surface. He
rapidly draws with his eye on the model. It is often a mere scrawl, a
silhouette, a few enveloping lines. But there is vitality in it all, and
for his purpose, a notation of a motion. But a sculptor has made these
extraordinary drawings, not a painter. It may be well to observe the
distinction. And he is the most rhythmic sculptor among the moderns.
Rhythm means for him the codification of beauty. Because, with a vision
quite virginal, he has observed, he insists that he has affiliations
with the Greeks. But if his vision is Greek his models are French, while
his forms are more Gothic than the pseudo-Greek of the academy.

As Mr. W.C. Brownell wrote: "Rodin reveals rather than constructs beauty
... no sculptor has carried expression further; and expression means
individual character completely exhibited rather than conventionally
suggested." Mr. Brownell was the first critic to point out that Rodin's
art was more nearly related to Donatello's than to Michael Angelo's.
He is in the legitimate line of Gallic sculpture, the line of Goujon,
Puget, Rude, Barye. Dalou, the celebrated sculptor, did not hesitate
to assert that the Dante portal is "one of the most, if not the most,
original and astonishing pieces of sculpture of the nineteenth century."

This Dante gate, begun thirty years ago, not finished yet--and probably
never to be--is an astoundingly plastic fugue, with death, the devil,
hell, and human passions, for a complicated four-voiced theme. I
first saw the composition at the Rue de l'Université atelier. It is
as terrifying a conception as the Last Judgment. Nor does it miss the
sonorous and sorrowful grandeur of the Medici Tombs. Yet how different.
How feverish, how tragic. Like all great men working in the grip of a
unifying idea, Rodin modified the technique of sculpture so that it
would serve him as sound does a musical composer. A lover of music his
inner ear may dictate the vibrating rhythms of his forms; his marbles
are ever musical, ever in modulation, not "frozen music," as Goethe
said of Gothic architecture, but silent, swooning music. This Gate is
a Frieze of Paris, as deeply significant of modern inspiration and
sorrow as the Parthenon Frieze is the symbol of the great clear beauty
of Hellas. Dante inspired this monstrous yet ennobled masterpiece, and
Baudelaire's poetry filled many of its chinks and crannies with ignoble
writhing shapes; shapes of dusky fire that, as they tremulously stand
above the gulf of fear, wave ineffectual and desperate hands as if
imploring destiny.

But Rodin is not all hell-fire and tragedy. Of singular delicacy and
exquisite proportion are his marbles of youth, of springtide, of the joy
and desire of life. At Paris, 1900, in his special exhibition Salle,
Europe and America awoke to the beauty of these haunting visions. Not
since Keats and Wagner and Swinburne has love been voiced so sweetly, so
romantically, so fiercely. Though he disclaims understanding the Celtic
spirit one might say that there is Celtic magic, Celtic mystery in his
lyrical work. He pierces to the core the frenzy of love, and translates
it into lovely symbols. For him nature is the sole mistress--his
sculptures are but variations on her themes. He knows the emerald route,
and all the semitones of sensuousness. Fantasy, passion, paroxysmal
madness are there, yet what elemental power is in his "Adam," as the
gigantic first man painfully heaves himself up from the earth to the
posture that differentiates him forever from the beast. Here, indeed,
two natures are at strife. And "Mother Eve" suggests the sorrows and
shames that are to be the lot of her seed; her very loins crushed by the
future generations hidden within them. One may freely walk about the
"Burghers of Calais" as Rodin did when he modeled them; a reason for
the vital quality of the group. Around all his statues we may walk; he
is not a sculptor of a single attitude but a hewer of humans. Consider
the "Balzac." It is not Balzac the writer, but Balzac the prophet, the
seer, the enormous natural force that was Balzac. Rodin is himself a
seer. That is why these two spirits converse across the years, as do the
Alpine peaks in a certain striking parable of Turgenev's. Doubtless in
bronze Rodin's "Balzac" will arouse less wrath from the unimaginative;
in plaster it produces the effect of a snowy surging monolith.

As a portraitist Rodin is the unique master of characters. His women are
gracious delicate masks; his men cover octaves in virility and variety.
That he is extremely short-sighted has not been dealt with in proportion
to the significance of the fact. It accounts for his love of exaggerated
surfaces, his formless extravagance, his indefiniteness in structural
design; perhaps, too, for his inability, or let us say, his lack of
sympathy, for the monumental. He is a sculptor of intimate emotions.
And while we think of him as a Cyclops destructively wielding a huge
hammer, he is more ardent in his search for the supersubtle nuance. But
there is always the feeling of breadth, even when he models an eyelid.
We are confronted by the paradox of an artist as torrential as Rubens
or Wagner, carving in a wholly charming style a segment of a child's
back, before which we are forced to exclaim: Donatello come to life! His
myopic vision, then, may have been his artistic salvation; he seems to
rely as much on his delicate tactile sense as on his eyes. His fingers
are as sensitive as a violinist's. At times he seems to model both tone
and color.

A poet, a precise, sober workman of art, with a peasant strain in
him, he is like Millet, and, like Millet, near to the soil. A natural
man, yet crossed by nature with a perverse strain; the possessor
of a sensibility exalted and dolorous; morbid, sick-nerved, and as
introspective as Heine; a visionary and a lover of life, close to the
periphery of things; an interpreter of Baudelaire; Dante's _alter ego_
in his grasp of the wheel of eternity, in his passionate fling at
nature; withal a sculptor, profound and tortured, transposing rhythm
into the terms of his art, Rodin is a statuary who, while having
affinities with classic and romantic schools, is the most startling
apparition of his century. And to the century which he has summed up so
plastically and emotionally he has propounded questions that only unborn
years may answer. He has a hundred faults to which he opposes one
imperious excellence--a genius, sombre, magical and overwhelming.


Rodin deserves well of our young century, the old did so incontinently
batter him. The anguish of his own "Hell's Portal" he endured before he
molded its clay between his thick clairvoyant fingers. Misunderstood,
therefore misrepresented, he with his pride and obstinacy aroused--the
one buttressing the other--was not to be budged from his formulas or
the practice of his sculpture. Then the art world swung unamiably,
unwillingly, toward him, perhaps more from curiosity than conviction.
He became famous. And he is more misunderstood than ever. He has been
called _rusé_, even a fraud, while the wholesale denunciation of his
work as erotic is unluckily still green in our memory. The sculptor,
who in 1877 was accused of "faking" his lifelike "Age of Bronze"--now
in the Luxembourg--by taking a mold from the living model, also
experienced the discomfiture of being assured some years later that,
not understanding the art of modeling, his statue of Balzac was only
an evasion of difficulties. And this to a man who in the interim had
wrought so many masterpieces. A year or two ago, after his magnificent
offer to the city of Paris of his works, there was much malevolent
criticism from certain quarters. Rodin takes all this philosophically.
He points out that the artist is the only one to-day who creates in
joy. Mankind as a majority hates its work. Workmen no longer consider
their various avocations with proper pride--this was a favorite thesis
of Ruskin, William Morris, and Renoir. Furthermore, argues Rodin, the
artist is indispensable. He reveals the beauty and meaning of life to
his fellows. He struggles against the false, the conventional, and the
used-up; but the French sculptor slyly adds: "No one may benefit mankind
with impunity." He considers himself as having a religious nature; all
artists are temperamentally religious, he contends, though his religion
is not precisely of the kind that would appeal to the orthodox.

To give Rodin his due he stands prosperity not quite as well as poverty.
In every great artist there is a large area of self-esteem; it is
the reservoir from which he must, during years of drought or defeat,
draw upon to keep fresh the soul. Without the consoling fluid of
egotism genius would soon perish in the dust of despair. But fill this
source to the brim, accelerate the speed of its current, and artistic
deterioration may ensue. Rodin has been fatuously called a second
Michael Angelo--as if there could ever be a replica of any human. He
has been hailed as a modern Praxiteles; which is nonsense. And he is
often damned as a myopic decadent whose insensibility to the pure line
and lack of architectonic have been elevated by his admirers into sorry
virtues. Nevertheless, is Rodin justly appraised? Do his friends not
over-glorify him? Nothing so stales a demigod's image as the perfumes
burned before it by worshipers; the denser the smoke the sooner crumbles
the feet of their idol.

However, in the case of Rodin the Fates have so contrived their
malicious game that at no point in his career has he been without the
company of envy and slander. Often when he had attained a summit he
would be thrust down into a deeper valley. He has mounted to triumphs
and fallen to humiliations; but his spirit has never been quelled;
and if each acclivity he scales is steeper, the air atop has grown
purer, more stimulating, and below the landscape spreads wider before
him. With Dante he can say: "La montagna ch'e drizza voi ch'e il
mondo fece torti." Rodin's mountain has always straightened in him
what the world made crooked. The name of his mountain is Art. A born
nonconformist, Rodin makes the fourth of that group of nineteenth
century artists--Richard Wagner, Henrik Ibsen, Edouard Manet--who taught
a deaf, dumb, and blind world to hear, see, think, and feel.

Is it not dangerous to say of a genius that his work alone should
count, that his personality is negligible? Though Rodin has followed
Flaubert's advice to artists to lead an ascetic life that their art
might be the more violent, nevertheless his career, colorless as
it may seem to those who love better stage players and the comedy
of society--this laborious life of a poor sculptor should not be
passed over. He always becomes enraged at the prevailing notion that
fire descends from heaven upon genius. Rodin believes in but one
inspiration--nature. Nature can do no wrong. He swears that he does not
invent, he copies nature. He despises improvisation, has contemptuous
words for "fatal facility," and, being a slow-thinking, slow-moving
man, he only admits to his councils those who have conquered art, not
by assault, but by stealth and after years of hard work. He sympathizes
with Flaubert's patient, toiling days. He praises Holland because after
Paris it seems slow. "Slowness is beauty," he declares. In a word, he
has evolved a theory and practice of his art that is the outcome--like
all theories, all techniques--of his own temperament. And that
temperament is giant-like, massive, ironic, grave, strangely perverse;
it is the temperament of a magician of art doubled by a mathematician's.

Books are written about him. With picturesque precision De Maupassant
described him in "Notre Coeur." Rodin is tempting as a psychologic
study. He appeals to the literary critic, though his art is not
"literary." His modeling arouses tempests, either of dispraise or
idolatry. To see him steadily after a visit to his studios at Paris
or Meudon is difficult. If the master be present then one feels the
impact of a personality that is misty as the clouds about the base of
a mountain, and as impressive as the bulk of the mountain. Yet a sane,
pleasant, unassuming man interested in his clay--that is, unless you
happen to discover him interested in humanity. If you watch him well you
may in turn find yourself watched; those peering eyes possess a vision
that plunges into the depths of your soul. And this master of marble
sees the soul as nude as he sees the body. It is the union in him of
sculptor and psychologist that places Rodin apart from other artists.
These two arts (psychology is the art of divination) he practises
in a medium that hitherto did not betray potentialities for such
performances. Walter Pater is right in maintaining that each art has its
separate subject matter; still, in the debatable province of Rodin's
sculpture we find strange emotional power, hints of the pictorial, and
a rare suggestion of music. This, obviously, is not playing the game
according to the rules of Lessing and his Laocoön.

Let us drop the old aesthetic rule of thumb and confess that during the
last century a new race of artists sprang up and in their novel element
they, like flying-fishes, revealed to a wondering world their composite
structure. Thus we find Berlioz painting with his instrumentation; Franz
Liszt, Tschaikowsky, and Richard Strauss filling their symphonic poems
with drama and poetry; while Richard Wagner invented an art which he
believed embraced all the others. And there was Ibsen who employed the
dramatic form as a vehicle for his anarchistic ideas; and Nietzsche, who
was such a poet that he was able to sing a mad philosophy into life; not
to forget Rossetti, who painted poems and made poetry of his pictures.
Sculpture was the only art that resisted this universal disintegration,
this imbroglio of the seven arts. No sculptor before Rodin had dared to
shiver the syntax of stone. For sculpture is a static, not a dynamic
art--is it not? Let us observe the rules though we call up the chill
spirit of the cemetery. What Mallarmé attempted with French poetry
Rodin accomplished in clay. His marbles do not represent, but present,
emotion; they are the evocation of emotion itself; as in music, form and
substance coalesce. If he does not, as does Mallarmé, arouse "the silent
thunder afloat in the leaves," he can summon from the vasty deep the
spirits of love, hate, pain, sin, despair, beauty, ecstasy; above all,
ecstasy. Now, the primal gift of ecstasy is bestowed upon few artists.
Keats had it, and Shelley; Byron, despite his passion, missed it. We
find it in Swinburne, he had it from the first. Few French poets know
it. Like the "cold devils" of Félicien Rops, coiled in frozen ecstasy,
the fiery blasts of hell about them, Charles Baudelaire boasted the
dangerous gift. Poe and Heine felt ecstasy, and Liszt. Wagner was the
master-adept of ecstasy: Tristan and Isolde! And in the music of Chopin
ecstasy is pinioned within a bar, the soul rapt to heaven in a phrase.
Richard Strauss has given us a variation on the theme of ecstasy;
voluptuousness troubled by pain, the soul tormented pathologically.

Rodin is of this tormented choir. He is revealer of its psychology.
It may be decadence, as any art is in its decadence which stakes the
part against the whole. The same was said of Beethoven by the followers
of Haydn, and the successors of Richard Strauss--Debussy, Stravinsky,
and Schoenberg--are abused quite as violently as the Wagnerites abused
Richard Strauss, turning against him the same critical artillery that
was formerly employed against Wagner. Nowadays, Rodin is looked on as
superannuated, as a reactionary by the younger men, the Cubists and
Futurists, who spoil marble with their iconoclastic chisels and canvas
with their paint-tubes.

That this ecstasy should be aroused by pictures of love and death, as
in the case of Poe and Baudelaire, Wagner and Strauss and Rodin, is not
to be judged an artistic crime. In the Far East they hypnotize neophytes
with a bit of broken mirror, for in the kingdom of art there are many
mansions. Possibly it was a relic of his early admiration for Baudelaire
that set Wagner to extorting ecstasy from his orchestra by images of
love and death. And no doubt the temperament which seeks such synthesis,
a temperament commoner in medieval times than ours, was inherent in
Wagner, as it is in Rodin. Both men play with the same counters: love
and death. In Pisa we may see (attributed by Vasari) Orcagna's fresco of
the Triumph of Death. The sting of the flesh and the way of all flesh
are inextricably blended in Rodin's Gate of Hell. His principal reading
for half a century has been Dante and Baudelaire; the Divine Comedy and
"Les Fleurs du Mal" are the keynotes in the grandiose white symphony of
the French sculptor. Love and life, and bitterness and death rule the
themes of his marbles. Like Beethoven and Wagner, he breaks academic
rules, for he is Auguste Rodin, and where he magnificently achieves,
lesser men fail or fumble. His large, tumultuous music is alone for his
chisel to ring out and to sing.




    Sojourn in Belgium--"The Man Who Awakens to
    Nature"--Realism and Plaster Casts.














    Rodin photographed on the steps of the Hotel Biron Frontispiece
    Portrait of a Young Girl
    La Pucelle
    The Adieu
    Rodin in His Studio at the Hotel Biron
    Representation of France
    The Man with the Broken Nose
    Man Awakening to Nature
    The Kiss
    Bust of the Countess of W----
    The Poet and the Muse
    The Thinker
    Portrait of Rodin
    Head of Minerva
    The Bath
    The Broken Lily
    Portrait of Madame Morla Vicuñha
    "La Pensée"
    Hotel Biron, View from the Garden
    Rodin Photographed in the Court of the Hotel Biron
    Portrait of Mrs. X
    Rodin in His Garden
    The Poet and the Muses
    The Tower of Labor
    Headless Figure
    Rodin's House and Studio at Meudon
    The Tempest
    The Village Fiancée
    Metamorphosis According to Ovid
    Rodin at Work in the Marble
    Peristyle of the Studio at Meudon
    Statue of Bastien-Lepage
    Portrait Bust of Victor Hugo
    Monument to Victor Hugo
    Statue of Balzac
    The Head of Balzac
    The Studio at Meudon
    Romeo and Juliet
    Bust of Bernard Shaw
    A Fête Given in Honor of Rodin by Some of His Friends.



Several years have already gone by since the career of Rodin attained
its full growth. From now on, therefore, it can be envisaged as a whole,
and we can trace the formation and the unfolding of his complex talent
and disentangle the influences that have directed and sustained it.

In the course of the chapters that follow, Rodin, with the authority,
the calm strength, and the lucidity that characterize his thought, often
speaks himself of these influences, but rather in a casual, gossipy,
reminiscent vein, reflecting his personal observations. He does not
attempt to disengage the broad lines by which he has reached the summit
of art, or to map out, so to speak, that scheme of his intellectual
development which so naturally appertains to the man who has reached the
apogee of talent and which he contemplates with the satisfaction of a
strategist face to face with the plan of the battles he has won.

It is to living writers that he seems to address himself. Rodin to-day
can be studied like an old master, Donatello, Michelangelo, or Pierre
Puget. One perceives quite in its entirety the distinct, the rigorously
sustained plan that he has followed with unswerving will in order to
realize himself; and the witnesses, the historians of this heroic life
of the sculptor, have the advantage of being able to trace it with
exactitude, as they could not do in the case of a vanished artist. They
are able to interrogate the hero in person; they are able to consult
with Rodin himself, who is admirably intuitive and quite aware of what
he owes to certain favorable conditions of his life and above all to
his illustrious forerunners, those who have fought before him on the
battle-field of high art.

The study of nature, of the antique, Greek and Roman, of the art of
medieval France and that of the Renaissance--these are the springs at
which he has constantly refreshed one of the most irrefutable sculptural
talents that has ever been known. These are the expressions of the
beautiful among which his profound and searching thought has traveled
unceasingly, seeking to attain to a still larger vision, a more exact
understanding of that most magnificent of all the arts, sculpture.

The superior man is always the product of an exceptional gift and
of an energy peculiar to himself, which effectuates itself despite
circumstances. He is the highest incarnation of the spirit, of the
struggle for existence. In the case of an artist the struggle is all
the more severe, for he has nothing but himself to impose upon the
world and he has, as weapons of offense and defense, nothing but his
intelligence, the tiny substance of his brain. It is therefore only by
means of the history of his intellectual life that one can understand
him. External happenings only very slightly influence the obstinate
march of true genius toward the accomplishment of its destiny. At most
they delay it but a few hours. It forces its way through the most
difficult obstacles; it even makes use of these obstacles in order to
redouble its strength and confirm its superiority. Nothing impedes the
formidable will of those who are under the spell of beauty, those who
see truth and know it and desire to express what they see. They can no
more escape the fruition of their faculties than the giant can escape
the attainment of his full stature.

Rodin has been one of these. Certainly he has been assisted by
circumstances, but above everything how has he not compelled
circumstances to assist him?

What demands preëminent recognition in his case is the gift, a splendid,
a dazzling gift for the plastic arts, the realization of which has been
imposed upon him, as it were, by the command of destiny. Whence did it
come? From whom did he inherit it? From what ancestor, sensitive to the
enchantment of beauty, suffering, and in travail from the necessity of
proclaiming it, but imperfectly endowed and powerless to forge for
himself a talent in order to express the tremors of his soul? It is a
mystery. No one can tell, Rodin himself least of all. Science has not
yet taught us anything about those obscure combinations, those endless
preferences of the vital force, thanks to which a person possesses the
faculties of genius. In this, as in other things, we are unable to
divine the cause and can only marvel at the effect, the prodigy.

Discredited to-day are the theories of Lombroso and his school, once
so warmly welcomed by mediocre minds athirst for equality, in which
great men were considered as degenerates of a superior variety, and the
most sensitive spirits qualified as candidates for the madhouse! All
one can say is that nature abhors equality, that the indwelling will
delights in raising up lofty mountain masses above the uniformity of
the plains and the valor of the chosen few above the multitude. The
function of the man of genius is, precisely, to possess in a supreme
degree the sense of inequality and to transcribe its infinite nuances
in their ever-changing, ever-moving, ever-renewed variety. He alone
perceives the diversities whose play is the law of the universe itself,
and he grasps them equally in a fragment of inanimate matter and in
the vastest aspects of the world. Far from being half mad, this unique
being, this prodigious mirror of a million facets, achieves his aim only
because he possesses far more intelligence than the most brilliant of
his contemporaries, because he is in touch with a more profound order
of things and a more comprehensive method, because he combines the
qualities of continuity in sensation and of discernment which constitute
that supreme sensibility of all the senses acting together--taste. But
it does not please ordinary mortals to believe things of this kind,
and one can easily understand how the crowd, repudiating any such
humiliating notion, are all too willing to follow the lead of exotic
pseudo-scientists and look upon great men as lunatics, considering
themselves far more rational.

As to what Rodin himself thinks of this privilege that Providence has
conferred on him, there is no telling; he has never talked very much
about it. The fact is, he has such faith in the value of hard work and
will-power, he knows so well how extraordinarily much of these even the
most exceptional natures have to exert in order to accomplish anything,
that this privilege of divine right, otherwise just as authentic as
that which sovereigns in former times profited by, amounts to nothing
in the end but the account which he draws up in order to calculate the
sum of his efforts. "When I was quite young, as far back as I remember,
I drew," he says; "but the gift is nothing without the will to make it
worth while. The artist must have the patience of water that eats away
the rock drop by drop." Alas! will and work, Master, are also gifts;
but the supreme spirit maliciously amuses itself by leading us into
error, inspiring us with the illusion that it lies with us to acquire

Rodin's case, then, is an example of absolute predestination, assisted
by a will of iron. One must add also the happy influence of the varied
environment in which his life has been placed and the excellent artistic
education he received in the schools where he studied, an education
that was fruitful, thanks to the preservation of the true traditions of
French art, kept alive in the schools since the eighteenth century.


Auguste Rodin is the son of a Norman father and a Lorrainese mother.
Each of these two French provinces, Normandy and Lorraine, produces a
race eminently realistic, but realistic in quite different ways.

The Lorrainer, opinionated and courageous, hardy in character, and
vigorous like his country itself, sees things clearly and precisely in
the light of a spirit that has been fashioned by the age-old struggle
between Teuton and Gaul on our eastern frontier. The things that
surround him, the aspects of his native soil, like the sullen obstinacy
of the enemy that seeks in vain to drag him away, present themselves
to his eye as a reality stripped of illusions. When one has to fight
there is no time to dream, and one must be able to estimate with
precision what one is fighting for. When the man of Lorraine utters his
feeling about the things he loves and defends, it is with a loyalty
rather dry in expression and impression, but also with a force of
consciousness that is imposing.


As for the Norman, like his country he overflows with an abundance of
life from which he derives a passionate need for the pleasures of sense.
Far from stifling in him the love of the beautiful, this appetite for
triumphant realities engenders, on the contrary, an exaltation of the
senses that leads to the most exquisite taste in the production of art.
Compounded of sensuality and mysticism, the twin characteristics of
these rich spirits, very like those of Belgium, to whom, by virtue of
ancient migrations, they are closely allied, the artists of Normandy
necessarily respond to the manifold requirements of their temperament.
We know with what a profusion of monuments, robust and imposing in
structure and miraculously clothed in the most delicate lacework of
stone, the Gothic architects of Normandy have covered not only the soil
of their province, but also, beyond the sea, that of the Two Sicilies,
strewn even to this day with beautiful cloisters and sumptuous churches
of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, which the Norman Conquest
carried there.

The child of Normandy and Lorraine was born in Paris, November 14,
1840. His father was a simple employee. He dwelt in one of the oldest
and most curious quarters of the great city, the Quartier Saint-Victor
in the fifth _arrondissement_. Rodin saw the light in the rue de
l'Arbalète. It is a little, hilly street, quite provincial in its
aspect and its quietness, that winds among the rows of old houses, some
low, as if crouched down, others narrow and high, as if they wished to
look over their shoulders at what passes below, very like a crowd of
living people. Its name, the rue de l'Arbalète, is full of suggestion
of the Middle Ages, like that of the rue des Patriarches, in which
it comes to an end, and that of the rue des Lyonnais and the rue de
l'Epée-de-Bois, which are its neighbors. It crosses the famous rue
Mouffetard near the little church of St. Médard on the last slopes of
the Montagne-Sainte-Geneviève, which has been, since the thirteenth
century, the seat of the university and the schools; below is the plain
of the Gobelins, where once the river Bièvre ran exposed.

Even to the present day this corner of the city has not suffered
too much from the destructive changes of modernity. At the time of
the childhood of Rodin it was still virtually untouched. Crowded,
picturesque, and in certain parts dirty and squalid, like an Oriental
city, with its little interlacing streets, its countless shops, its
swarms of people given over to a thousand familiar trades carried on in
public,--open-air kitchens, fruit-stands, grocery shops, clothing shops,
and shops of ironmongers, coal-venders, and, wine-sellers,--it is an
almost perfect fragment, a human fragment, of the old Gothic Paris.

Truly Rodin was fortunate: he was born in a chapter of Victor Hugo's
"Notre Dame de Paris." Destiny preserved the first glances of his
artist's eyes from the disenchanting banality of our modern streets. It
placed before them, as if to give them a hatred of uniformity, as if
to disgust him forever with the misdeeds of the straight line, adopted
the world over by the rank and file of contemporary architects,--those
congenitally blind and mutilated souls,--a population of houses having
a physiognomy and a soul of their own, which, with their sloping roofs,
their irregular gables, etch their amusing profiles against the sky
and seem to gossip with the birds and the clouds, putting to shame the
few regular buildings that have intruded and lost themselves amid this
congregation so touched with spirituality.

All this Rodin saw; with a child's innocent eye, he absorbed all this
fantasy of past ages; he studied the little shops with their low
ceilings dating from the period of the gilds; he noted through the
tiny panes of their windows the Rembrandtesque effects of shadow and
golden light, in which the humblest objects live a life that is full of
intimate mystery and familiar charm. About them he saw a people full of
life, alert, awake, always in action, always in dispute, unconsciously
falling into a thousand beautiful, simple attitudes, the eternal
attitudes associated with drinking, eating, sleeping, working, and

What admirable, powerful precepts this teaching, without effort, without
professors, without pedantry, thus forever imposed upon the memory of
the future sculptor! Yes, Rodin there enjoyed a priceless good fortune.

As child and young man, his walks and his duties took him incessantly
past Notre Dame, the queen of cathedrals, appearing, from the heights
of Ste. Geneviève, magnificently seated on the bank of the Seine that
devotedly kisses its feet; in front of it, Ste. Etienne-du-Mont,
surrounded by convents, with its nave, that treasure of grace bequeathed
to us by the Renaissance. There also is the ancient little Roman church
of St. Julien-le-Pauvre; and St. Séverin, that sweet relic of Gothic
art, about which lies unrolled the old _quartier des truands_, with the
rues Galande de la Huchette and de la Parcheminerie, which the pick-axes
of the housebreakers are now giving over to the universal ugliness.

The Panthéon and the buildings that surround it taught the young Rodin
that the public monuments of the style of Louis XV, although colder
and stiffer, still offer a certain grandeur by virtue of their beauty
of proportion and character. Close beside the somewhat formal solemnity
of these buildings, the Gardens of the Luxembourg that invite the
passer-by with all their tender, smiling charm, the exquisite parterre,
the elegant little pilastered palace, the Medici fountain, whose
charming statues pour out their water that murmurs beneath the branches
of the trees spread out above like a tent of lacework, taught him the
enchantment of the architectural harmonies of the Renaissance, harmonies
of chiseled stone, noble shadows, and carpeting flowers.

Like all artists, Rodin adores the Luxembourg. More than this, he would
not for anything in the world see those statues of the queens of France
banished, those enormous stone dolls of a quality, as regards sculpture,
little calculated to satisfy lovers of rich modeling. No matter, he
loves the gray mass they make under the fragrant summits of the limes
and the hawthorns; they are part of the scenery of his youth; he remains
faithful to them as to old playthings. Was it not these that he sketched
in those first attempts of his?

His aptitude quickly revealed itself. This man, whom ignorant critics
were to reproach one day with not knowing how to draw, handled the
pencil from his earliest childhood.

His mother bought her provisions from a grocer in the neighborhood. The
grocer wrapped up his rice, vermicelli, and dried prunes in bags made
from cut-up illustrated papers and engravings that had been thrown away.
Rodin got hold of these bags, and they were his first models. He copied
these wretched images passionately.

Toward the age of twelve, he was sent to Beauvais, to the house of
an uncle who undertook to bring him up. Beauvais and its unfinished
cathedral was another silent lesson, never to be forgotten--that
cathedral which is nothing but a choir, but how marvelous a choir!

Of course at the time he did not appreciate its splendor. With the
indifference of his age, he studied its architecture and its sculpture,
which, for that matter, all his contemporaries, even the cultivated,
despised from the depth of their ignorance. That was the time when
art critics and professors of esthetics denied Gothic art without
comprehending it, the Roman school being in the ascendant in the
admiration of the public. Nevertheless, the jewel in stone did not fail
to speak in the language of beauty and truth to this predestined young
man. His sensibility registered its impressions, noted down those points
of comparison which he was to find later in the depths of his memory and
which were to enable him to judge and appreciate. Under the vault of the
majestic nave he listened to the mass, he took part in the grand, sacred
drama, whose phrases touched his imagination profoundly, sometimes
exalting it to the point of mysticism and impregnating it with the
nobility of the symbols and of the Catholic ritual tempered by eighteen
centuries of usage.

Rodin was placed in a boarding-school. He found the scholar's life
dreary and dull; his comrades seemed to him noisy young barbarians,
absorbed in brutal and too often vicious pastimes. Certain studies were
repugnant to him, mathematics and _solfeggio_. Near-sighted, without
being aware of it, he could not make out the figures and the notes the
masters wrote on the blackboard; he understood nothing and was almost
bored to death.

This myopia was destined to have the most vital influence on his art.
Because of his difficulty in perceiving total effects, his instinct has
only rarely led him to the composition of monuments on a very large
scale, in which the architectural construction is of nearly as great
importance as the sculpture proper. The most considerable that we owe
to him is that of "The Burghers of Calais"; and there is also "The Gate
of Hell," which, almost inexplicably, remained incomplete even in the
very hour when it was given over as finished. The great sculptor, at
the time when he turned it over to the founders, perhaps unconsciously
experienced a lapse of vision, an insurmountable fatigue of the eyes,
over-strained by the prolonged effort to grasp the ensemble of the
edifice and the harmony of the countless details of this superb

But if he has been turned aside, by his physical constitution, from
monumental art, it has only served to concentrate him with all the
more ardor upon the minute work of modeling, for which, by a sort of
compensation, he is endowed with an eye whose penetration has had no
equal since the time of the Renaissance.

At the age of fourteen he returned to Paris. His parents judged that the
moment had come for him to choose a career. Observing his astonishing
gifts, they decided to let him take up drawing, but, having small means,
they were unable to provide him with special masters. They entered him
at the School of Decorative Arts, another piece of good fortune.

This school, called by abbreviation the Petite Ecole, in distinction
from the great school, that of the Beaux-Arts, is situated in the old
rue de l'Ecole de Médecine, close to the Faculté de Médecine and the
Sorbonne. It was founded in 1765, under the name of the Free School
of Design, by the painter Jean-Jacques Bachelier, a clever artist and
student of styles in art no longer practised or little known, who had
been well thought of by Madame de Pompadour, the favorite of Louis XV,
the charming and virtually official minister of fine arts during the
reign of that monarch. It was she who placed Bachelier in charge of the
_ateliers de décoration_ at the Sèvres manufactory. In creating the
Petite Ecole, the painter seemed to be following out, after the death of
his gracious protectress, the impulse she had communicated to French art
during her lifetime.

[Illustration: LA PUCELLE.]

Thus we see Rodin at the school of the Marquise de Pompadour, placed
once more in a _milieu_ full of originality and life. He found himself
there surrounded by a little world of beginners in every line, budding
artists; almost everybody of his generation has passed through this
course. They came there to learn to draw, paint, and model.

In the evening the halls were filled with amateurs who, after their
day's work was over, sought to acquire a certain artistic skill as
tapestry-workers, ornament-makers, workers in iron, marble, etc. They
were energetic, turbulent, poor. Rodin, like them, was energetic and
poor, but silent, laborious, and pertinacious. He applied himself to the
copying of models of all sorts, most frequently red chalks by Boucher
and plaster casts of animals, plants, and flowers.

The school had possessed these things since the eighteenth century and,
like almost everything that was created in that bountiful epoch, they
were very well done, composed after nature, their elegance full of warm
truth; they were models in bold _ronde-bosse_. That is to say, they
presented that quality of relief to which drawing, like sculpture, owes
its rich oppositions of light and shadow. To those who copied them they
communicated the science of relief, the fundamental basis of art, and
the living suppleness of the best periods, which has almost entirely
disappeared to-day.

One day Rodin entered the modeling class. He worked there after the
antique. He had his first experience of working in clay; it was a
revelation, an enchantment. He fell in love with this _métier_, which
seemed to him the most seductive of all; he became obsessed with the
desire to mold this soft material himself, to search in it for the form
of things.

His first attempts overjoyed him; he was not fifteen years old and he
had found his path!

We see him executing a fragment; he models the head, the hands, the
arms, the legs, the feet; then he sets about the whole figure; there
is no deception; there are no insurmountable difficulties for him; he
understands at once the structure of the human body; in the phrase of
the atelier, "ses bonshommes tiennent"; the arms and the legs adjust
themselves naturally to the body: he is a born sculptor.

Every day he arrives at the class at eight o'clock in the morning; he
works without faltering till noon, in company with five or six pupils.
At that hour they stop work; they are happy; they leave their seats and
take a turn about the model. In the evening things are different; from
seven to nine, the class is over-full; one can study the model then
only from a distance; a superficial, wretched method that is practised
on a large scale at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and against which Rodin has
protested all his life.

Thus we find him entered on his artistic career not as a dilettante,
as an amateur, as happens too often, but as a veritable workman. Like
General Kléber, he could long say, "My poverty has served me well; I
am attached to it." It placed him, from his childhood, in the presence
of realities. It steeped him in life itself. It safeguarded him from
the artificial education that debilitates the young middle-class
Frenchman and destroys in him the spirit of initiative and personality.
It deprived him luckily of the pleasures that rich young men too
easily offer themselves, the abuse of which renders them unsteady,
capricious, and indifferent. Rigorously held to his path by necessity,
he consecrated all his time and all his energies to study. He became
diligent, serious, and prudent.

He had the opportunity of seeing his modeling corrected by Carpeaux. The
great sculptor, in fact, taught at the Petite Ecole. Upon his return
from Rome, he had asked for a modest post as an assistant master that
would help to assure his equally modest existence; they had granted his
request, but without seeking to give him anything more! His young pupils
scarcely understood his high worth, the substantial and delicate grace
of his talent, his voluptuous elegance, inherited from the eighteenth
century and united with a certain nervous seductiveness that was
altogether modern, a certain palpitating quality of the soul and of the
flesh that had not been known before, manifesting itself through the
ductility of his modeling. But instinctively they admired him; they
marveled, among other things, at the precision and the rapidity of the
corrections the master executed under their eyes. Later, when experience
had come to him, Rodin greatly honored Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux; he was
one of those for whom the appearance of the famous group "The Dance,"
in the parvis of the Opéra, was a veritable event. At that moment he
discovered again in himself the influence of this beautiful spirit which
had been slumbering in him since he left the Petite Ecole; then he
became almost the disciple of Carpeaux. I know a figure of a bacchante
of Rodin's, a marble that is almost unknown, the flesh of which is so
supple and so light that one would say it was molded of wheat and honey
and the work of the sculptor of "The Dance." There floats also in its
countenance that spirituality, that expression as of a sort of angelic
malice which Carpeaux seems to have borrowed occasionally from the
figures of Leonardo da Vinci.

[Illustration: MINERVA.]

When the clocks of the Sorbonne quarter struck noon, Rodin left the
Petite Ecole; he walked to the Louvre, eating, as he went, a roll
and a cake of chocolate which was all he had for lunch. He sketched
the antiques. From there he went on to the Galerie des Estampes at
the Bibliothèque Nationale, where they loaned out, without any too
much good will, misplaced as that is with students, the albums of
plates after Michelangelo and Raphael and the great illustrated work,
"L'Histoire de Costume Romain." Because of this miserliness of theirs,
he did not always obtain the volumes he wished for, which were reserved
for habitués who were better known. This did not prevent him from
becoming initiated into the science of draperies. He executed hundreds
of sketches from memory, at last developing in himself the faculty of
remembering forms. From the rue de Richelieu, always on foot, he would
repair to the Gobelin manufactory. There each day, from five to eight
o'clock, he followed the course in design. Placed before nature itself,
before the nude, he absorbed more excellent principles. The teaching of
the eighteenth century was practised there also, and his work became
permanently impregnated by it.

In the morning, at daybreak, before going to the Petite Ecole, he found
the time to walk to an old painter's he knew, where he kept a number of
canvases going. In the evening he made careful copies of the sketches
he had jotted down at noon in the galleries of the Louvre and the
Bibliothèque. He drew far into the night; he drew even during supper,
at the frugal board of his family, surrounded by his father, his mother,
and his young sister, bending over his paper utterly regardless of his
health, a course of things that soon brought on gastric disorders from
which he suffered cruelly. In short, he toiled incessantly, ardent and
patient, obstinate, and full of self-confidence.

Assuredly he never in the world imagined that he was to become in time
one of the most illustrious representatives of the French art of the
nineteenth century, that he was to be the equal in renown of celebrities
like Lamartine, Alfred de Musset, or Michelet whom he saw occasionally
in the Luxembourg Gardens, without even daring to bow to them; but he
possessed a fixed and a precise idea of what was required to be a good
sculptor and the resolution to realize it. Little did he care how long
it would take, how tardy success might prove, how slow fortune might be
in coming; little did he care for obstacles, even for misery. He was
going the right way, unhesitating, untroubled, not compromising with
himself or with anybody. He possessed the irresistible will of a force.

I have had occasion to examine one of the note-books of Rodin's youth.
It is quite filled with sketches after engravings from the antique,
animals or human figures. The drawing is strangely compact, wilful,
for the boy of sixteen or seventeen that he was then. Already, in its
accumulation of strokes and hatchings which, during an entire period
of his artistic development, render the drawing of Rodin restless and
personal like a piece of writing, it exhibits an obstinate search for
relief, it speaks to us like hieroglyphics, revealing the power of his
grasp. His progress was rapid. At seventeen, he finished his first
studies. The moment came for him to pass from the school of decorative
arts to that of the Beaux-Arts and to prepare himself, like his
companions, for the examinations and for the competition for the _prix
de Rome_, the famous _prix de Rome_ that seemed to Rodin, inexperienced
student as he was, the crown of the most rigorous artistic studies.


Rodin presented himself at an examination for entrance into the Ecole
des Beaux-Arts. He was rejected. He presented himself a second time, but
with the same result. What was the reason for it? Neither he nor his
fellow-students could discover. They used to form a circle about him
when he worked. They admired the keenness and precision of his glance,
the already astonishing skill of his hand. They told him that he would
be accepted. He failed a third time. Finally a fellow-student who was
shrewder than the others gave the solution of the enigma. It requires a
somewhat long explanation.

The great school is under the direction of the members of the Academy
of Fine Arts. These professors correct the work of the students, set
the examinations, and award the prizes. They are recruited from members
of the society, are, in short, the representatives of official, or
conservative, art. Official art is a product of the Revolution of 1789.
Up to that time there were not two kinds of art in France. At the most,
until the time of Louis XIV only one secession disported itself under
the influence of Lebrun, painter to the king. Art was a unit, and its
divine florescence spread from France over all Europe. The church,
the kings, and their court of great lords and cultivated ladies were
the protectors and, indeed, the inspirers, of that flowering of beauty
that had grown from the time of the first Capets, indeed from the time
of the Merovingians, down to the end of the eighteenth century. The
First Empire marked in effect the beginning of the artistic decadence
of Europe and, one may say, of the world. Artists at that time divided
themselves into two camps, the conservatives, with, at their head,
David and his school, who pictured an art of convention and approved
formulas, and the independents, who continued, although in a somewhat
revolutionary and extravagant spirit, the true traditions of French art.
Among those fine rebellious men of talent of the first order were Rude,
Barye, and Carpeaux in sculpture, and Baron Gros, Eugène Delacroix,
Courbet, and Manet in painting.

[Illustration: PSYCHE.]

By a singular contradiction, Louis David was as baneful a theorist as
he was a great painter and, above all, an excellent draftsman. That
explains itself. The quality of his drawing he owed to the eighteenth
century, in which he had appeared and a pupil of which he was; but he
derived his esthetic doctrine from the Revolution, which made use of
the same sectarian zeal to obtain the triumph of certain false ideas
that it used to advance the right principles that were its glory.
Through one, David produced works of great worth and some admirable
portraits; through the other, he wrought great havoc among artists.
The world was, moreover, well disposed to submit to these principles.
When art restricts itself to repeating attitudes, gestures, approved
receipts, without having studied or observed them in nature in her
constant changes, it means decadence. If David was able to have his
theories accepted, it was because the time was ripe to receive them, to
be contented with them; and to say that the time was ripe is only to say
that it was a degenerate time, satisfied to be relieved of the task of
reflecting, of discovering for itself the laws of beauty, or, in short,
of working from the foundation.

Official painter of the Revolution and the Empire, Louis David
proclaimed his doctrine with the authority of a pontiff. He made a set
of narrow rules which advocated a superficial imitation of the antique,
a copying of the works of Greece and Rome, not in spirit, but in letter;
not in that accurate knowledge of construction and of the model, which
made up their supreme worth, but in their conventional attitudes and

Even from beyond the grave David continued to rule the academy of
the Beaux-Arts in the name of the artificial idealism which he had
proclaimed, and whoever rejected his sorry instruction saw himself
without mercy shown to the door of the national schools arid academies.
They had shown the door to Rude, the author of the masterpiece of the
Arc de Triomphe, "The Departure of the Volunteers of 1792." They had
shown it to the unhappy Carpeaux, treated all his life as a heretic and
persecuted by the official class, defenders of the so-called heroic
achievements and stereotyped forms. They went to every extreme in
their contest with free and determined genius. As a last resort they
employed every weapon of treachery against the undisciplined great,
those fallen angels of the false paradise of the Institute--weapons that
later they did not scruple to use against Rodin. They accused Carpeaux
of indecency, and in order to strengthen the miserable falsehood, a
perverse idiot flung a can of ink on the adorable group of "The Dance,"
that song of the nymphs, clamorous with youth, laughter, and music.

This digression in the story of Rodin's life explains his whole life. By
his manly independence, his persistent refusal to follow the dictates
of the school, he naturally found himself placed at the head of those
who antagonized the official class. Against an opponent of his strength
and obstinacy the struggle naturally took on new energy. It recalled
to mind the violence of the famous intellectual quarrels of other days
--the quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns in the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries, and that of the Classicists and the Romanticists
in 1830.

When Rodin presented himself at the great school, how, in his
inexperience, could he foresee the war of wild beasts that rages in
the thickets of art? It needed indeed a better-informed comrade to
disclose the situation to him. Then his eyes were opened. He understood
then that he would only be wasting his time in striving to force the
bronze doors that are closed against the influences of great nature and
her triumphant light, the implacable denouncer of the false in art.
Perceiving it at last, he renounced the thought of entering the school.
Later he gloried, in the fact that he had done so. Possibly he saw
the danger that he would have run of parching his spirit and chilling
his eye. "Ah," his friend, the sculptor Dalou, exclaimed long after,
"Rodin had the luck not to have been at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts!" Dalou
himself had not had that luck, and despite beautiful gifts and love for
the eighteenth century, he had not recovered from the false teaching.

Rodin, then, without knowing it, had fought his first battle, the slight
skirmish to the incessant fight that was to open. After that time the
name Institute, by which he understood the group of protagonists of a
bad form of art, took in his speech a formidable meaning. When he says,
"The Institute," he seems to call up some mythological monster, the
hydra of a hundred heads, from the malignant wounds of which the brave
usually die slowly. For him the Institute has come to mean a company of
able men who substitute dexterity for conscience, who, for long toil in
obscurity and poverty, substitute a premature eagerness for all that it
may bring--profitable relations, orders from the state, fortune, and
honors. In his opinion all that ought to come slowly in order not to
distract the artist from the study that alone can give him strength.
To him the rewards are secondary; true happiness lies in untrammeled
and passionate toil, in the exercise of growing intelligence that is
determined not to be stopped on the road to discovery.

[Illustration: THE ADIEU.]

Although the struggle is less clamorous to-day, it has not ended,
and it never will be ended, despite the wide fame of the master, now
known throughout the world as the greatest living artist. This Rodin
understands. What the contestants now seek to conquer is the public,
some for the purpose of obtaining from it consideration and profit, and
others an appreciation of true art. One class strives to flatter its
taste, which is bad; the other seeks to inculcate a knowledge of true
art in its own work. At the outset the contest is frightfully unequal,
for the ignorance of the public is abysmal. Incapable of discerning true
beauty, it relies only on the labels placed by the Institute on its own
works and on those of its partizans. They say to a man, "This is the
sort of thing that should be admired," and straightway he admires it,
if one can apply this expression of the highest pleasure of the spirit
to the vapid and dull contemplation that the public accords to the works
marked for its approval. No, at best the public does not know how to
admire; it does not understand the language of beauty.

At eighteen or nineteen, Rodin, being wholly without fortune, could not
continue his studies without quickly finding some means of support. It
was therefore necessary for him to earn his own living, and at once
he bravely entered upon his work as an ornament-maker, and became a
journeyman at a few francs a week. We need not regret it. This son of
the people, by remaining in the ranks of the working-class, consolidated
in himself the virtues of the class--their courage and industry, which
are the strong qualities of the humble, and, in the aggregate, those
of the whole nation. And the curiosity of a superior man for all the
rewards of the exercise of his intelligence led him to cultivate himself
unceasingly. His limited studies as a school-boy had not been extensive
enough to surfeit him; he now brought to the study of letters a mind
keenly alert, and with a joy as alive as love itself he devoted himself
to a study of great minds. He read the poets and the historians; he
became acquainted with the Greece of Homer and Æschylus, the Italy
of Dante, the England of Shakspere, and the France of Jean-Jacques
Rousseau; but up to that time he had concerned himself with only one
thing--his trade. He worked as a real artisan, with no wider vision,
with no thought of formidable power. He saw only his model and his
clay; he thought only of these, he loved only these. Thus he had become
a journeyman ornament-worker in clay. That did not prevent him from
perfecting himself in sculpture. On the contrary, it aided him.

The art of ornamentation was then considered, as it is still to-day, an
inferior art. People said, still say, of the sculpture of architecture,
as of the frescos and mosaic work of a building, that it is only
decoration. They declare it in a tone of indulgence that finds an excuse
for any mediocrity.

All this is a profound mistake. Sculptured ornament springs naturally
from architecture; it is the flowering of its fundamental elements. It
is an inherent part of the whole, as the mass of flowers and foliage
that crowns a tree is in a way the culminating point of the whole
vegetable organism. Ornament demands the same qualities that the
fundamental architectural structure demands, and fully as much talent
and perhaps even more; because, as Rodin says, one sees in it more
clearly, without distracting features, the form of genius. If it is not
well done in itself, its function, which is rigorously subordinated
to the whole, and consists in molding the contours of the structure
by underlining and marking them off, is reversed. It is then only
an excrescence, an arbitrary addition. Only mediocre artisans, when
employed on a building or a jewel, use ornament capriciously, without
proportioning and subordinating it to the mass; they weary and disgust
the beholder.

Rodin and his companions did not content themselves with copying, and
more or less distorting, their Greek, Roman, and Renaissance models,
which were repeated to satiety in all the workshops of the world,
and done over and over again so many times, out of place and out
of proportion, that they had lost all significance. Their employer
possessed a beautiful, but neglected, garden, where a profusion of
plants ran riot. Here were models in abundance. Here, in reproducing
these, the young craftsmen refreshed their vocation; they copied their
ornaments from nature; they studied foliage and flowers from life.
To do new work, they had only to borrow from the vegetable world its
inexhaustible combinations of beauty.

Here Rodin, by his cleverness and rapidity, became without a peer among
them all, and drew to himself the admiration of his fellow-workers. It
was here that he met Constant Simon, his elder by many years, who was
the first man to teach him to model in profile. It was one of the great
epochs in his life. One may say that from that time the two great
laws that have given his sculpture its power--the study of nature and
the right method of modeling--passed into his blood, as it were. The
secret that Simon imparted to him was like a philter that inflamed his
soul with enthusiasm. He became intoxicated with the idea of seeing
clearly and of holding his hand strictly accountable to what his eyes
disclosed. And he possessed, too, both youth and an indefatigable vigor.
He sketched everything he could, wherever he could. One saw him making
sketches on the street, in the horse-market, jostled by the beasts,
repulsed by men, yet indifferent to all difficulties in his enchantment
in his discovered prize, at the Jardin des Plantes, where he passed
hours before the cages and in the parks, studying the poses of the deer
and the grace of the moving antelopes.


At that period Barye taught at the Museum. Rodin had become acquainted
with the son of the celebrated sculptor. The two had discovered a corner
of the basement, a sort of cave, damp and gloomy, where they installed
some seats made of old boxes and delighted themselves in modeling
from clay. From the Museum they borrowed a few anatomical specimens,
fragments of the parts of animals, and these they carried to their
cavern and pored over in their efforts to copy them. Sometimes Barye
himself would come to cast his eye over their work and give them a word
of advice, and then would go away, buried in a silent reverie. He was
a man of simple habits, with the appearance of a college tutor, in his
well-worn coat, but giving an impressive suggestion of great force and
worth. His son and Rodin little understood him; they feared him somewhat
and only half profited by his suggestions. Later the author of "The
Burghers of Calais," kindled by the genius of the gloomy, severe man
whom he had misunderstood, felt a deep remorse at not having rendered to
Barye, while living, the homage of admiration which the master merited,
and which perhaps would have been sweet to his solitary heart.

Rodin has had only rarely the chance to model animals. He has never
received an order for an equestrian statue, and he has regretted it. We
have from him only one small rough model of a statue of General Lynch
on horseback, which was never executed, and the beautiful relief of the
chariot of Apollo which forms the pedestal of the monument of Claude
Lorrain at Nancy. But though he has not modeled animals, he has many
times sketched them, and he has studied profoundly their anatomy and

It is not so much in the powerful sketches that all his life he has
continued to make with the same daily care with which a pianist
practises his scales that Rodin shows the chief characteristic of his
nature, as it is in accumulating these that he has been enabled to
understand relationship between different forms, and to establish the
unity between the forms of man and the animals, between the mountains
and the vegetable world. It is by understanding this unity that he
can occasionally interpret with a scientific exactness this common
relationship. In modeling a centaur or the chimera or a spirit with
powerful wings, the mythological creature that appears from his hands
does not appear less a transcript from reality than each bust or each
statue that has been vigorously wrought from the living model. There is
no weakening in the points where the bust of the man or of the woman
attaches itself to the body of the animal, no doubt that the beautiful,
strong wings of the angels are as perfectly united to their bodies and
are as necessary as their arms or legs.

When about twenty-two or twenty-three Rodin entered the atelier of
Carrier-Belleuse. At that time the vogue of this charming artist was
great. He well represented the spirit and workmanship of the eighteenth
century in the knickknack art of the Second Empire. He was a Clodion
of the boulevard. Besides the spirited busts, some of which, like
those of Ernest Renan, Jules Simon, and the actress Marie Laurent,
were celebrated, he sent out from his atelier, in the rue de la Tour
d'Auvergne at Montmartre, hundreds of designs to be used in industrial
art: mantelpieces, centerpieces for tables, vases, ornamental clocks,
and decorative figures and groups. Rodin, then, applied himself to
executing for Carrier-Belleuse a variety of statuettes and figures.
There was in the task a great danger, for he saw the risk of limiting
himself to a facile use of his art that was both remunerative and
attractive; but his sturdy Northern temperament was able to protect him
against every danger, whether of success or poverty.

Carrier had an astonishing skill, and not only worked without a model,
but compelled his employees to work without one. His rough sketches were
admirable, but he weakened in working them out. Rodin never trifled with
his art. Before going to the atelier he always took care to study his
subject in the nude and to fix it in his memory as firmly as possible.
As soon as he reached his bench he transferred to the clay the result
of his remembered observations. On returning to his home in the evening
he consulted his model anew in order to correct his work of the day. It
was for him an excellent exercise of memory. The true workman is quick
to turn to advantage all the inconveniences of a situation. I have heard
Rodin relate that often in the course of a quarrel with a friend or a
relative he would completely forget the subject of the contention and
the anger of his opponent in his absorption, from the point of view of
a sculptor, in the play of the muscles and their influence on the
expression of the face of the angry speaker.


Rodin remained about five years with Carrier-Belleuse. What works his
active hands accomplished there in a day! One still finds them in the
shops of the sellers of bronzes, in the shops of the dealers of the
Marais and the Faubourg St. Antoine. Certainly hundreds of examples were
brought there, to the great profit of tradesmen, but to the injury of
the artist; for he drew from them only such wages as the least competent
workers are to-day content with.

One may see in the gallery of Mrs. ---- of New York certain little
terra-cotta busts which date from that period. They represent pretty
Parisian women in hats, whose wild locks veil glances full of spirit and
roguishness. Creatures of youth and frivolity, they are sisters of the
elegant ladies that Alfred Stevens drew with his delightful brush, and
which were the charm of Paris under Napoleon III. Who could believe that
they had sprung from the hands of Rodin, the austere creator of "The
Burghers of Calais" and of the "Victor Hugo"?

But before becoming the audaciously personal genius that he now is,
he was subjected to the most varied influences--influences that have
been felt by the modern sculptors with whom he has worked and those
that guided the old masters. He has none the less shielded himself
from the world. He declares indeed, with the authority that permits the
freedom, that originality signifies nothing; that that which counts is
the quality of the intrinsic sculpture; that if the temperament of the
artist is truly steadfast, he always finds himself after the necessary
study; and finally that it is of little importance whether a statue
bears the name of Praxiteles or that of one of his pupils. The essential
thing is that it is well done, that it appears in a great epoch.
Anonymous, it proclaims none the less to the eyes of the man of taste
the signature of genius.

In order to live Rodin applied himself to the most varied occupations;
thus he gained the liberty to labor at his own work for a few hours.
He chipped at stone and marble for the benefit of sculpture to-day
unknown, but then in vogue; he made sketches for trinkets for certain
fashionable jewelers, and fashioned objects of decorative art ordered of
him by manufacturers. Despite a considerable loss of time, he obtained
thus a true apprenticeship in art wholly like that which in earlier days
was obtained by Ghiberti, Donatello, and most of the great artists of,
the Renaissance, who were proud to be good artisans before they were
accounted great sculptors.

Thus finally he was enabled to realize his first dream--to have an
atelier of his own. His atelier! It was a stable, at a rental of
twenty-four dollars a year, in the rue Lebrun, in the quarter of the
Gobelins, near which he was born. It was a cold hovel, a cave indeed,
with a well sunk in an angle of one wall that at every season exhaled
its chilling breath. It did not matter. The place was sufficiently
large and well lighted. The artist, young and strong, and as happy as
possible in his stable, felt his talent increasing. There he accumulated
a quantity of studies and works until the place was so crowded that he
could scarcely turn himself about; but being too poor to have them cast,
he lost the greater part of them. Every day he spent hours moistening
the cloths that enveloped them, yet not without suffering frightful
disasters. Sometimes the clay, through being too soft, would settle and
fall asunder; sometimes it would become dry, crack, and crumble. One
day, in moving, the great figure of a bacchante that had been tenderly
molded for months was seized by the rough hands of the furniture-movers,
and broke, crashing to the ground. What lost efforts! What destroyed
beauty! Even to-day when the artist speaks of it his heart bleeds anew.

At that time he carried about the ateliers of Paris a design to which he
gave the name of "The Man with the Broken Nose." Struck by the curious
face of an old shepherd, flat-nosed, with every appearance of a slave
that had been crushed under heel, Rodin made a bust of the man and
strove to portray the energy and imposing simplicity that had astonished
him in the antique busts and the statue of "The Knife-Grinder" that he
had seen in the galleries of the Louvre. The solidity of the design,
the patience shown in the composition, and the strength of the details
coöperated in producing an admirable whole. The wrinkles of the
forehead, the creased eyelids, the deep furrows of the face converged
toward the base of the broken nose in an expression of old age and
hardship, presenting an admirable head of a Thessalian shepherd. Alas!
one frosty day the clay contracted, and the skull of "The Man with
the Broken Nose" fell to the ground, leaving only the face. Rodin did
not make over the composition. Too honest to restore the skull by
approximation, he contented himself with modeling the face, to-day
become famous.

He cast it in plaster, and sent it to the Salon of 1864. There it
was rejected. Thus the opposition that had closed the door of the
Beaux-Arts against him was renewed at his first attempt to take rank
among contemporary artists. The reason was the same; it will always
and invariably be the same: this sculptor of the naked truth, this
fervent lover of nature, offends, shocks, and wounds the majority of
the followers of formulas, the imitators of the past, the makers of
smooth and pretty wares, things without conscience or significance. The
artist remains alone with his deception. The day has not yet come
when enlightened amateurs can understand in which school true talent
is to be found, when they are able to renounce the moldings on nature,
the theatrical postures, the irritating silliness of figures a thousand
times repeated.


They will some day learn to perceive truth, observation, strength, and
grace. When that day comes they will throw out of the window all the
trumpery art of which they will have become tired, in order to collect
that of Rude, Barye, Carpeaux, Rodin, Jules Desbois, Camille Claudel,
those glories of the nineteenth century.

The year of the Salon of 1864 may serve to close the first period of
Rodin's career. It is difficult, indeed impossible, to place between
fixed dates the events of a life that has been an example of uniform
continuity; but nevertheless it is permitted to one to say that the year
1864 marks the end of the first youth of the master. His preliminary
studies, those which one may call the studies of his mere profession,
were ended. He was then at the beginning of larger studies; he was
about to visit Belgium, Italy, and France; he was about to come face
to face with the most varied geniuses and examine their work. He was
about to question them rigorously, to demand of them their technical
methods. He was also about to exalt himself in the presence of these
immortal thoughts, to become intoxicated with the desire to equal them
in science and greatness. From that time on he approached them as a
disciple, as a man who had already thought much and comprehended much,
and who was worthy to study them and follow in their footsteps: in a
word, as an artist of their own lineage.


Rodin worked under Carrier-Belleuse from 1865 to 1870. He remained
in Paris during the Franco-German War. What influence did this event
have upon him? He has said little about it. Although he has a strong
attachment for his native land, he has none of the extravagant
patriotism of a Rude, whose great soul was caught up in the flames of
the national epopee. Rodin has too contemplative a temperament; he is
too devoted to reflective work to allow himself to be long disturbed by
external facts, even the gravest.

At the signing of the peace, he went to Belgium, drawn by the promise of
work in decorative art. He remained there five years, staying first in
Brussels, then in Antwerp.

This period of his life left with him a delightful memory. He was poor
and unknown, but full of the vigor of youth, and free in how splendid a
freedom! He had all his time to himself, without any of those thousand
obligations that eat up the days of a celebrated man and break down his

Life in Belgium was at that time simple, easy-going, family-like. Many
small pleasures made it attractive; the cleanliness of the streets and
the houses was a constant delight to the eye; the bread, the beer, the
coffee were excellent and cost almost nothing. On Sundays bands of
children, fair-haired, robust, healthy, dressed in aprons very white
and very well starched, ran about laughing and singing; the women went
to church; the men assembled in the sanded gardens of the public houses
to play at ball, sipping glasses of _faro_ and _lambic_. The whole
scene was full of the charm of intimacy and happiness which for the
artist served as a sort of frame, so to say, for the old pictures. The
works of the Flemish painters are so impressive in all their power,
in the splendor of their fresh coloring and their gem-like finish,
that Brussels, Ghent, Bruges, Antwerp, Mechlin seem to have been built
and decorated by the Brueghels, the Jan Steens, the Tenierses, whose
dazzling canvases strike one almost as if they had been the plans for
the construction of these queenly cities instead of being simply mirrors
of them. As for nature, its grandeur and its nobility are disconcerting
in such a little country.

Rodin rented a modest room in the chaussée de Brendael, in one of
the quarters of the capital quite close to the Bois de la Cambre.
He worked there during the whole of the day; his young wife did the
housework, went out marketing, sewed beside him, posed for him,
helped him to moisten his clay, made herself, as she said proudly, his
_garçon d'atelier_. He modeled caryatids for the Palais de la Bourse at
Brussels; for the Palais des Académies he made a frieze representing
children and the attributes of the arts and sciences; he was charged
also with the execution of decorative pieces for different municipal
buildings of the city of Antwerp. Nowadays the Belgians display with
pride these works, in which, without flattering them, one can recognize
the touch of a future master.

Intent as he was upon his modeling work, Rodin did not abandon drawing;
he added to it landscape-painting in oils. The Brabant country-side
is one of the most beautiful in Europe. The Forest of Soigne, which
surrounds Brussels, is full of the lofty trees of the Northern
countries, splendid beeches, healthy as the bodies of athletes, reaching
up into the sky like columns of light bronze, planted in regular rows,
giving the impression of an immense and solemn temple. Narrow avenues,
alleys, pierce the long naves; one's soul seems to glide lingeringly
along these shadowy paths drawn on to the end by the far-away glimmer
like stained glass. The light that falls from above through the
tree-tops slips down the long green trunks, gray or silvery, bringing
with it a touch of the sky. There is no exuberant vegetation, none
of that undergrowth trembling with delicate little leaves, such as
that which makes the spiritual grace of the Ile-de-France, arranged
for the frolic of nymphs and fawns. This is the Gothic forest, the
tree-cathedral, a fitting place for the miracles of Christianity and
the devout walk of solitaries. Rodin fell in love with this forest. His
grave soul, his youth, which knew nothing of frivolity, found itself
here. His nature, so full of self-contained enthusiasm and the profound
and slowly moved spirit of admiration, not yet capable of expressing
itself, found its true element under the protection of these age-old
beeches. But one corner enchanted him, a verdurous hollow filled with
running water that breaks the austerity of the wood, the valley of
Groenendael. There the majestic colonnade of trunks opens out, with the
condescension of giants, before the caprices of an undulating glade. It
is covered with a down of grass, like an immense green cloud, always
pure, always fresh, which spring and autumn embroider with delicate
shoots of a multitude of flowers, like the tapestries of the Flemish
masters. Little ponds shyly spread out their mirrors, full of the sky,
full of reflections. An old low-built house, entirely white, speaks
of security, of calm shelter, of good nourishment, in the midst of
this verdurous solitude, where one hears only the song of the birds
and where squirrels cross in their flight like sudden flames. The
valley of Groenendael is far enough away from Brussels to be almost
always deserted and silent. It was the site the famous Brabançon
mystic, Ruysbroeck the Admirable, chose in the fourteenth century for
a monastery. At that time the Forest of Soigne sheltered no less than
eleven monastic houses in its fragrant, shadowy depths. At the north of
the valley the ground rises and the path leads one to the modest chapel
of Notre Dame de Bonne-Odeur.

At this period Rodin certainly knew nothing of the great contemplatives
of the fourteenth century or of this same Ruysbroeck whom later a
glorious compatriot, Maurice Maeterlinck, kinsman by election of the
hermit, was to translate and interpret; but in the peaceful glade, the
vallon vert, as under the vaults of the great forest, the soul of the
sculptor rejoined those of the old monks who perhaps still wander there
at times; it shared with them the religion of this beauty which their
dumb love of nature had come thither to seek.

At dawn he would start out, loaded down with his box of colors.
His companion followed him, proud to carry part of the artist's
paraphernalia. He was on his way to make sketches, to take notes of the
landscape, to jot down his impressions; but often the day passed without
his touching his brushes. It was not indifference or indolence on the
part of this great worker, but simply that he had not the strength to
interrupt his delightful contemplations. Time lost? In the case of
another, perhaps. Not for him. His excursion had no immediate result;
that was all: but how he would observe, how he would compare, how he
would reflect! He was initiating himself in the sense of proportion,
grandeur of style, and the nobility of simplicity. He was studying the
laws of the light and shade distributed by the columns the true work of
the architect. It was no longer school lessons that he was prosecuting
here; it was the mighty exercise of personal talent, the ripening of
his taste that was taking place, thanks to the technical knowledge he
already possessed. The sense of the eternal laws comes only to those who
can contrail them through long experience.

Later, when the time came for Rodin to visit the cathedrals, he was to
understand better than any other this art which has sprung from the
forests of France, engendered by their mysterious grandeur, once full of
terrors and marvels. The benefit which he derived immediately from his
acquaintance with Belgium was the experience of those intellectual joys
and that happiness which await any one who is serious, loyal, reverent
in the presence of the divine work that offers itself as an object of
study to the assiduous.

Another besides himself had already received this teaching of nature in
exactly this place. Rude, whom the Bourbons had exiled on their return
to France because of his worship of Napoleon, passed several years in
Brussels and executed there a number of works, among others the famous
bas-reliefs of the Château de Tervueren, since destroyed by fire; "La
Chasse de Méléagre," of which the authorities of the Belgian department
of fine arts were fortunately able to take casts. On his way between
Brussels and Tervueren, Rude went every day several leagues on foot,
crossing the Forest of Soignes, where he, too, endeavored to forget the
lessons of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, on the benches of which he had,
according to his own confession, lost many years.


In addition to these works of decorative art, Rodin executed a number
of busts and sketches. He even found time to make a large figure
modeled after his wife, a figure draped like a Gothic statue, which
he worked over lovingly. It had the same disastrous fate as that
which befell the other one at Paris, and for the same reason; poverty
prevented the artist from having a cast taken of his work in time: like
the "Bacchante," it was completely destroyed. Despite this loss, the
sculptor was not discouraged; work for him was a happiness which was
begun anew each day; he at once began on another subject. This time he
took for his model a young man whose acquaintance he had made and who
willingly consented to pose for him.

This young man was not a model by trade, spoiled by the conventional
attitudes which the Parisian sculptors impose on professionals. He
was a soldier, living in barracks near Rodin's house. As soon as the
sculptor saw, disengaging itself from the clothes, the graceful figure
of this boy of twenty-five who was not aware of his beauty and did
quite simply whatever his companion asked him, he promised himself
not to abandon this work before he had carried it as far as his skill
permitted him to go. His model disposed himself in simple attitudes,
which were not vitiated by any pretentious forethoughts. One day he came
toward him, his arms upraised, his head thrown back, with an air of
youthfully voluptuous lassitude that filled the artist with enthusiasm.
One would have said that he was a young hero staggering under the
shock of a wound. And Rodin set himself to execute the statue of the
wounded hero. But nature lends itself to infinite interpretations.
The sense of an attitude that is well rendered creates of itself more
comprehensive ideas. When we contemplate one who is wounded or ill,
obscure impressions agitate our spirit, impelling it toward ideas
higher than those of wounds and illness. It skirts the frontiers of
death, the enigma of annihilation or of the world to come, and all
those unformulated sentiments, which in their confused flight haunt
the profound regions of the soul. Before his beautiful model Rodin
experienced these emotions and transcribed them upon his sculpture. In
its unblemished nudity, it bears the sign of no one epoch; it is the
eternal man touched in his innermost sensibility by something of which
he knows not the cause. Is it his soul, is it his flesh that trembles?
One does not know. No knowledge comes without suffering. Rodin, aware
immediately of this effect of transposition, in the delicious surprise
of the artist who sometimes sees himself surpassed by his own work,
christened the statue, "The Man of the Age of Bronze," that is to say,
one who is passing from the unconsciousness of primitive man into the
age of understanding and of love. A few years later he gave it this
still happier final name, "The Man who Awakens to Nature."

He worked over it eighteen months. There is no part of this harmonious
figure that has not been passionately thought out. He had to render,
beneath the supple covering of the skin, those firm, fine muscles which
possess the elasticity of youth and its sobriety. In giving the sense
of the presence of these things, one creates the illusion of their
activity. This is the secret of great sculpture and of all the arts, to
evoke that which we do not see by the quality of that which we do see.
"Carefully examine the Venus de Medici," Rude used to advise his pupils,
"and under the polish of the skin you will see the whole muscular system

Rodin did not spare either his own strength or that of his model. An
implacable goddess led him on, his conscience. He did not content
himself with rendering only the masses that his direct vision gave him.
In this way he would have possessed only two dimensions, the length and
width of the human body. He needed the exact relief of masses, which
is the basis of _ronde-bosse_, of "cubic sculpture." He studied his
profiles not only from below, but from above. He mounted a painting
ladder and looked down over his model; he measured the surface of the
skull, which, seen from above, has an ovoid form; he took and compared
with his clay model the dimensions of the shoulders, the chest, the
hips, the feet as they appeared with the floor as a background. He
observed the points where the arm muscles were inserted, and those of
the thighs and the legs. How, after such a rigorously minute process
of noting his masses, could his work be flat? That became impossible.
But the geometric labor, the taking of measurements, was not all. The
next question was to reassemble the different profiles by careful
transcription. There is an entire school of conscientious sculptors who
believe that they can obtain reality by the simple method of making
identical points correspond. They multiply the measurements taken from
the model with the aid of a plumb-line and a compass; it is only a
mechanical process which does not even give good practical effects. To
unify the manifold surface of the human body, to endow the whole with
the suppleness of life, with its harmonious continuity and poise,
the personal judgment of the artist must unceasingly intervene. His
own special taste is supremely what adjusts the elements which are
waiting to be unified by him in order to take on animation and to live
one beside another. It is during this last effort that the expression,
summoned up by the truth of the ensemble, comes almost of itself to
the fingers of the sculptor. If the preceding principles have not been
scrupulously observed, it seems to refuse to come; it is the reward
only of conscience joined with intelligence; it is the fruit of this
indissoluble union that works in the spirit of the true artist. The true
expression is that to which we give the indefinable name of poetry.


Since the creation of "The Man who Awakens to Nature," in which during
two years he had eagerly sought it, this became the characteristic
of Rodin's talent. He had conquered it for all time; and so while
his insatiable will applies itself with no less energy to other
researches, that of movement, of character, of lighting, and sometimes
over-emphasizes them, the work that comes from his hand may appear
strange, excessive; it will never be mediocre, never indifferent.

And now let us glance at the image of this young man, this proud,
unblemished human plant. All we have just been saying is forgotten in
the force of our impression. The most powerful impression, first of
all, is indolence. It is absorbed in itself; it exhausts like a great
draught of life the veins of those who respond to it. Hence the silence,
the long, dumb contemplation, the sense of incertitude one experiences
in the presence of its beauty. It is not to our spirit that it first
addresses itself. Its voluptuousness, whencesoever come, enchants our
senses; then the intellect demands an explanation, studies it, traces
back the sensation to its sources through one of those rapid and
manifold changes which are the law of such natural phenomena as light,
sound, electricity.

"The man who awakens to nature," said Rodin, in the presence of his
statue. Indeed the body bends over, as if under the exquisite caress of
the breezes of spring. The hand rests itself upon the head, flung back
as if to hold in the somewhat mournful splendor of some too beautiful
vision. The whole torso is gently stirred by the emotion springing
up from the depths of the flesh to die out upon the surface of the
imperceptibly agitated muscles. He leans lightly backward, bending like
a bow and at the same time like a traveler walking toward the dawn;
he is drawn on by the desire to renew this inner emotion that swells
his human heart almost to the bursting-point. By this double movement
reconstituting life, the action does not interrupt itself. It evokes
the past and the future; the obscure shadows out of which this soul is
endeavoring to emerge and the bright regions toward which it advances.

Auguste Rodin was at this time thirty-five years old. In the career
of the artist, this admirable figure has a special significance, that
of something symbolic. It marks one of the happiest phases of the
sculptor's life, the period of revelation through which he had just been
living during his sojourn by the forest of Groenendael. He, too, had
awakened to Nature in the heart of the sacred wood; he, too, had come to
know the somewhat dazzling torment of a being fully awake to the beauty
of the world. This beauty he had at last penetrated; he felt it with all
the strength of a ripened heart, he adored it; he made it his religion.

Such is the inner history of this statue. There is another, a history of
the anecdotal sort, which is well known to-day, but which it is proper
to recall in a complete biography of the master.

The adventure of "The Age of Bronze" was the first resounding battle
that Rodin fought in his struggle for the cause of art. It was a
victory, but only after great combats.

The plaster model appeared in the Salon of 1877. Before this proud and
spirited figure a number of visitors paused, ravished by a sensation
that was absolutely new. In itself there was nothing clamorous, no
attempt to attract attention by extravagance of gesture or exaggerated
expression--quite the contrary; the fragrance of a shy beauty, an
idyllic freshness, mingled with the passionate poetry of a virile,
artistic conscience, an exquisite sense of measure, a delightful
elegance characteristically French, of the north of France, grave and
restrained, and with a something hitherto unseen, a vigor till then
unknown diffused through this adolescent flesh, irradiating it with
tenderness, with a noble charm, a caressing sadness.

Immediately the rumor began to circulate, welcomed here, spurned there,
by the world of professionals, amateurs, and journalists: the anatomy
of the new work was too exact, its modeling too precise for it to be an
interpretation of the model; it was a cast from nature, and the sculptor
who gave out as the result of his own labor this mechanical copy of a
human body was nothing but an impostor.

What does it matter? thought the public in its up-and-down common sense.
There are plenty of fine casts from nature; so much the better for the
name of Rodin if he has been particularly successful in this line.

But Rodin was indignant. This nude, so obstinately worked over, a cast!
That he should have committed such a deception, he the scrupulous molder
of clay! Oh, he knew well enough that most of the great modern sculptors
do not burden themselves with so many scruples and lend themselves too
often to the hasty method of taking casts; he condemned it with all the
force of his own probity. He knew well that in this very Salon of 1877
more than fifty pieces of sculpture about which nothing was said owed
their existence to this malpractice of which he was accused and of which
he would never be guilty, because he considered it the very negation
of art. For of course taking casts is nothing but the reproduction
of nature in its immobility. By means of it one is able to take the
impression of forms, but one cannot grasp movement or expression. It
is possible to take the mold of an arm, a leg, an inert body; one can
take a good cast of the stiffened mask of the dead; one cannot calculate
through the medium of the plaster the attitude and the modifications of
form of a man walking or falling or the eloquence of a face lighted up
by the reflection of the inner mind. This transcription of the whole
is the exclusive privilege of the artist. He alone seizes and fixes
the general impression; for it is made up not only of the immediate
movement, but of that which precedes and that which follows. His eye
alone registers the rapid succession, and his skill reproduces it. While
the cast, like the photograph, only constitutes a unity detached from
the whole, sculpture from nature reëstablishes the whole itself and
represents the uninterrupted vibration which is life.

That explains how there happen to be, on the one hand, so many
hard figures, weak and cold images, turned out hastily by lazy and
conscienceless sculptors, and, on the other, those works that possess a
charm that is mysterious to those who know nothing of its source, who
are unaware of this method of observation and labor which a supreme
effort veils in the easy grace and the apparent facility that enchants
us in the things of nature.

The accusation brought against Rodin became more definite. There was a
veritable upheaval of opinion in the world of the Salons. He protested,
with the firmness of an artist resolved to suffer no blot upon his
honor. He insisted upon receiving justice. Unknown, without means of
support, without fortune, he might well have waited a long time for it.
He turned toward Belgium, seeking defenders in the country where he had
made "The Age of Bronze"; but the academic virus did not spare him; the
official sculptors remained deaf to the appeal of their confrère. For
that matter, where did he come from, this ambitious stone-cutter who
claimed the title of sculptor without waiting on the good pleasure of
the pontiffs?

Rodin's model alone, the young soldier of Brussels, became indignant at
the affront to his sculptor. He wanted to hasten to Paris and exhibit
himself naked before the eye of the jury of honor which had just been
constituted and cry out to them that he had posed nearly two years for
the artist who had been so unjustly attacked. But nothing is simple. He
had posed, thanks to the special good will of the captain commanding the
company to which he belonged, and in defiance of military regulations.
To reveal this fact would be to compromise the officer, and so he had to
remain silent.

Rodin had photographs and casts taken from his model and sent them
to the experts. All this was costly and uncertain. It was only after
months of waiting that they were examined. On the jury were several art
critics, including Charles Iriarte, a learned writer and distinguished
mind, and Paul de Saint-Victor, author of the "Deux-Masques,"
the sumptuous writer of so much brilliant prose. Alas! the most
insignificant sculptor, provided he had only been sincere, could have
settled Rodin's case a hundred times better. A man of his own trade,
possessing the elements of justice, would have immediately decided the
question according to the facts, while the critics and writers relied
wholly upon personal impressions, and, to the great bitterness of the
sculptor, when they delivered an opinion they did not altogether reject
the accusation that he had taken casts, allowing doubt to rest upon the
honesty of Rodin. He himself did not know what to do next. Chance was
more favorable to him than men.

At that time he was executing for a great decorator some ornamental
motives destined for one of the buildings of the Universal Exposition
of 1878. The sculptor, Alfred Boucher, a pupil of Paul Dubois, came
one day on a business errand to see the decorator. In the studios he
noticed Rodin at work on the model of a group of children intended for
a cartouche. Boucher, who knew about the accusation that hung over
him, observed him with the liveliest interest. He witnessed the rapid,
skilful, amazingly dexterous execution producing under his very eye
a tender efflorescence of childish flesh on the firm and perfectly
constructed little bodies. _And Rodin was working without models!_
Alfred Boucher was a product of the Ecole; he had taken the _grand prix
de Rome_; he was ten years younger than Rodin; but he was an honest man;
he hastened to relate to his master, Paul Dubois, what he had seen. The
creator of the "Florentine Singer" and "Charity" in his turn wished to
see things for himself. With Claude Chapu he went to the decorator's
and both of them decided then and there that the hand that molded so
skilfully from memory the figures of the cherubs was certainly capable,
in its extraordinary knowledge of human anatomy, of having executed that
of "The Age of Bronze." Thereupon they convinced their confrères and
decided to write the under-secretary of state a solemn letter in which
all of them, answering for the good faith of Rodin, declared that he
had made a beautiful statue and that he would become a great sculptor.
The letter was signed by Carrier-Belleuse, Paul Dubois, Chapu, Thomas
Delaplanche, Chaplin Falguière.

[Illustration: BUST OF THE COUNTESS OF W----.]

This tempered considerably the rancor of the artist.

It is a strange fact that for years he underrated this statue. In 1899
he gave his first great exhibition of all his work. It was to the Maison
d'Art of Brussels that the honor of this project was due, and it was
carried out in a style and with a good taste which no later exhibition
of the master has surpassed, or even attained.

As he had charged me with the supervision of the sending off of his
works, to the number of fifty, I begged him to include among them "The
Age of Bronze." I hoped that the public, and especially the artists of
Belgium, might be able to study the evolution of his technique through
his typical works, executed at different periods of his career. Nothing
could induce him to consent to it. He declared that in twenty years
his modeling had undergone a complete transformation, that it had
become more spacious and more supple, and that the exhibition of this
statue could serve no purpose and be of good to nobody. I urged him to
go and look at it again. The bronze, sent to the Salon of 1880, with
the plaster figure of "St. John the Baptist in Prayer," awarded, oh
splendor of official miserliness! a medal of the third class, had been
bought by the state a few years later and set up in a corner of the
Luxembourg Gardens, an out-of-the-way corner, but one that the light
shadows of the young trees made charming. The master refused. Two or
three years afterward, one morning while we were talking, I led him
unsuspecting toward this little grove. Thinking of something else he
lifted his Head, casting an indifferent glance at the solitary bronze.
Surprised, he examined it, while a happy emotion lighted up his face;
then he walked slowly around it. Finally he admitted quietly that he
had been mistaken, that the statue seemed to him really beautiful, well
constructed, and carefully sculptured. In order to comprehend it he had
had to forget it, to see it again suddenly, and to judge it as if it had
been the work of another hand.

After this readoption, his affection for it was restored; he had several
copies cast in bronze and cut in stone, and it has become perhaps one
of his most popular and most sought-after works. Museums of Europe and
America, lovers of art in both hemispheres, consider it an honor to
possess replicas.

It was the first of Rodin's great statues, or, rather, the first that
has been preserved. Several other works of capital importance serve
as landmarks in the progress of his talent. Around them are grouped
fragments, busts, innumerable delightful little compositions, all
treated with the same care and equally reflecting the result of his
studies; but, as ever, it is the major works that mark most visibly the
points of departure and arrival of the different periods of his artistic
development. These works are: "The Age of Bronze" (1877); "Saint John
the Baptist" (1880); "The Gate of Hell" (1880-19--, not finished); "The
Creation of Man" (1881); "The Burghers of Calais" (1889); "Victor Hugo"
(1896); "Balzac" (1898); "The Seasons" (pediments of stone, 1905);
"Ariadne" (in course of execution).

These works will be described and characterized, in the course of this
book, at the dates of their appearance.


During his stay in Belgium, Rodin studied the Flemish painters. Free
from the prejudices of the schools, unaware of the theories of the
critics, sensitive to the beautiful in every form, following only
his personal taste supported by the study of the masters, he ranged
over the vast domain of art through regions the most dissimilar and
superficially the most opposed. Of course he had his preferences; he
returned unceasingly to the antique and the Gothic; but his preferences
did not blind him. His admiration passed rapidly from the splendors of
Greek and Roman architecture to the voluptuous graces of the seventeenth
century. His love for Donatello and Michelangelo did not prevent him
from appreciating Bernini.

Attracted first by the marvelous Flemish Gothic artists, Memling,
Massys, the Van Eycks, he was later delighted with the homely scenes of
Jan Steen, of Brueghel, of Teniers; he enjoyed them as an artist and as
a simple man who knew the value of domestic joys. Then he was haunted by
the sensual pomp of Jordaens and above all Rubens.

[Illustration: THE POET AND THE MUSE.]

The triumphant brush of Rubens sculptured as much as it painted. The
science of foreshortening and that of ceiling painting, his way of
modeling forms in the light and by means of light--all this brought his
art into the realm of sculpture; and when Rodin came to seek effects of
light and shadow that were new to sculpture, he remembered the lessons
of the Antwerp master. From that time on Rubens was for him a splendid
subject for study and would have fortified him, had that been necessary,
in the love of drawing; for beautiful drawing leads, to everything, to
_color_, in sculpture as well as in painting.

Flemish art was not enough to satisfy this thirst for understanding that
devoured the soul of the artist now in the full swing of the fermenting
force of his faculties. He wished to see Italy or at least to catch a
glimpse of it. His resources were so slender indeed that his journey
could not have been long. It did not matter. He would form an idea of
the immensity of its treasure and confirm in himself the desire to
return. He wished also to see France, as alluring to him as Greece, and
whose cathedrals are perhaps not less beautiful than the Parthenon.

He started for Italy in 1875, and he accomplished his first tour of
France in 1877. He set forth. He was young and strong; he made the pass
of Mont Cenis on foot. He was unknown and without connections. What
did it matter? In the midst of these scenes so radiant with memories of
history and art, did he not feel an intoxication such as the soldiers of
Bonaparte alone must have experienced, catching sight of the plains of
Lombardy, where they were to forget the hardships of the campaign?

For Rodin, Italy meant the antique; it meant Donatello and Michelangelo.
The antique he had already to a considerable extent studied in the
Louvre. Donatello and Michelangelo conquered him at the first glance--a
tumultuous conquest. The severity of Donatello's style impassioned him;
the rigid honesty of his realism, the desire of this younger brother of
Dante to see things grandly, the equal desire to see things simply, this
Gothic genius deeply moved "in the mid-way of this our mortal life" by
pagan beauty and touched by the breath of the Renaissance, impressed
the French artist and became a dominating memory. From that time on in
the most beautiful of his busts, those of Jean-Paul Laurens, Puvis de
Chavannes, Lord Wyndham, Lord Horace Walden, Mr. Ryan, he was to appear
as a disciple of the Florentine master, not by a literal imitation of
his methods, which he thoroughly grasped, but by similar qualities
of observation and synthesis. Still, this was not until after he had
made other studies, while Michelangelo took hold upon him immediately
and completely and became an actual obsession that might have proved
dangerous to a sculptor less severe with himself, less determined to
discover his own path.

The dazzling richness of modeling, the majesty of the great figures
of the prodigious Florentine, and their fullness of movement--for
their immobility is charged with movement--the somber melancholy of
his thought, his flaming and shadowy soul, his literary romanticism,
a romanticism like that of Shakspere, overwhelmed Rodin with that
formidable sense of an almost sorrowful admiration that all experience
who visit the Medici tombs in the new sacristy.

He studied also the later marbles of Michelangelo, which stood at that
time in the gardens of the Pitti Palace and have since been removed to
the Municipal Museum of Florence.

Every one knows these powerful blocks, these vast human forms, only half
disengaged from the marble, from which they seem to be endeavoring to
escape in order to give birth to themselves by a rending effort that
is characteristic with all the force of a symbol of the tragic genius
of Buonarroti. "Unfinished works"; it is thus the catalogues designate
them. Unfinished works, indeed, but why? Was it age that stilled, before
the end, the hand of the giant of sculpture? Or was it not rather that
he judged them too strangely beautiful in their incompleteness, that
they seemed to him more powerful thus, still captive to the material
that bound them groaning, as it were, in their tremulous flesh?

The public pays little attention to these sublime masses because it is
told that they are not _finished_. Not finished? Or infinite? That is
the question. Far from weighing them down, the marble that envelops
them throws about them the charm of the indeterminate and by means
of this unites them with the atmosphere. The parts that are wholly
disengaged enable one to divine those that remain hidden; they are
veiled without being obliterated, like mountain-tops among the clouds;
and this half-mystery, instead of diminishing, increases the harmony
of the bodies trembling with life under their mantle of stone. In the
presence of an effect so marvelous, so calculated, one cannot cease from
asking if it was really death or if it was not rather the sovereign
taste of the workman that arrested the chisel. While he was fashioning
his statues out of the marble itself, with that fury that has passed
into legend, did he not find himself, face to face with these unexpected
effects which the material offered him of itself, in the midst of one of
those happy situations by which the talent of the masters alone enables
them to profit?

However that may be, Rodin was struck as if by a revelation. What the
progress of his work had tardily disclosed to Michelangelo was soon to
become for his disciple a principle of decorative art. Instead of
disengaging his figures entirely, he was to leave them half submerged
in the transparent marble. This method, which has become famous
to-day, seemed an unheard-of thing to those who were unfamiliar with
the Florentine blocks; but Rodin has never failed to acknowledge the
paternity of the sculptor of "The Thinker." Following in his steps, many
artists have employed this method at random, without possessing the
essential qualities that enable one to control these effects, and under
their powerless chisels the enchanting device no longer possesses any

[Illustration: THE THINKER.]

Rodin himself waited until he possessed a thorough knowledge of marble
and the manner of treating it; it was a stroke of fate by which he
rediscovered the phenomena of envelopment that had so transported him in
the Municipal Museum. He had by that time the wisdom to guard himself
from doing anything inconsistent with his material. He followed out
the suggestions it gave him, and developed an infinite variety in the
methods of handling it.

On his return from Italy he continued to be haunted by the unsurpassable
vigor of Michelangelo's workmanship. He sought to discover what was
the outstanding gift that conferred upon him this power and this
mysterious empire over the spirit. Until then, with the majority of
artists of the modern school, he had believed that the chief quality
of sculpture lay in seizing the _character_ of the model; but he came
to see how many works concerned only with expressing character fail of
real significance. Since 1830 how many romanticists have sacrificed to
character without leaving any works that are lasting!

After his journey Rodin decided that the strength of Michelangelo lay
undoubtedly in his _movement_. Returning to his studio, he executed a
quantity of sketches and even large figures like "The Creation of Man,"
the title of which, although he had not been to Rome, is a souvenir of
the frescos of the Sistine Chapel; he made busts like that of Bellona,
after having directed his models to assume Michelangelesque poses.
For all this, he did not attain to the grandeur, the soul-disturbing
authority of the Florentine master.

Without becoming discouraged, he went on observing ceaselessly. Far
from imposing upon his model positions thought out in advance, he left
him free to wander about the studio at the pleasure of his own caprice,
ready to arrest him at a word when a beautiful movement passed before
his eyes. Then, six months after his return from Italy, he found that
the model assumed of his own accord the very poses of which Michelangelo
alone had seemed to him to possess the secret; he realized that the
sublime sculptor had taken them direct from nature, from the rhythm of
the human body in action, and that he had done nothing but seize and
immortalize them.

"Michelangelo," he says, "revealed me to myself, revealed to me the
truth of forms. I went to Florence to find what I possessed in Paris and
elsewhere, but it is he who taught me this."

This does not prevent certain critics from asserting out of the depth of
their incompetence that he has never felt the influence of this master
and that he has never even given his work serious consideration. Those
who know Rodin well know that, on the contrary, he never fails to give
serious consideration to anything which is worth considering at all
and that his power of observation is the basis of his genius. Always
seeking a final method, he came back to the idea with which his earliest
education had already inspired him and which his self-communings had
only confirmed: that the value of sculpture lies entirely in the
_modeling_. This is the secret of Michelangelo; it is also that of the
ancients and of all the great artists of the past and of modern times.
For the rest, through his spacious movements, his balancing of equal
masses, the sculptor of the tombs taught him that the supreme quality
consists in seeking in the modeling the _living, determining line of the
scheme_, the supple axis of the human body.

He himself held this principle of the ancients, of whom he was a
disciple, as far as modeling is concerned, while in his composition and
his handling of light he is a Gothic.

Soon after his return from Italy, Rodin executed the great study
entitled "The Creation of Man." In it he exaggerated the rhythm
so characteristic of the Florentine, the balancing of masses, the
melancholy contraction of the body under the weight of an inexpressible
inner suffering. When one examines the figure, this exaggeration
certainly suggests something overworked, something forced, which
Michelangelo knew how to avoid and which here creates a somewhat painful
impression. But later, when Rodin conceived the idea of placing his
statue at the summit of "The Gate of Hell," this strained appearance
disappeared. Seen thus, a lofty shape lighted up from below, it takes on
true beauty; it is in its right place; it dominates the work and, as it
were, blesses it. It has the affecting gesture of Christian charity.

[Illustration: ADOLESCENCE.]





     At a period in which, among the many manifestations of
     intellectual activity in the nations, art is placed in the
     background, the advent of a great artist invariably calls forth
     the same phenomena: a few men of taste become enthusiasts, the
     majority become indignant, and the public, not being possessed of
     sufficient esthetic education, and intolerant because of their lack
     of understanding, ridicule the intruder who has overthrown the
     accepted standards of the century. Friends and foes alike consider
     him a revolutionist; as a matter of fact, he is in open revolt
     against ignorance and general incompetence.

     Little by little the great truth embodied in such a man is
     revealed. Comprehension, like a contagion, seems to take hold
     of the minds of people, and impels them to study his art at
     first hand. A study not only of his own significance, but of
     the principles which he represents, quickly reveals that the
     work of this innovator, this revolutionist, is, in fact, deeply
     allied to tradition, and, far from being a mysterious, isolated
     manifestation, is, on the contrary, closely linked to general
     artistic ideals.

     Our aim is to penetrate the doctrines of this master, his
     method, his manner of working--all that which at other times would
     have been called his secrets.

     Auguste Rodin's career has passed through the inevitable
     phases. He, who has been so generally discussed and attacked, is
     to-day the most regarded of all artists. He likes to talk of his
     art; for he knows that his observations have a priceless value,
     that of experience--the experience of sixty years of uninterrupted
     work--and of a conscience perhaps even more exacting to-day than at
     the time of his impetuous youth. He says, "My principles are the
     laws of experience." The combination of these principles embodies
     his greatest precept; namely, that of thinking and executing a
     thing simultaneously. We must listen to Rodin as we would listen
     to Michelangelo or Rembrandt if they were living. For his method
     may be the starting-point of an artistic renaissance in Europe,
     perhaps throughout the whole world. Definite signs of a decided
     resurrection in taste are already manifesting themselves, and it
     is a splendid satisfaction for the illustrious sculptor to receive
     such acknowledgment in his glorious old age. For, like every
     great genius, he has a profound love for the race from which he
     springs, and feels a strong instinctive confidence in it. Indeed,
     how should this be otherwise? In the course of centuries, has not
     this wonderful Celtic race on various occasions reconstructed its
     understanding and interpretation of beauty?

     Auguste Rodin expresses himself by preference on subjects
     from which he can draw an actual lesson. He is no theorist; he
     has an eminently positive mind, one might even say a practical
     mind. His teachings, unlike the abstract teachings of books, can
     be characterized by two words, observation and deduction. His
     are not more or less arbitrary meditations in which personal
     imagination plays the principal part; they are rather the account
     of a sagacious, truthful traveler, of a soldier who relates the
     story of his campaigns, or of a scholar who records the result of
     an analysis. Reality is his only basis, and with justice to himself
     he can say, "I am not a rhetorician, but a man of action."

     We hear him chat, it may be in his atelier about some piece of
     antique sculpture which has just come into his possession or about
     a work he has in hand, or during his rambles through his garden,
     which is situated in the most delightful country in the suburbs of
     the capital, or on a walk through the museums, or through the old
     quarter of Paris. For in his opinion "the streets of Paris, with
     their shops of old furniture, etchings, and works of art, are a
     veritable museum, far less tiring than official museums, and from
     which one imbibes just as much as one can."

       *       *       *       *       *

I use the words of the people, of the man in the street; for thoughts
should be clear and easily comprehended. I desire to be understood by
the great majority, and I leave scholarly words and unusual phrasing
to specialists in estheticism. Moreover, what I say is very simple. It
is within the grasp of ordinary intelligence. Up to now it has been of
hardly any value. It is something quite new, and will remain so as long
as the ideas which I stand for are not actively carried out.

If these ideas were understood and applied, the destruction of ancient
works of art would cease immediately. By bad restoration we are ruining
our most beautiful works of art, our marvelous architecture, our
Gothic cathedrals, Renaissance city halls, all those old houses that
transformed France into a garden of beauty of which it was impossible to
grow weary, for everything was a delight to the eye and intelligence.
Our workmen would have to be as capable as those of former times to
restore those works of art without changing them, they would have to
possess the same wonderfully trained eye and hand. But to-day we have
lost that conception and execution. We live in a period of ignorance,
and when we put our hand to a masterpiece, we spoil it. Restoring, in
our way, is almost like jewelers replacing pearls with false diamonds,
which the ignorant accept with complacency.

The Americans who buy our paintings, our antique furniture, our old
engravings, our materials, pay very dearly for them. At least we think
so. As a matter of fact they buy them very cheaply, for they obtain
originals which can never be duplicated. We mock at the American
collectors; in reality we ought to laugh at ourselves. For we permit our
most precious treasures to be taken out of the country, and it is they
who have the intelligence to acquire them.

My ideas, once understood and applied, would immediately revive art, all
arts, not only sculpture, painting, and architecture, but also those
arts which are called minor, such as decoration, tapestry, furniture,
the designing of jewelry and medals, etc. The artisan would revert to
fundamental truth, to the principles of the ancients--principles which
are the eternal basis of all art, regardless of differences of race and


In the first place, art is only a close study of nature. Without that
we can have no salvation and no artists. Those who pretend that they
can improve on the living model, that glorious creation of which we
know so little, of which we in our ignorance barely grasp the admirable
proportions, are insignificant persons, and they will never produce
anything but mediocre work.

We must strive to understand nature not only with our heart, but above
all with our intellect. He who is impressionable, but not intelligent,
is incapable of expressing his emotion. The world is full of men who
worship the beauty of women; but how many can make beautiful portraits
or beautiful busts of the woman they adore? Intelligence alone, after
lengthy research, has discovered the general principles without which
there can be no real art.

In sculpture the first of these principles is that of construction.
Construction is the first problem that faces an artist studying his
model, whether that model be a human being, animal, tree, or flower. The
question arises regarding the model as a whole, and regarding it in its
separate parts. All form that is to be reproduced ought to be reproduced
in its true dimensions, in its complete volume. And what is this volume?

It is the space that an object occupies in the atmosphere. The essential
basis of art is to determine that exact space; this is the alpha and
omega, this is the general law. To model these volumes in depth is to
model in the round, while modeling on the surface is bas-relief. In a
reproduction of nature such as a work of art attempts, sculpture in the
round approaches reality more closely than does bas-relief.

To-day we are constantly working in bas-relief, and that is why our
products are so cold and meager. Sculpture in the round alone produces
the qualities of life. For instance, to make a bust does not consist in
executing the different surfaces and their details one after another,
successively making the forehead, the cheeks, the chin, and then the
eyes, nose, and mouth. On the contrary, from the first sitting the whole
mass must be conceived and constructed in its varying circumferences;
that is to say, in each of its profiles.

A head may appear ovoid, or like a sphere in its variations. If we
slowly encircle this sphere, we shall see it in its successive profiles.
As it presents itself, each profile differs from the one preceding. It
is this succession of profiles that must be reproduced, and that is the
means of establishing the true volume of a head.

Each profile is actually the outer evidence of the interior mass; each
is the perceptible surface of a deep section, like the slices of a
melon, so that if one is faithful to the accuracy of these profiles, the
reality of the model, instead of being a superficial reproduction, seems
to emanate from within. The solidity of the whole, the accuracy of plan,
and the veritable life of a work of art, proceed therefrom.

The same method applies to details which must all be modeled in
conformity with the whole. Deference to plan necessitates accuracy of
modeling. The one is derived from the other. The first engenders the

These are the main principles of construction and modeling--principles
to which we owe the force and charm of works of art. They are the key
not only to the handicraft of sculpture, but to all the handicrafts of
art. For that which is true of a bust applies equally to the human form,
to a tree, to a flower, or to an ornament.

This is neither mysterious nor hard to understand. It is thoroughly
commonplace, very prosaic. Others may say that art is emotion,
inspiration. Those are only phrases, tales with which to amuse
the ignorant. Sculpture is quite simply the art of depression and
protuberance. There is no getting away from that. Without a doubt the
sensibility of an artist and his particular temperament play a part in
the creation of a work of art, but the essential thing is to command
that science which can be acquired only by work and daily experience.
The essential thing is to respect the law, and the characteristic of
that fruitful law is to be the same for all things.

Moreover, such was the method employed by the ancients, the method which
we ourselves employed till the end of the eighteenth century, and by
which the spirit of the Gothic genius and that of the Renaissance and of
the periods of culture and elegance of the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries were transmitted to us. Only in our day have we completely
lost that technic.

These rules do not constitute a system peculiar to myself. They are
general principles which govern the world of art, just as other
immutable laws govern the celestial world. They are mathematical
principles which I found again because my work inevitably led me to
follow in the footsteps of the great masters, my ancestors.


In days of old, precise laws were handed down from generation to
generation, from master to student, in all the workshops of the workers
in art--sculptors, painters, decorators, cabinet-makers, jewelers. But
at that time workshops existed where one actually taught, where the
master worked in view of the pupil. In our day by what have we replaced
that marvelously productive school, the workshop? By academies in which
one learns nothing, because one sets out from such a contrary point of

These principles of art were first pointed out to me not by a celebrated
sculptor, or by an authorized teacher, but by a comrade in the workshop,
a humble artisan, a little plasterer from the neighborhood of Blois
called Constant Simon. We worked together at a decorator's. I was
quite at the beginning of my career, earning six francs a day. Our
models were leaves and flowers, which we picked in the garden. I was
carving a capital when Constant Simon said to me: "You don't go about
that correctly. You make all your leaves flatwise. Turn them, on the
contrary, with the point facing you. Execute them in depth and not in
relief. Always work in that manner, so that a surface will never seem
other than the termination of a mass. Only thus can you achieve success
in sculpture."

I understood at once. Since then I have discovered many other things,
but that rule has remained my absolute basis. Constant Simon was only
an obscure workman, but he possessed the principles and a little of the
genius of the great ornamentists who worked at the châteaux of the
Loire. On the St. Michel fountain in Paris there are very beautifully
carved decorations, rich and at the same time graceful, which were made
by the hand of this little modeler, who knew far more than all the
professors of esthetics.

Such was the purpose the workshops of old served. The apprentice
passed successively through all the stages and became acquainted with
all the secrets of his handicraft. He began by sweeping the studio,
and that first taught him care and patience, which are the essential
virtues of a workman. He posed, he served as model for his comrades.
The master in turn worked before him among his students. He heard his
companions discuss their art, he benefited by the discoveries that they
communicated to one another. He found himself faced every day by those
unforeseen difficulties which go to make an artist till the moment
when the artist is sufficiently capable to master his difficulties.
Alternately, they were both teacher and companion, and they conveyed to
one another the science of the ancients.

What have we to-day in place of those splendid institutions which
developed character and intelligence simultaneously? Schools at which
the students think only of obtaining a prize, not attained by close
study, but by flattering the professors. The professors themselves,
without any deep attachment for their academies, come hurriedly,
overburdened by official duties and all sorts of work; weighed down by
perfunctory obligations, they correct the students' papers hastily, and
hurriedly return to their regular occupation.

As to the students, twenty or thirty work from a single model, which
is some distance from them and around which they can hardly turn.
They ignore all those inevitable laws which are learned in the course
of work, and which escape the attention of an artist working alone.
They attend courses, or read books on esthetics written in technical
language with obscure, abstract terms, lacking all connection with
concrete reality--books in which the same mistakes are repeated because
frequently they are copied from one another. What sort of students can
develop under such disastrous conditions? If one among them is seriously
desirous of learning, he breaks loose from his destructive surroundings,
is obliged to lose several years first in ridding himself of a poor
method, and then in searching for a method which formerly one had
mastered on leaving the atelier.

That is the method that I preach to-day as emphatically as I can,
calling attention to the numerous benefits and advantages of taking up a
variety of handicrafts. Aside from sculpture and drawing, I have worked
at all sorts of things--ornamentation, ceramics, jewelry. I have learned
my lesson from matter itself and have adapted myself accordingly. Only
in being faithful to this principle can one understand and know how to
work. I am an artisan.

Will my experience be of benefit to others? I hope so. At all events, we
have a bit to relearn. It will take years of patience and application
to rise from the abyss of ignorance into which we have fallen. However,
I believe in a renaissance. A number of our artists have already
seen the light--the light of intellectual truth. Acts of barbarism
against masterpieces cannot be committed any more without arousing the
indignation of cultivated people. That in itself is an inestimable gain,
for those works of art are the relics of our traditions, and if we have
the strength to become an artistic people again, to reincarnate an
era of beauty, then those are the works of art that will serve as our
models, expressions of a national conscience that will be the milestones
on our path.

       *       *       *       *       *

     Judged by his work, Auguste Rodin is the most modern of
     artists; judged by his life and character, he is unquestionably
     a man of bygone days. As a sculptor, he is such as were Phidias,
     Praxiteles, and the master architects of the Middle Ages; that is
     to say, he is of all times. One single idea guides his thoughts,
     one single aim arouses his energies--art, art through the study of

     It is by the concentration of his unusual mind on a single
     purpose that he attains his remarkable understanding of man,
     physical and moral, his contemporary, and of the spirit of our
     age. In the lifelike features of his statues he inscribes the
     history of the day. They seem to live, and the potency of their
     life enters into us and dominates us. For the moment we are only a
     silent spring, merely reflecting their authority.

     Through this secret of genius, his statues and groups have
     an individual charm. They have taken their place in the history
     of sculpture. There is the charm of the antique, the charm of the
     Gothic, and the charm of Michelangelo. There is also the charm of

     [Illustration: HEAD OF MINERVA.]



     In Rodin's statues we find his conception of eternal man--man
     as he really is. They are molded on modern thought, with all its
     variations. One might suppose that these beautiful beings of marble
     and bronze had been named by the characteristic poets of the
     century, Victor Hugo, Musset, Baudelaire.

     Beginning with the Renaissance and particularly during the
     seventeenth century, the royal courts were the great salons in
     which the taste of the day was developed. Necessity made courtiers
     of the artists, for to obtain orders, they had to win the good-will
     of the sovereigns, the great lords, and the financiers.

     Art then lost its collective character, the artist his
     independence and strength. There was no longer the united effort of
     artists, inspired by love of beauty, to create great masterpieces
     such as cathedrals, city halls, and castles. The artist wasted his
     abilities in fragmentary bits, his time in worldly duties. To-day
     it is even worse. Keeping house, traveling, receiving, exhibiting
     in a hundred different places, living in great style, carrying on
     his life-work--all these crowd out the first, and formerly the
     essential, object of the artist, his work. It is these that lower
     art to the last degree of decadence.

     Rodin has kept aloof from this manner of living, has avoided
     these innumerable occasions for wasting time, or, rather, has never
     allowed them to take possession of him. Modest, unpretentious,
     traveling little or within a limited radius, the unremitting study
     of the divine model and of the masterpiece, man, forms his whole
     ambition, while it is also the source of endless delight to him.
     "Admiration," he says, "is a joy daily kindled afresh," and again,
     "I talk out of the fullness of life; it belongs to me in a sense
     larger than that of ownership."

     In his villa at Meudon, in the midst of his collections of
     antiques, he pursues this study incessantly. He who is admitted to
     the modest garden of the great master first beholds with delight a
     Greek marble in an arbor. At the turn of a path there is the torso
     of a goddess resting on an antique column; in a niche in the wall,
     a Roman bust. Beneath the high arch of the peristyle of the studio,
     the architecture of which blends into the surrounding background
     as in the paintings of Claude Lorrain, there is a magnificent
     torso. Finally dominating the garden and the valley it overlooks,
     standing on a knoll and projected against the clear sky, there is
     an isolated façade from a castle of the seventeenth century, its
     delicate balustrades and casements outlined against the blue sky as
     in the decorative paintings of Paul Veronese.

     These ruins are the remains of the Château d'Issy, the work of
     Mansart. Rodin saved them at the moment when their destruction at
     the hands of ignorant workmen was imminent, and at great expense
     reconstructed them near his residence. These fragments, this noble
     portico, seem as though placed by chance, but the keen observer
     quickly perceives the correctness of taste that has determined
     their disposition. Each fragment forms part of an ensemble with
     the trees, the grass, the light, and the shadows, and to change
     any of these in the slightest degree would sacrifice some of its
     beauty. Sculpture at its finest is architecture, and architecture
     is perhaps the greatest art, because it collaborates directly with
     nature. Architecture lives through the life of things, and every
     hour of the day lends it a new expression.

     Innumerable reflections were aroused in the mind of the master
     Rodin when he essayed to place his treasures: the effect of the
     changing light on the object, the balancing of values, the relation
     of proper proportions, the appearance of the object in full light.
     All these he examined and studied, and he searched into the depths
     of the language of forms, to him as clear and as mysterious as
     beautiful music. This remarkable gift for determining the value of
     the object in its setting--a gift the secret of which is beyond the
     knowledge of the ignorant--has brought forth that peculiar poetic
     charm which permeates this little garden in a suburb of Paris,
     a refuge of persecuted beauty. Here the master confers with the
     artists of Greece and France of other days. These are his Elysian

     In Paris, where he is daily and where he works every
     afternoon, he lives in an exquisite, but ruinous, mansion of the
     eighteenth century, situated in a rustic, neglected park. There he
     finds his delight in the study of flowers and applies himself to
     it with his intense, never-dormant desire for understanding. His
     antique pottery is filled with anemones, carnations, and tulips.
     During his frugal meals they are before him, and his reverent
     love of them arouses his desire to understand them as completely
     as he does human beings. He analyzes and searches out their
     details without becoming insensible to the beauty of the whole.
     He jots down his discoveries, his words picture them; like La
     Rochefoucauld, he searches into their character; but watching over
     their life admiringly and tenderly until they wither, he does not
     dissect them, does not destroy them.

     Is not the flower the queen of ornaments, the inspiration of
     all races and ages, the very soul of artistic decoration? Have not
     the hands of genius contrived to employ the most durable as well
     as the most fragile material to express this delicate beauty in
     Greek and Gothic capitals, in the stone lacework of cathedrals, the
     fabrics of gold and silk, brocades, tapestries, wrought iron-work,
     old bindings? Is the splendor of stained-glass windows aught else
     than the splendor of a mass of beautiful flowers?

[Illustration: THE BATH.]

     "Were this thoroughly understood," says Rodin, "industrial art
     would be entirely revolutionized--industrial art, that barbarous
     term, an art which concerns itself with commerce and profit.

     "The young artists of to-day understand nothing; they copy to
     satiety the classic ornaments and designs, and reproduce them in
     so cold a manner that they lose all meaning. The ancients obtained
     their designs from nature. They found their models in the garden,
     even in the vegetable garden. They drew their inspiration from its
     source. The cabbage-leaf, the oak-leaf, the clover, the thistle,
     and the brier are the motives of the Gothic capital. It is not
     photographic truth, but living truth, that we must seek in art."

     Rodin writes his observations. He notes them down at the
     moment as they occur to him in all their freshness, and in this
     form they will be given here. At first glance, the reader may be
     surprised at their apparently fragmentary form. They may seem
     devoid of general continuity, but when one comprehends the great
     master's method, one sees that a bond much firmer than that of the
     mere word binds them together. They seem disjointed because here,
     as in his sculpture, the artist accepts only the essential, and
     rejects all superfluous detail. In reality they have the continuity
     of life, which is felt, but not seen, and which renders arbitrary
     transition unnecessary. This is the prerogative of genius, while
     all else is within the grasp of any one. His authority strikes us
     dumb; it puts to rout mere commonplace cleverness.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have had primroses put in this little flower-pot. They are a bit
crowded, and their poor little stems are prisoners; they are no longer
in their garden.

I look at them on my table like a vivisector. I admire their beautiful
leaves, round-headed, vigorous, like peasants. They point toward me, and
between them is the flower. The one on this side is resigned, and as
beautiful as a caryatid. In profile it seems to hold up the leaf against
which it leans and which gives it shade.

These little flowers are not beautiful, nor are they radiant. They
live peaceably, gently contented in their misery; and yet they offer
something to one who is ill, as I am to-day, and cause him to write to
ward off weariness.

I always have flowers in the morning, and make no distinction between
them and my models.

Many flowers together are like women with heads bowed down.

There is no longer the sap of life in flowers in a vase.

The lace work of the flower of the elder-tree--Venice.

The anemone is only an eye, cruelly melancholy. It is the eye of a woman
who has been badly used.

These anemones are flowers that have stayed up too late at night;
flowers that are resplendent, with their colors as though spread over
them superficially and wiped away. Even in the spring, in the hour of
anticipation, they are already in the fullness of enjoyment.

Like the flower of seduction, the anemones slowly change their form
outlined in various ways, always restrained, however, and inclosed
within their sphere. Their petals have not a common destiny: some curl
up, others are like a becoming collaret, still others seem to be running
away. The delicate droop of the petals, standing out in relief, is like
the eyelid of a child.

Although old, that one does not shed its petals. Poor little flower with
bent head, you are not ridiculous; you are pensive now that you are
dying. You suffer from the cruelty of the stem which holds you back.

Flowers give their lives to us; they should be placed in Persian vases.
Near them, gold and silver seem of no value.

Ah, dear friends, we must love you if we would have you speak to us!
We must watch you or you fall from the vase, despairing, your leaves

The flowers and the vase harmonize by contrast.

In this bouquet there are some with flexible stems which seem to leap up
gracefully. The flower, surrounded by its frail, straight leaves, is as
if suspended from the ledge of a wrought-iron balcony.

Ah, the adorable heart of Adonis is incased within these flowers!

The hyacinth is like a balustrade placed upside down. A bed of
hyacinths resembles a mass of balusters. Thus that great invention
of the Renaissance, the balustrade, allows us to gain through it
a glimpse of nature. This ray of art, the flower, this delicate
inspiration, unknowingly requires the intelligence of man to develop its

Superb is this little rose-like flower among its spreading leaves. It is
like an assumption.

The double narcissus is a bird's-nest viewed from above. Strange
flowers, like so many throats! What a frail marvel they are!

These three little narcissi group themselves like a cluster of electric

The dignity of nature impresses us on every hand. It is greatly apparent
in flowers; and yet so small are they that some look on them merely as
the decoration at a banquet.

I will cast a narcissus in bronze; it shall serve as my seal.

A maiden on a lake, that is the narcissus.

Little red marguerite, not yet open, sister to the strawberry, huddled
in the shade which caresses you.

The full-blown marguerite seems to play at _pigeon-vole_.

It has rained for four hours; this is the hour when flowers quench their

A marguerite in profile, a serpent's head with open jaws, stretching out
its tongues! Petals, white, like a little collar.

Seen in full face, its yellow-tinted heart is a little sun; its long
petals are like fingers playing the piano.

These white flowers are gulls with wings outstretched. They fly one
after the other; this one, in adoration, has its petals thrown backward,
like wings.

Whoever understands life loves flowers and their innocent caresses.

These marguerites seem to retreat like a spider that finds itself
discovered in the road. Their buds stretch out their serpent-heads at
the end of long stems, divided by intercepting leaves and entangling
knots. Does not love travel in a similar path rather than straight as an

There is so much regularity in these dark-green leaves, extending at
fixed intervals to right and left, and in the eternal dryness of the
bouquet, that it calls to mind a Persian miniature.

No man has a heart pure enough to interpret the freshness of flowers. We
cannot give expression to this freshness; it is beyond us.

When it sheds its petals, the flower seems to disrobe and go to sleep
on the earth. This is its last act of grace, showing its submission to

What spirit possesses these flowers that die in silence! We should
listen to them and give thanks.

This red and black ranunculus proclaims the carnival; it is the carnival
itself. The carnival is the very emblem of flowers. Like them it, also,
wears masks and costumes. It wears their colors, bright yellow, red--an
imitation of the flowers of the sun.

Delightful carnival! Delightful interpretation of flowers! For a long
time in my youth I undervalued them. I am happy now to see them under
another aspect, as the splendor of Rome and the lavish intelligence of a
bygone time.

Some one gave me tulips. They fascinate me variously. How great an
artist is chance, knowing the last secret by which to win us!

These yellow tulips, dipped in blood! What a treat to see true
colors--reds, blues, greens, the art of stained glass!

One is quite taken aback before these flowers, in which nature has
expressed more than one can comprehend. It imparts that great mystery
which is beyond us and signifies the presence of God.

How magnificent the flower becomes as its youth passes!

Even the flowers have their setting sun.

My bouquet is always the same, yet I never cease to look at it.

A whirlwind, a very cyclone, this tulip has perished in the storm. Like
the wife of Lot, it is possessed of fear.

This one is open, all aflame like a burning bush. That one, all
disheveled, comes toward me. Full of ardor, it springs up, its petals
strong and expanding, like a mouth curling forward.

The violence of passion in flowers is pronounced. Ah, the softness of
love is found only in women!

Great artists, curb your curiosity, neglect the pleasures which offer
themselves to you, so that you may better understand the secrets of God.



     Rodin's busts of women are perhaps the most charming part of
     his work. But to say this is almost a sacrilege, an affront to the
     grace of the small groups that, in this giant's work, swarm about
     the superior figures. But we need not search too far into this or
     yield to the pedantic mania for classifying to death. Let us rather
     look at them without transforming the joy of admiration into the
     labor of cataloguing, and give ourselves up wholly to the pleasure
     of seeing and understanding.

     Yes, these portraits of women are the graceful aspect of this
     work of power. They are the achievements of a force which knows
     its own strength, and here relaxes in caresses. If some among them
     disturb the spirit, most of them shed upon us a calm enjoyment,
     the delightful security that one breathes among all-powerful
     beings that wish to be gracious. They allay the sense of unrest
     aroused in us by those dramas in marble and bronze which a powerful
     intellect has conceived--that mind from which sprang "The Burghers
     of Calais," the two monuments to Victor Hugo, "The Tower of Labor,"
     that imagination, glowing like a forge, which produced "The Gate of
     Hell," the Sarmiento monument, the statue of Balzac.

     Here Rodin's art extends to the utmost confines of grace. He
     has contrived to discover the most delicate secrets of nature.
     He models the petals of the lips just as nature curls the frail
     substance of the rose-leaf. By imperceptible gradations he
     attaches the delicate membranes of the eyelids to the angle of
     the temples just as nature in springtime attaches the leaves to the
     rough bark of trees.

[Illustration: THE BROKEN LILY.]

     Great thinkers never cease to be moved by the charm of
     weakness. The "eternal feminine" is just that, the power of grace
     over the manly soul. The strongest feel this attraction most, are
     most possessed with the desire of expressing it. I am thinking of
     Homer, Leonardo da Vinci, Shakspere, Balzac, Wagner, and Rodin in
     saying this. They have created a feminine world, the figures of
     which, lovingly copied from living models, become models in turn.
     They haunt thousands of souls, fashion them in their image. In her
     complicated ways, Nature avails herself of the artist to modify the
     human type.

     We have some terra-cotta figures of Rodin, modeled when he was
     between twenty-five and thirty, while working at the manufactory
     at Sèvres, in the studio of Carrier-Belleuse, that accomplished
     sculptor. They are charming little busts, with the perfume of
     the eighteenth century breathing from them, treated a little in
     the manner of Carpeaux, with the velvety shadow of their black
     eyes on their sparkling faces. One of them, now in a private
     gallery in New York, has a hat on its head, coquettish, tender,
     innocently provocative; it is full of Parisian allurement because
     it is characteristically French. One can find its kindred among
     certain Renaissance figures, and even among the mischievous faces
     of Gothic angels. With all this there is that ephemeral prettiness
     which is called "fashion," that caprice of styles which does for
     the adornment of cities what the flowers of the field do for the

     If Rodin had pursued his path in this direction, he would have
     been a portrait-sculptor of great taste, and would doubtless have
     attained celebrity sooner, but a celebrity which is not glory. At
     that time he was chiefly concerned with copying the features of his
     models with all the sensitiveness of his admiration; he did not yet
     attempt those large effects of light and shade which were to become
     the object of his whole career, and are so still. He has made the
     religion of progress his own by reflective study. Progress is for
     him the chief condition of happiness. Present-day philosophies
     commonly put it in doubt; but if happiness exists, it is surely
     in the soul of the artist. But it is recognized with difficulty
     because it is called by an equivocal name, the ideal.

     Let us look at the "Portrait of the Artist's Wife." Here, in
     this noble effigy, this severe image with its lowered eyelids, the
     artist passes beyond the promise of his first period. The face,
     rather wide at the cheek-bones, lengthens toward the chin, where
     the sorrowful mouth reigns. It expresses melancholy, gravity,
     dignity, Christian charity. It is rather masculine, and seems less
     youthful than the original was at the time. It is as if the artist
     had sought to bring out the character by conscientious modeling,
     without any softening; all the features are underlined, as on
     a face that has attained a ripe age. He had not yet discovered
     the art of softening his surfaces, of blending them in a general
     tonality, and of obtaining that softness, that flesh quality, with
     all the shades of youth, which touches the heart in his more recent

     Even then he did know, however, how to gather under the
     boldly molded superciliary arch of the brows the diffused shadows
     which, in the future, were to lend mystery and distance to most
     of his portraits. This mask is all that remains of a standing
     figure dressed in the manner of Gothic figures. Rodin was then
     living in Brussels, still young, poor, and unknown, but happy.
     He tasted the perfect happiness of long days of absorbing labor,
     of that enthusiasm for work which nothing disturbs. To-day he
     sometimes yearns for those years free from the never-ceasing bustle
     of a celebrated man's existence, a giant assailed by a thousand
     pin-pricks. Yet his poverty was excessive, for the beautiful
     statue, modeled during successive months with much love, fell to
     pieces. For want of money, the sculptor had not been able to have
     it cast.

     Among his women's busts, one of the most famous and one which
     remains among the most beautiful is that of Madame Morla Vicuñha.
     It dates back about twenty-five years, but it is resplendent in
     eternal youth. Since then Rodin has added to his knowledge and
     experience. He has made personal discoveries in the plastic art.
     He has become the master of color in sculpture. Nevertheless, this
     portrait, as it stands, remains an adorable masterpiece. Who that
     has looked at its softly gleaming marble in the Luxembourg has not
     been overcome by a long dream of tenderness, of uneasy curiosity?
     Who has not hoped to make this woman speak, to press her heart in
     order to draw from her a confession of her desires, the secret of
     her happiness and her melancholy?

     It is more than a bust, it is woman herself. Because the
     beautiful shoulder slips tremulously from the heavy mouth, which
     lies against the smooth, polished flesh; because this shoulder
     rises again toward the head, slightly bent and inclined, as if to
     draw toward it some loved one; because the neck swells like that of
     a dove, and the head is stretched forward to offer a kiss, we seem
     to catch a glimpse of the whole body and its delicate curves. It is
     a beautiful bust. I should like to see it alone in a room hung with
     dim tapestries, drawing forth its charm like a long sigh, which
     nothing should disturb. This masterpiece demands the distinction of

     How beautifully modeled the head is in its firm delicacy!
     The framework of the narrow skull appears under the texture of
     hair fastened over it like a rich handkerchief. We can almost see
     the impatient hand, trembling with feeling, that has twisted the
     firm knot under the nape of the neck. Everywhere, level with the
     temples, at the bridge of the nose,--the aquiline nose marking the
     Spaniard of race,--this bony framework stands out. The face catches
     a feverish character from it, tortured by the longing for intimate
     expression, and reveals a being with whom happiness borders closely
     upon sorrow. The nostrils tremble as if to the perfume of the
     flowers pressed voluptuously against the warm bosom. The mouth
     is at once mobile and firm, and all the curves of the features
     converge toward it--toward the kiss which causes it to swell softly.

     The light steals gently into every line and fold of the face.
     It borders the eyelids, glides under the brows, outlines the bridge
     of the nose and the nostrils, emphasizes the opposed arches of
     the lips. It spreads like a spring, separating into a thousand
     streams. It is a network, like the tracery of the woman's nerves
     made visible. It is as if the sculptor and the light had begun a
     dialogue--a dialogue kept up with endless graces and coquetries.
     He contradicts it, refutes it; it escapes, returns. He gathers it
     up, as if to force it into the sinuous folds of the figure. Again
     it flees, and then, summoned back, it returns cautiously, and at
     last bathes the statue in generous caresses.

     This bust will live. In its enigmatic grace it will become
     more and more the expression of the woman who loves, just as "La
     Gioconda" ("Mona Lisa") is the expression of the woman who is
     loved. The one is all instinct, the other all spirit. The one
     offers herself; the other promises herself. The one is tenderness
     directed toward the past; the other smiles toward the future.


     In the same gallery of the Luxembourg, there is that other
     famous head called "La Pensée." What a contrast! It is strangely
     bound within a block of marble, placed like a living head on a
     block. And yet it tells only of the slightly resigned calm of
     meditation, or of melancholy, without bitterness, of long autumn
     days, with their diffused brilliancy. The outlines are firm,
     regular, placid, of remarkable moderation in their distinction. The
     head leans forward, because thought is a weighty matter. The brow
     and the eyes are the dominant features. On them the sculptor has
     focused all the light not only in the high lights, but in the still
     surface as well.

     The caprice of the artist has covered this head with a light
     peasant-cap. This hides the details of the hair, and concentrates
     the glance on the face. "Caprice" expresses the idea badly, for
     it is taste and the will of the artist that have directed all.
     These dreamy features express the practical mysticism of women,
     the effort of intelligent devotion. It makes one think of St.
     Geneviève, of Jeanne d'Arc, of the overwhelming courage of a weak
     being carried beyond and out of herself by a great purpose.

     "La Pensée" has the striking character that almost all the
     busts of Rodin assume in the future, and which they owe on the
     one hand to their intense lifelikeness, and on the other to the
     atmosphere with which the sculptor surrounds them. There are no
     hard-and-fast limits which separate them from the circumambient
     air; on the contrary, they are bathed in it. The "blacks," which
     give a hard, dry look when used to excess, are handled marvelously.
     The women's busts, especially, almost start up before us with this
     slightly fantastic look of life increased tenfold, with the charm
     of phantoms of marble, monumental, and yet as light as beautiful

     These effects of light and shadow perhaps harmonize best with
     the softness and delicacy of the feminine flesh. They convey to us
     naturally the mystery of an inner life more secret, more intimate
     than that of man.

     Even with works that are similar, the public does not
     recognize their common origin. It sees the result of an
     extraordinary amount of observation and intelligence, yet it does
     not reflect more than a child. For the public the sculptor, whoever
     he may be, is a creature of instinct, with a trained eye and hand,
     but without mind and culture. He is a sculptor, that is all. A
     common proverb strengthens the belief in this lasting folly. It
     may be told, then, that the master with whom we are here dealing
     studies his models not only as a sculptor, but as a writer studies;
     that often his hand drops the chisel for the pencil, in order to
     set down his observation more exactly, to search even further into

     Perhaps the public will at last grasp the fact that the true
     artist, under penalty of ceasing to be one, must, above all, expend
     an amount of attention of which other men are incapable, and that
     it is by this power of attention that the strength of intelligence
     is measured. For example, Rodin is facing his model, a young
     woman stretched out in an attitude of repose. He writes, and in
     his style we find all the power of the great draftsman. He marks
     the outlines, he specifies the details, slowly, patiently, with
     pertinacity. He never confuses the impression, always so ready to
     elude one--the impression, the divine reward of the artist.

       *       *       *       *       *

The dazzling splendor revealed to the artist by the model that divests
herself of her clothes has the effect of the sun piercing the clouds.
Venus, Eve, these are feeble terms to express the beauty of women.

The head leans to one side, the torso to the other, both inclining
indolently, gracefully. This body has been glorified. The contours
flow, descend, repose, like immortality personified. The breasts follow
the same curve. The flowing lines are all in the same direction.
Unchangeable, heaving above the half-opened screen of the dress, the
breath scarcely lifts them. It does not stir or agitate them.

The beautiful human monument is balanced in repose. It is unassailable.
It is the gradation of contours.

I do not draw them, but I see them in place, and my spirit is content,
accustoms itself to the impression. In memory I still make drawings of
this model, and these moving lines are repetitions, done over again a
hundred times; for I repeat the drawing constantly, like a caress.

This torso resigns itself, like an Ariadne whose contours melt away in
the evening, in the dark. But the lightning of day has flashed there.
It is there always. It is now the pale gleam of flesh. My mind, carried
along, takes this form as its model.

The hand, the arm, support the head, the sidelong glance from which
is so full of sweetness. One might call it a "Mona Lisa" reposing.
This head feels the need of resting on the supporting hand, a delicate
support like the handle of a vase. Like an urn about to pour out its
water, its thought, it inclines.

Lying back on the cushion, the head is in high relief. The features are
placed according to their due regard, which is the very soul of balance.
It has made the eyes symmetrical; the eyebrows straight; the nose, where
beauty and symmetry meet, expressive of a wholesome conformity.

When a woman is very beautiful, she has the head of a lion. From the
lion is copied that splendid regularity of the eyes, which the oval of
the face accentuates. The tawny mane is also lion-like in its regularity
and majesty, without any other expression.

Arches are formed without effort of all the parts of the eye. The hinges
of the eyes open and close. The open mouth keeps back neither the
thoughts nor the words that have been spoken. There is no need for her
to speak. Her age, her thoughts, all is a confession here--the features,
the arch of the frank, noble mouth, as well as the form of the nose and
the sensitive nostrils.

And this infantile glance under a woman's eyelid! Our soul demands
that, by an agreement with the heavens, the feminine glance should be

[Illustration: LA PENSÉE.]

How I bathe in the calm beauty of these eyes, with their regular
drawing! How they themselves declare their tranquil joy! Sometimes eyes
like these seem to be inhabited by spirits. They close, and I see the
horizontal lashes, the lower lid, which just rests against the upper. I
see as a whole the soft oval of these long eyes, the double circle of
the lids themselves, and the circle beneath, so modest now, but which
one calls the circle of love.

The eyeball in moving shows the clear pupil, and all about it press the
circles of the delicate lids. The soul finds a refuge in these secret
hiding-places, and throws out its circles of attraction like a lasso.
This sensuous soul is the soul of beautiful portraits.

The cheeks curve against the socket of the eye; the double arch of the
brows prolongs itself behind them. The surface of the cheeks extends to
the extremity of the nose, forms a double depression by the sinking of
the cheek, which grows hollow toward the convex lip, and surrounds the
mouth and the two lips. These facial lines and surfaces all stop at the
chin, toward which all the curves converge.

The facial expressions proceed from, spread, and move in another circle.
They all disappear in the cheeks, just as do the movements of the mouth.
One curve passes down from the ear to the mouth; a small curve draws
back the mouth and also the nose a little. A circle passes under the
nose, the chin, to the cheekbones; a deep curve, which starts back to
the cheekbone, cuts in a small hollow to the eyebrow. The features are
distinct; but when they move, they merge into one another. The smile
passes over the face by a circle defining the mouth. The edge of the
mouth is defined by a mezzotint at the point of union.

The loose hair surrounds the cheek, and the head seems like a golden
fleece on a distaff. It hangs like loosened garlands. How beautifully
these garlands of hair are arranged, with the profile in a three-quarter
view, standing out against the fine, tawny hair! The impressive harmony
between the flesh and the hair! They seem altogether in accord; they
lend each other languor and charm; they are united and separated at the
same time. These drooping clusters of chestnut-blond hair are a frame.
One might call them long flowers hanging from the edge of a vase.

The neck no longer holds erect the head, which moves in ecstasy. It
drowns itself in the wavy flow of hair, which becomes undone at the
moment. This inundation of hair, so to speak, what a generalized
expression of opulence it is! Before its beauty I feel imbued with
love. I am seized with enthusiasm, aflame with it. This gold, this dull
copper, is like a field of grain, a field of corn, where the sheaves are
of gold bound together. These sheaves, slightly disordered in their
lengthening curves, turning in all directions, imitate the tone of
subdued flesh tints.

In this veil, transparent and colored like a dead leaf, the ear is
hidden in shadow, where the hair flies back at random in strands, twists
about, and returns.

O head, beautiful ornament, drooping against the edge of the couch like
a lovely motive in architecture at the edge of a console, you express
the prolonged weakness of a lovely languor! The shoulder extends its
beautiful curve before the face, resting on its side; the line rises,
passes near the nose, descends, and shows the red line of the mouth,
just as the bees continually enter and go out of the opening of the
hive. The face turns, but the eye returns to me, passes by me, and again
gazes upon me.

In it there is the softness of the dog's eye, a spirit which becomes
motionless when the tyranny of passion has disappeared. When passion is
in control, she sucks like a vampire that delicate flesh, which is the
model of calm, the exquisite remainder of calm.

This crown of beauty is not made for one woman alone, but for all women.
They do not know it, and yet all in turn attain this beauty, as a fruit
ripens. This calm is more potent in them than in the most beautiful
statues. They are unaware of it, and the men who are near them are
unaware of it also. They have not been taught to admire. They have not
been educated in the science of admiration.

When, in the galleries of the Louvre, magnificent rooms where are
gathered the collections of antiques, day enters through the windows
and lightly touches these beautiful sculptures which are the adornment
of great palaces, do they understand any better? Do they realize the
collaboration between the sculptor and the light?




     The residence of Rodin, the Hôtel Biron, is situated at the
     extreme end of the rue de Varenne, in the Faubourg St. Germain.
     The long straight street is lined on both sides with old mansions
     that lend a distinctive nobility to this district of Paris. The
     street is solemn, the quiet austere. Only rarely a carriage rumbles
     by. Like the tide of a river, the air sweeps down this street from
     the Boulevard des Invalides, which at its other end opens upon the
     Esplanade des Invalides, like a great lake.

     Now and then one catches glimpses of the spacious courts, the
     steps, the peristyles, and the ornate, but at the same time simple,
     pediments. Most of these mansions were, and many of them still are,
     inhabited by families associated with the history of France.

     The northern façade of the Hôtel Biron and the courtyard
     through which one enters are hidden behind a high convent wall, for
     in the nineteenth century the old residence of the Duc de Biron
     was transformed into a religious school of the Sacred Heart. There
     the daughters of the aristocracy were educated. In consequence of
     the law of 1904 relating to the religious orders, the mansion was
     vacated, and taken possession of by the state, which rented it in
     apartments. Rodin, ever in search of old buildings, in which alone
     he can think and work in comfort, soon became the main tenant.

     To ring the bell one must reach high. With difficulty one
     turns the handle of the door, which swings slowly. It is a portal
     made for coaches to pass through. Under its monumental arch one
     seems as insignificant as an insect. To the right of the court is
     the old chapel of the religious community. Its somber character
     stands out against the neighboring secular buildings. The cold
     style of Charles X, in which it is built, forms a strange contrast
     to the charming structure of Jacques Gabriel, the celebrated artist
     who in the eighteenth century endowed Paris with many works of art,
     among others this pavilion of the rue de Varenne, the Hôtel Biron.
     Nevertheless, had it not been for Rodin, this building would have
     been torn down.

     It is a vast mansion, extremely simple, and built on the
     lines of an elongated square. Its great charm is due wholly to its
     correct proportions and to the grace and variety of its beautiful,
     tall windows, some straight, others rounded, and surmounted by an
     inconspicuous ornament, the signature of the artist. All of them
     are enlivened by little squares of glass, which are to a window
     what the facets are to a diamond.

     The spacious vestibule is paved with black and white marble,
     its ceiling supported by six strong columns. A charming stone
     staircase rises here. All is in the style of Louis XV, a style that
     is dignified when it is not delightfully elegant and coquettish.

     The house was to be torn down, and sold as junk; but Rodin
     was on guard. Ever since he had learned that this masterpiece was
     condemned his heart had bled, and for the first and only time in
     the course of his long existence an outside interest took him
     from his work. He wrote letters, took legal steps, called to
     his assistance artists, people of culture, and men in politics.
     M. Clémenceau, then president of the cabinet; M. Briand, who
     succeeded him; M. Gabriel Hanotaux, one of his great friends;
     M. Dujardin-Beaumetz, under-secretary of state of fine arts,
     all listened to his indefatigable pleading. Finally his plea was
     heard, and the Hôtel Biron was classified as a historical monument,
     henceforth inviolate. Then the speculators had to abandon their
     idea of filling the park with hideous modern structures, and of
     disfiguring in six months this unique Quartier des Invalides, to
     construct which the architects had given years of work and all
     their intelligence.

     Rodin's admirers soon conceived the idea of converting the
     Hôtel Biron into a museum for the master's works, which they
     pledged themselves to defend with a tenacity equal to that which
     Rodin had just displayed.

       *       *       *       *       *

     I knock at the door of the studio and rapidly pass through
     two large rooms containing no furniture, only busts of bronze and
     groups of marble. When I enter the study, Rodin is not here; I
     glance about. All the details of this room are familiar to me, but
     they always seem new, because everything is in harmony here, with a
     harmony which varies according to the day and the hour.

     It is a morning in spring. The bright light sheds its rays
     on the various antiquities that the master has assembled here:
     Empire chairs, with faded velvet coverings; a Louis XIV arm-chair
     of gilded wood and cherry-colored silk, in which one might fancy
     Molière seating himself to chat with Rodin, who, ever ready as he
     is with a bit of raillery, would surely not have failed in repartee.

     On a round table there is a Persian material, and some
     Japanese vases filled with tulips and anemones. On the mantelpiece
     are bronzes from the far East and a statuette of porcelain in
     marvelous blues that Rodin calls his "Chinese Virgin." On the
     walls, close together like the stones in a mosaic, are many of the
     master's water-colors. Their well-chosen tones harmonize with and
     intensify those of the flowers, the fabrics, and the ceramics of
     bygone days.

     Scattered pedestals support huge bronze busts, which call to
     mind warriors of the Middle Ages, and some unfinished pieces. They
     consist of small groups that, under the eye of the master, seem to
     grow out of the white marble, and in the golden sunlight look as
     soft as snow.

     On this table, where Rodin takes his meals and writes, is a
     Greek marble, a little torso without arms or legs; I know it well,
     for he showed it to me while murmuring words of admiration. This is
     his latest passion.

     I enter the garden, where he is enjoying a moment of rest, for
     he has been working a long while. Owing to his habits as a good
     workman, he rises at five every morning.

     I pass through one of the big doors which open upon the park.
     The beautiful view always captivates me anew. The light, the air,
     the expanse of sky, the magnificent groups of trees, this rustic
     solitude in the heart of Paris, take one by surprise, inspire and
     elevate the spirit. Rodin is here, smiling and in good humor.

     We are on the terrace that overlooks the expanse of green
     and forms a sort of slanting pedestal for the pavilion. Below
     stretches a broad alley, almost an avenue, overgrown with a rich
     carpet of grass and moss, which loses itself in the distant wood.
     Fruit-trees, growing wild, form impenetrable screens on both sides
     of this alley.

     The grandeur of this park is largely due to the age of the
     trees. Stepping to the edge of the balustrade, I can see toward the
     right the dome of the Invalides, standing alone, outlined against
     the sky, like a burgrave on guard under a helmet of gold.


     The northern façade of the pavilion has a severe character.
     It is the façade which visitors and passers-by see, and for this
     an elegant simplicity suffices. But this other side, bathed in
     the midday sun, is meant for friends. All the delicate splendor
     that the architect conceived is expressed in these stones. This
     sculptured pediment, this balcony with its console of flowers, and
     the graceful windows, with their semicircular transoms, are models
     of elegance. The Hôtel Biron is not large, but it is imposing. The
     blockheads who inhabited it during the last century, blind to its
     beauty, deaf to its appeal, demolished and sold the wrought-iron
     balustrades of the windows, balconies, and staircases, but they
     were not able, thank Heaven! to destroy its innate beauty.

     "Let us go to work," said Rodin. I go back to the statues;
     Rodin begins to draw. In a little while he will model. During his
     hasty luncheon he has the little Greek torso placed before him, and
     he makes notes all the while.

     True genius is as changeable as nature. It finds as many ways
     of expressing its ideals as it finds subjects. But what always
     remains the same is the desire to be sincere. Yet the artist, with
     the best of intentions, is often the victim of his own sincerity.
     Rodin is no exception to this rule, for even he has had his
     portraits rejected. "There is no resemblance!" people declare,
     while, on the contrary, the resemblance is too true. With his keen
     insight he penetrates too far beyond the mere flesh of the model.
     People are frightened at seeing their hidden personality brought
     to the light of day, are taken aback at being compelled to know
     themselves. They consider the sculptor indiscreet and dangerous.

     If, in his portraits of men, he pries to their very souls,
     if he reveals without pity those of his own sex, his equals, his
     companions in life's struggle, in his portraits of women he is
     discreet and respectful. With delicacy he unfolds their delicate
     mystery. He does not say anything which is not true, but frequently
     he does not express the whole truth. Genius is ever in quiet
     complicity with womanhood, and leaves it in that half-obscurity
     which is its greatest power.

     In the bust before us of Mrs. X---- , one wonders what he
     refrained from expressing. Surely neither the unusual beauty of the
     woman nor her air as of an archduchess.

     I remember the day when I saw this bust for the first time.
     It was in the Salon, placed at the head of a high staircase. The
     marble was brilliant. Something regal and also lovable attracted
     those who came toward it. Resplendent in beauty, the shoulders
     emerge from the folds of a wrap with the proud grace of one who is
     to the manor born. The small, well-shaped head, supported by the
     plump, though delicate, neck, is half turned to the slightly raised
     left shoulder. The hair is drawn up high to form a crown, throwing
     forward some light strands that shed their soft shadows over the
     forehead, like a thatching of moss. The beautiful eyebrows, too,
     lend mystery to the glance of the eyes, so full of sweetness and
     understanding. The small ear is partly hidden under the waves of
     the well-groomed hair. The lines of delicate symmetry which run
     from the chin to the ear, and from the ear to the shoulder, and the
     coronet of hair, give the bust its distinguished look of race.

     Here we see, too, the firmness of beautiful flesh, hardened by
     exercise, radiating that spirit of joyous life that springs from
     a thoroughly healthy body, as we feel it in some of the Tanagra
     figurines. The quiet reserve which stamps the refined Anglo-Saxon
     is revealed, but not overaccentuated. The nose is straight and
     slightly raised at the tip, the mouth frank and regular. Those
     same changing shadows which beautify flowers, when the sun strikes
     them through the leaves of a tree, play over this countenance, and
     bathe it in a variety of delicate tones from the eyes to the chin.
     But beneath this placid beauty there is a restless soul eager to
     act, to express its goodness. The chin and the throat retain their
     look of youth, even of something childlike for those whom she
     loves; but the thoughtful brow is slightly wrinkled, as if from the
     intelligent search for happiness.

     This bust, almost Greek in its simplicity, is one of the most
     purely beautiful that has come from Rodin's hands.

     When we note the facility with which these works are produced,
     seemingly a natural growth, like vintage and harvest; when we
     contemplate these fruits of knowledge, we are too apt to overlook
     the laborious efforts involved, and to forget that a life has
     been given, drop by drop, to achieve this result in small steps
     of progress. Even when we know all this, we often prefer to give
     the credit to external causes, which appeal more strongly to our
     superficial minds, rather than to that endless patience that is,
     and always will be, the secret of genius.

     I watched Rodin model the head of Hanako, the Japanese
     actress. He rapidly modeled the whole in the rough, as he does
     all his busts. His keen eye and his experienced thumb enable him
     to establish the exact dimensions at the first sitting. Then the
     detailed work of modeling begins. The sculptor is not satisfied to
     mold the mass in its apparent outlines only. With absolute accuracy
     he slices off some clay, cuts off the head of the bust, and lays it
     upside down on a cushion. He then makes his model lie on a couch.

     Bent like a vivisector over his subject, he studies the
     structure of the skull seen from above, the jaws viewed from below,
     and the lines which join the head to the throat, and the nape of
     the neck to the spine. Then he chisels the features with the point
     of a pen-knife, bringing out the recesses of the eyelids, the
     nostrils, the curves of the mouth. Yet for forty years Rodin was
     accused of not knowing how to "finish"!

     With great joy he said one day, "I achieved a thing to-day
     which I had not previously attained so perfectly--the commissure of
     the lips."

     In making a bust Rodin takes numerous clay impressions,
     according to the rate of progress. In this way he can revert to the
     impression of the previous day, if the last pose was not good, or
     if, in the language of the trade, "he has overworked his material."
     Thus one may see five, six, or even eight similar heads in his
     studio, each with a different expression.

     Hanako did not pose like other people. Her features were
     contracted in an expression of cold, terrible rage. She had the
     look of a tiger, an expression thoroughly foreign to our Occidental
     countenances. With the force of will which the Japanese display in
     the face of death, Hanako was enabled to hold this look for hours.

     Little by little, under the sculptor's fingers, the mask of
     clay reflected all this. It cried out revenge without mercy, the
     thirst, for blood. A baffling contrast this--the spirit of a wild
     beast appearing on the human countenance.

     I have one of these studies before me now. It has been cast
     in a composition of colored glass, and the vivid flesh coloring
     lends reality to the work. This mask is not disfigured by rage. The
     bloodless head, with its fixed stare, lies on a white cushion, and
     no one escapes its disquieting influence. Some people shudder
     when they see it. "One might think it the head of a dead person,"
     they say.

[Illustration: PORTRAIT OF MRS. X----.]

     Whenever I enter the spacious room I am irresistibly drawn
     toward it. My feelings are different every time, but always there
     is a feeling of uneasiness. I cannot say that it resembles death;
     on the contrary, it is so lifelike that it is almost supernatural.
     One might call it a condemned person, a being so terrified by the
     approach of death that all the blood has rushed to the heart. It
     is a spirit frozen with fear, the eyes looking toward the unknown,
     the large nostrils scenting death. The bulging forehead, the high,
     Mongolian cheek-bones, and the flat nose make the face still more
     singular. All the lines of the face run toward the mouth, with its
     remarkable expression. Obstinate, although conquered, it will draw
     its last breath without a cry.

     Meanwhile life seems to throb in every cell. This head, so
     like a being that has been put to death, has the soft, pliant flesh
     of a ripe fruit.

     At night I return to look at it by the light of a candle.
     It looks entirely different. The shadows vary as I move the
     candle, and the features grow mobile. How gentle and touching it
     seems now! It is no longer bloodthirsty and savage; that exotic
     expression which repelled me has quite disappeared. These features,
     expressing the innermost self under a stress of emotions, reveal a
     poor creature that has loved and suffered. It is a pitiable face
     that has been molded by life. I have seen that same sad, tired
     expression of anguish in one whose whole strength is gone, but who
     still makes an effort to understand misfortune in order to strive
     against it. I have seen it on my mother's face when one of us was

       *       *       *       *       *


It is still night; the dawn is just breaking. I open my window to let
the refreshing air drive away my drowsiness. From the end of the garden,
in the underbrush, and now all about me, I hear much lively chirping. It
tells of the blessing of love, of springtime.

It is almost day. The blackbird has ended his scene of love; no one was
about when he sang his song of spring and harmony. The flowers listened,
and blossomed at the call of this unseen Orpheus. The air is laden with
misty melodies. These songs do not disturb the silence; they are part
of it. Later we shall still hear the happy call of birds, but no longer
these songs of love that proclaim the eternal reign of our mother earth.

Now is the time for sighs of happiness; the flowers consecrate
themselves to the beautifying of Demeter, goddess of the under-world.
Orpheus searches for Eurydice; he calls her, and his notes break the
harmonious silence.

I must bathe my brows in the vague mist, in the fragrance of the earth,
in the light of the dawning day. Spacious room, I leave you. I shall
return to you to work, for here only have I known complete silence.

I hurry into the garden, where I find inspiring freshness. I had looked
forward to it; my whole body was awaiting it. A sprouting twig proclaims
the fullness of life. I am freed from the memory of yesterday, born anew
for all the seasons to come. In the _palais_ thoughts are more subdued
and modest, content to be bounded by the splendid proportions of the
apartments--proportions that are correct, but nothing more.

The flight of time is marked by the song of the blackbird, and, as in
Mozart's music, one cannot quite define whence its charm springs. It
is everywhere, to the right, to the left. That voice seems to pierce
through the gaps and hollows of the wood, for now one hears it as an
echo, now as a solo, at the farthest end of the wood.

My flight of steps is my place for reflection, my _salle de pas
perdus_.[1] At the foot of the steps the verdant carpet, sown with
little stars of green, stretches out. It might be an old Arabian
material or a rich marble. Bits of earth are to be seen in delicate gray
patches. The shadow of night still enshrouds the garden in a cloudy
veil. In the distance, outlined against the horizon, are the bleak walls
of houses, like huge stones. About me stretches that enormous Babylon,
that Paris where my tired nerves relax, where the substance of my life
is woven, where my heart has found appreciation and no reproach, and
where my mind, imbued with the true knowledge of life, has taught my
soul the gracious lesson of submission.

This broad, beautiful lane is like a Corot, and recalls his nymphs.
The bare trees look like limbs. A bright carpet of turf moistens their
roots. Now a rabbit runs by. In the distance the carriages rumble like
artillery. This is a fitting haunt for fauns, their rustic arbor.
The trees serve as a roof, their green shoots melting into the sky.
The freshness of new life is everywhere, and little exclamations of
admiration spring from every creature.

With this universal youth new thoughts are born. In this delightful
retreat one feels that only an antique statue could add to its beauty.

The trees expand with vigor, their buds outlined against the sky. The
rest of the lane seems an avenue of enchantment. Far down at the end
I seem to see happiness. But no, I am wrong: it is not only in the
distance; it is here, all about me, now.

The slanting rays of the sun strike the trees and the grass; over
the lane bluish shadows play. The spreading shade of the trees falls
softly on the fresh green. Those little dashes of blue among the grass
are forget-me-nots. Those beautiful trees, garbed only since a week
ago, trail their lovely green draperies on the ground, while detached
garlands cling to the shrubs.

The majesty of youth in nature is unique; it is charm itself, an
inimitable thing. Yet some men of genius have been able to express the
spirit of spring.

[Illustration: RODIN IN HIS GARDEN.]

The very soul of meditation dwells in this garden, in this alley of
trees. Polyhymnia, the Muse, in her graceful draperies, walks with me,
and I follow her reverently.

Away from the turmoil, I can forget the constant hurry of our days. How
we allow ourselves to be harassed! Reaching out for everything without
possessing anything truly, we do not even realize what treasures we have
lost. A few puffs of empty air are not poetry, and seeing happiness in
the distance is not enjoying it. What hurries you? Ah, your life is out
there, elsewhere? Go, then; but I shall remain here with the antique in
my charming garden.

I will sit down on this old stone bench, surrounded by dense shrubs. The
dead wood is piled in little heaps. The tree-tops form a semicircle,
and stand out like a pantheon against the sky. The branches bear the
marks of lightning and grow in zigzag. The sap of the earth rises in the
arteries of the trees, ever ready to take part in the great festival of

Now the charm of the alley consists in the differences of light and
shade. As the one strives to advance, the other recedes toward the dale.
The shadows disperse for the morning, leaving behind their beneficent
moisture for their friends, the flowers of this dale.

Before me, on a knoll, stands a beautiful column, as if in prayer. It
seems to have sprung from the kingdom of Pluto, and now, like us, it
stands in the bright sunlight, a part of the out-of-doors.

Stone, pure and beautiful material, destined for the work of men, just
as flax is destined for the work of women. A gift scarcely hidden
under the earth, man has seized upon stones with rapture, carefully
drawing them from their dark hiding-place, to raise them on high as in
church towers, making them tractable, transforming the crude rocks,
and appropriating them for masterpieces. Under the protection of man's
sacrilegious hand, these stones lend beauty to our cities. They have a
tender sympathy with the trees, the roots of which join their own.

Both hard and soft stones have a place in man's esteem. Sculpture has
glorified them. The column is like a tree, but simpler than a tree, with
a silent life of its own. And like the plants which cling about it, it
also has its foliage and leaves. The artist who conceived the Sphinx
made her to be the guardian of temples and secrets.

That column there rises up like a druid-stone, as though to converse
with the moon at night. It awaits the appearance of man in the solemn
ritual of night, for in its immensity it bears witness that man has
created it. Man, too, has had his part, an ephemeral part, in the
creation; his idea strives with the works of God, as Israel strove with
the angel. His illuminating thought, expressed in stone, arouses those
who otherwise might be insensible to beauty. The hand of man, like the
hand of God, can transform a soul and make it new.

Mystery in which I have lived, but which I understand only now that I am
about to depart. The marvel of it all! And to think that one must leave
it! Well, that is the lot of all other living creatures.

And now the blue of the sky has grown darker, without a shadow, while
beauty itself has taken its abode in these avenues of trees. Now and
then passing clouds dim the glory of this splendid youth of nature, but
the green is brilliant even in the shadow. High up among the trees, I
see a blue river, the sky, while the great clouds, mountains of water,
are hanging above to quench the thirst of the flowers.

[Footnote 1: _Salle de pas perdus_ is the name given to the large hall
of the Gare St. Lazare, Paris.]


Twenty times a day I walk in front of this little torso. I bring all my
friends to see it, for Greek sculpture is the very source of beauty.

Why am I surprised whenever I look upon this torso? I think it is
because nature, which is behind this work of art, always calls forth
new, unlooked-for sensations.

Venus, glorious Venus, model of all women, your purity survives even
after two thousand years. Your charm charms me--me who have admirers for
my own sculpture. Before you they remain cold; but I, with a spirit that
sees further--I admit my defeat as an artist, my poor ability vanishes
before your grace.

Form, as I used to express it, seems a mere illusion before the
harmonious strength of your lines, which embody the very truth of
life. Divine fragment, I shall live by you! What days you recall
to me! Perhaps the last moments of the soul of Greek sculpture,
ever-increasingly my Muse.

This torso shows the suppleness and strength of the joints. It is a
summing-up of former masterpieces of the artist. Those endless studies
that grow into experience and all the qualities of balance are here
concealed beneath the beauty and the gracious inspiration of the figure.
The inspired sculptor has just discovered all these qualities, and in
appreciation has given expression to them with his very soul.

An antique piece of sculpture cannot be imitated. This torso seems to
have a soul. Are not the shadows trembling on it there? One can see them

What a progress toward truth we find in the advance from Assyrian and
Egyptian to Greek art! Antique things, if we knew how to look at them,
would bring about a new renaissance for us, we who stagnate in the
Parisian spirit. The Parisian spirit, young though it is, is already
too old to serve us. It is like those pretentious monuments, those
constructions in plaster, which are hollow and horrible under their
crumbling stucco.

Greece was the land of sculpture beyond all others. The subject of
their sculpture was life. The people concealed it under names and
symbols,--Jupiter, Apollo, Venus, the fauns,--but behind all these was
the eternal truth of life.

This torso on my table looks as though it had been washed to the shore
by the loving waves, as boats are stranded on the beach at low tide.
What more beautiful offering could be made to men and gods? For is this
fragment not an eternal prayer?

The thoughts expressed in this torso are numerous, infinite. I could
write about it forever. Do I bring these thoughts with me? Is it I who
put them into the marble? No, for when it is out of my sight, this
divinity of life vanishes from me at the same time. Since it ceases
to be in me, it must be the fragment which possesses it. It teaches a
sculptor more than any professor could. It whispers secrets to me, and
if I am true to it, it will tell me more and more; it will transform
me in harmony with the soul of its friend, the Greek sculptor. For are
not the thoughts of God expressed all the world over? Are they not the
fruitful germs, now growing within a brain, now in a beautiful grouping
of stone, and now captured by those magicians, the poets? And are
sculptors, too, not like poets?

Where can one find more perfect harmony than in this fragment? It is
a monument. And is it not providential? It is only a fragment, yet it
seems to embody the whole Acropolis. Truth, that lasting joy, fills in
all that is missing. It is a fact that this torso, which weighs one
hundred and sixty pounds, seems as light as the woman herself would
be, as light as her gracious, swelling flesh. I know contours, but the
contours of a masterpiece always surprise me anew. Whenever I see you,
beautiful little torso, my eyes and my soul feast on you. Masterpiece,
you are my master, too.

If, as they say, stones have fallen from heaven, this surely must be one
of them. I leave it in the condition in which I found it, as it first
appealed to me, with all its charm, as I carried it in my arms to this
table. The changing lights of day mold it; but I shall not touch it, I
shall not change it. It is truth itself, and it shines in no matter what

This torso has within it the seductiveness of woman, that garden of
pleasure the secret charms of which imbue old and young alike with a
terrible power. Feminine charm which crushes our destiny, mysterious
feminine power that retards the thinker, the worker, and the artist,
while at the same time it inspires them--a compensation for those who
play with fire!

It is not by analysis that you will learn to understand art, you who are
ignorant. Greek art eludes the imbeciles and ignorant who have always
undervalued it. How can one comprehend this beauty by mere analysis?
Where lies the secret of force? It is ever shifting. And the shadow,
so genially arranged, varies with the way the light strikes it. In
art, what do we call life? That which speaks to you through all your
senses. If this torso were to bleed, it could not be more lifelike. The
harmony of its lines dominates my soul. The soul lives and grows on
masterpieces. That is why we have a soul.

Is it surprising, then, that I live with these antiques of mine, poets
far more inspiring than any of our day? They have created beings that
will live to survive us.


I leave my exacting work always more and more its slave. Walking,
because of its regularity, always refreshes me. Such a walk means
a great deal to me. It puts my nerves into a state of delightful

The trees are still bare of leaves and have a wintry look. At their
base there are dainty sprouts, clouds of green. The lawns are ponds of
emerald green. The charm of this alley is partly due to the twigs and
shoots that sprout out of the ground and spring up like a cloud of lace.

There is a faint decline in this soft brightness, for now the sun is
setting. The sun-god is moderating his power for the benefit of the
little flowers which otherwise would dry up and fade. This is the hour
when the sun lends full value to the works of man, so that architecture
stands out in all its beauty, while at the same time the sun softly
colors the lovely clouds.

The pediment of the Palais Biron is brilliant in the sunlight. The
balcony casts shadows on the grimacing consoles, and the shell-work is
luminous in this glorious light. The window-panes glow in glory. The
great staircase seems arranged for ladies to descend on their way to
the garden, graciously trailing their long robes, which rustle over the

Like a pilgrim, full of hope, who rests a moment at the gates of a town,
and breathes the balmy evening air, so I seat myself in this garden.
The hour passes quickly, but it could not be better employed than in
absorbing these marvels.

When the sun drops behind the horizon, with its glowing colors like the
flaming fires of a forge, our hearts are filled with wonder and awe.
It gilds all in a last golden glory of triumph, the sky so brilliant
that one cannot define the line of the horizon. There, where the sun
disappeared, the sky is now orange. Everything is fading away; another
immensity spreads out before us. The glory of night is about to extend
over the firmament its melancholy charm.

[Illustration: THE POET AND THE MUSES.]

The corner of this garden is a corner of happiness, a corner of
eternity. Here thoughts can thrive and worship, for here they have
everything. For the great things in life are not the exceptional things,
but the beauties of every day, which we do not stop to notice. These
vast treasures, within our grasp, which we do not even touch, they are
the things that count.

The public believes that one is happy in the admiration of nature; but
there are various degrees of happiness. Doubtless a glorious feeling of
admiration may take hold of one; but if one does not constantly cling
to one's admiration as a matter of habit, one grows weary and becomes
superficial. Indeed, I do not know why we demand another life, since we
have not learned to enjoy and understand this one fully. In any case, if
we find this a bad world, it is our fault. We are childish about it. We
belittle one another wilfully. Fancy the trees doing that, if one could
suspect them of such a thing!

When I descend the steps, I am overwhelmed by that fluid which is life.
I am in touch with life. What more can I want? This tenderness which
surrounds me everywhere, this ever-varying nature which says so much to
me, the atmosphere which envelops me--am I already in heaven, or am I a



     One of Rodin's friends, M. Léon Bourgeois, the eminent,
     highly cultivated French statesman, has said, "Rodin is himself
     a cathedral." This remark wonderfully characterizes Rodin's
     intellectuality as it appears to us to-day. Rich in years and
     experience, his intellect is in truth as complicated as a
     cathedral, but like it, too, superbly simple in its general
     structure. His intellect possesses the wealth of detail that makes
     up life and the calm balance of the laws that govern nature. His
     mind, formed on principles scrupulously controlled by observation,
     abounds in that wonderful artistic imagination which is the poetry
     of life. Ever renewing itself, ever active, his mind inspires
     intense confidence because it is deeply rooted in truth. It looks
     at its subjects of study with such conscientious devotion that it
     perceives every phase of reality; for it is only love such as this,
     a love springing not from impatience and passion, but from faith
     and hope, that is always victorious in the end.

     Churches! He lives near them, so as to study them in the
     fleeting changes of the hours. He likes to be enveloped by the
     sound of the church bells that for seven or eight centuries have
     spoken the same language of discipline to the spirit of France.
     Day and night he visits the naves. There his soul feels the sacred
     mystery. The churches are truly the cradle of his artistic faith.

     But it is only recently that the joys which he drew from them
     reached their height; for although he was long under the influence
     of Gothic art, that most extraordinary product of the hand of
     man, only in the last few years has he learned to penetrate its
     principles and understand its methods.

     How often in my youth I questioned him about the cathedrals!
     He always replied with that caution which in deep natures is a
     form of deference: "I am pervaded by the marvel of this art; but
     I cannot as yet explain it to myself. The Gothic is the world
     foreshortened. Where am I to begin? For more than thirty years
     I have been accumulating and comparing my observations. Perhaps
     eventually I shall succeed in deducing the rule, the law of divine
     intelligence; but perhaps I shall not have sufficient time. Then it
     will be the task of another, younger than myself, who will start
     his researches earlier, and who, besides, will have been informed
     by me."

     On his return from each of these pilgrimages he was possessed
     by the happy restlessness of one who would soon be able to give
     expression to his secret. One felt that "the law of divine
     intelligence" was being formulated in his mind. I then hoped and
     expected that soon he would reap the fruit of his long labors.

     At last one day Rodin took me to Notre Dame, beautiful among
     the beautiful, despite the modern restorations that have detracted
     from the grace and suppleness of its sculpture. Notre Dame of Paris
     is beautiful in itself and in its situation on the banks of the
     Seine, that river of feminine grace, which in its innocent course
     draws with it the memory of many terrible historic events.

     From Notre Dame to Saint-Eustache, from the Tour Saint-Jacques
     to Saint-Etienne-du-Mont, during this long walk of ours Rodin
     talked, quite unaware of the curious glances of those who
     recognized him, and of the scoffing of the street urchins, who
     mistook the great Frenchman for a stranger discovering the capital
     of France. Later he gave me numerous notes that supplemented his

     His words and notes combined form the clearest and most
     important lesson on Gothic art that has been handed down since the
     days of the Gild of the Francs-Maçons, by one of their own sort, a
     craftsman such as they were, a veritable sculptor, a stone-cutter
     loving the material in which he works.

     Has Rodin, after so thoroughly grasping the secrets of the
     builders of bygone days, never felt the desire to apply them in the
     execution of some work of architecture? Was he never tempted by
     their example and by that of Michelangelo to expand his resources
     beyond those of the sculptor? Those who know the creative power
     and the vastness of imagination of the modeler of "The Burghers of
     Calais" and of "The Gate of Hell" may well ask this question.

     Well, yes, he has had that great dream, which in more prolific
     times would have become a glorious reality. He hoped to revive
     the spirit of a day when a whole nation of artists covered France
     with masterpieces; he hoped to organize labor collectively, and
     to gather about him a legion of artisans to work together on a
     monument which should become in a certain sense the cathedral of
     the modern age.

     He even drew up plans for that wonderful project, the subject
     of which was to be the glorification of labor, that triumphant
     force of our present civilization. He did not plan to rival the
     Gothic style, the prodigious achievement of which would have
     required throngs of workmen thoroughly organized and disciplined,
     well trained under the system of master and apprentice,
     accomplishing their common task in the joy of work and the
     enthusiasm of faith. He planned to approximate the art of the
     Renaissance, less removed from modern intellectuality, and simpler
     of execution.

[Illustration: THE TOWER OF LABOR.]

     In Rodin's studio at Meudon one can see the plan for this
     monument. The axis is a high column calling to mind Trajan's
     Column, and, like it, covered with bas-reliefs. A tower broken
     by large openings, as in the Tower of Pisa, encircles it. In the
     interior a gradually inclining way leads one from the base to the
     top along the bas-reliefs. These represent all the active crafts
     and trades: those of the cities, such as masons, carpenters,
     weavers, bakers, brewers, glass-workers, and goldsmiths; and
     those of the country, such as plowmen, harvesters, vintagers,
     vine-dressers, shepherds, and farmers. On the exterior, between
     the arches, stand statues of the great geniuses that have led
     humanity, whose efforts have raised them to celestial heights; that
     is, to the peace and happiness of creating. There great thinkers,
     inventors, and artists have their niches, just as the prophets
     have theirs in the vaults of cathedrals. The edifice rests on a
     crypt where groups of sculpture are devoted to the glorification
     of work under the earth and its obscure heroes, miners, divers,
     pearl-fishers. At the time when the plan for this monument was
     advanced, and was exciting the imagination of European writers and
     journalists, an ardent admirer of Rodin even proposed to build
     the tomb of the master under the crypt, where he would have had a
     resting-place worthy of a Pharaoh. On each side of the entrance is
     a statue representing Morning and Evening, and at the summit of
     the column two angels, messengers of God, their hands outstretched
     toward the earth with a gesture of exquisite tenderness, shed the
     blessings of heaven on the work of man.

     Alas! this noble, stirring project will not be realized during
     the life of the artist. Will there some day be another possessed of
     the ardor and love of beauty necessary to build this mountain of

     For a time Rodin's friends hoped that America, the nation of
     work par excellence, would seize upon this idea. They pictured
     the philanthropists of the New World in characteristic fashion
     pouring forth millions for this work of universal art and national
     glorification; they saw Rodin being called to the United States,
     gathering about him not only American artists, but all the
     intelligent forces of the world of culture. They saw the Tower
     of Labor, with its angels bestowing their benediction over some
     formidable industrial city, New York, Pittsburgh, or Chicago.
     This might have been the starting-point for a new era of art, for
     nothing is more contagious than the realization of beauty in actual

     Doubtless the writers of France did not discuss the matter
     long or forcibly enough, and the Tour de Travail, which might have
     been the ardent expression of a whole race, will remain the idea
     of a solitary genius, a last offshoot of the masters of the Middle

     But if the hour has not yet struck for the construction of
     the modern cathedral, at least we possess, thanks to the man who
     dreamed of erecting it, the secrets and principles of those who
     constructed the cathedrals of bygone days.

       *       *       *       *       *

To acquire a thorough and fruitful understanding of the cathedrals, we
must break away from the narrow and cold spirit of the present day. The
spirit of our time does not harmonize in architecture with the monuments
of the past.

First let us contemplate the whole. The church is a cliff. The
construction of the slender side springing up is quite in the spirit of
our race. The Gothic towers are stones set up like Druidic monuments.
The church is laid out like a dolmen, and the towers are the menhirs.
Like the menhirs, they have beautiful, flexible lines; they possess the
eloquence of natural outlines, which are never cold or meager.

The line of the Gothic tower is slightly curved, swelling like that of
a barrel. A straight line is hard and cold. The Greeks perceived that;
they refrained from straight lines, and the columns of their temples
also show a slight swelling.

The two sides of the Gothic tower are not alike. The architects
considered that preferable to obvious symmetry. Look at the Tour
Saint-Jacques in Paris. One of the sides shows a long, sloping hollow,
making it look quite different from the other, which, again, is like
stones set on high. The hollowed line permits protuberances, details of
ornamentation that soften and harmonize with the line of the ensemble.
It has been restored, and therefore from near at hand seems cold, for
our workmen have lost the science and art of modeling. But the beauty of
the general structure remains; they could not detract from that.

This softened line, this line full of life, is one of the chief
characteristics of the Gothic. The sky of our northern climates ordained
it so, for the architects of the Middle Ages carved their monuments
out of doors. Once the general plan was established, they easily found
the details while working with their tools, guided by the light and
influenced by natural conditions.

Our light is not that of Greece. Humanity the world over is akin; but
to what the Greek expressed in a chastened manner, in keeping with his
eternally pure light, we have added the oblique slant of our sun, our
reality, our country, our autumns, the sting of our winters, our less
definite spirit, our remoteness from the glaring Olympian sun; and, last
of all, we have added our trees.

We also have light, but it is frequently obscured by passing clouds. Is
it not natural that we should reproduce them in our art? And the line,
the abundant line, is more accentuated in the half-night of our long
autumns. Thus we are more in the mood of our woods and our forests. Our
souls have more shadows than the Greek soul, our determinations are more
varied; for our clouds and our forests are reflected in our hearts.

Artists, let us, then, revert to the interpretation of our race, but in
the spirit, not in the letter. Let us copy only the soul of our external
nature, not its Gothic form, for a mere copy is cold and dead. Beautiful
architecture is a reproduction by man, but from a divine model. From
this it receives the warmth of life. If architecture is true to the
spirit of nature, it is embraced by the trees, the rocks, the clouds;
they are the silent company of beauty.

O Cathedral! Sphinx of Northern life! although mutilated, are you not
eternal? Do you cease to live? From a distance, and in the evening, when
dusk sets in, you seem truly a great sphinx crouching in the country.

The drama that unfolds itself on the stone pages of the churches recalls
to us with a very few gestures and movements the silent drama of
antiquity, the sculptures, illustrations of Æschylus and Sophocles.

From the Greek type, in truth, sprang the thoughts that guide man, and
again from the Egyptian granite; and eventually from the stone of the
Gothic, that Gothic which leads to the period of Louis XVI, and which in
France is always the principal path of art. Other styles were derived
from it, those of the fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth, and
eighteenth centuries. Their basis is Gothic; therefore the Gothic is the
fundamental style, which ought to keep us from the path of decadence,
if that is possible. You do not understand it? You say you prefer the
Greek? O ye mortals that wish to pass judgment on all matters, take
heed lest these masterpieces prevail against you! The cathedral is as
beautiful, perhaps more beautiful, than the Parthenon. If you do not
understand this style, then you are still further removed from the
Greek, which is of another country and epoch. It is more beautiful,
perhaps more concise, more marble; but we belong more with stone and
forests, we are more autumnal, more of the cold and melancholy season.


Do not let us lose sight of the fact that beneath this poem of stone
there is a foundation of knowledge based on a close and comprehensive

To-day I understand it. As a result of study, one truth after another
comes to light. At the outset one is lost before these marvels. Where
is one to begin studying? One's thoughts and one's admiration rise like
clouds. The mind makes prodigious leaps to grasp again what it already
knows, to combine it with the recently acquired knowledge, to attempt to
draw conclusions which simplify and generalize the study, and thus to
discern the fundamental law.

For a long time during my youth I thought, like many others, that Gothic
art was poor. I was so ungrateful during the first enthusiasm of my
liberty! I learned to understand its grandeur only through traveling.
Observation and work led me back to the right road. In the course of my
efforts I have grasped the meaning of the thoughts of the masters. My
persistent work was not futile, and, like one of the Magi, I have at
last come to bow in humble reverence before them.

A true artist must penetrate the primordial principles of creation; only
by understanding the beautiful does he become inspired, and that not
through a sudden awakening of his sensibilities, but by slow penetration
and perception, by patient love. The mind need not be quick, for slow
progress should imply precaution in every direction.

The Gothic builders are the greatest observers of nature that have ever
existed, the greatest realists, despite all that professors and critics
say to the contrary. They call them idealists. They say the same of the
Greeks and of all artists whose profound knowledge has enabled them to
borrow their effects and charm from nature. Idealists! That is a term
which signifies nothing and merely confounds cause and effect.

Builders of the Middle Ages, you independent scholars, models of a
profound intelligence, this is what our age has found as an explanation
of your masterpieces!

I have devoted my whole life in endeavoring to catch a glimpse of
the rules, the secrets of experience, which you transmitted to one
another, and it is only now, when my days are numbered, that I am at
last grasping the synthesis of beauty. To whom shall I confide the
fruit of my research? Some future genius will gather it. The cathedral
is eternal, rising toward the sky. When we think it has attained its
ultimate height, it rises again higher still, like a mountain of truth.


The architects of our churches subordinated detail to arrive at a more
effective whole. That is why our churches are so beautiful when seen
from a distance. They sacrificed everything to the essential, the "plan."

The plan? Like all synthetic conceptions, this is difficult to define.
It is the space that an object displaces in the atmosphere, its volume.
When an artist is able to determine exactly the space an object occupies
in the atmosphere, be he painter, sculptor, or architect, he possesses
the real science of plans.

What is detail in a plan? Nothing. The towers of the church at Bruges
are superb in their bareness, while our modern houses, overladen with
detail, are hideous to look upon. Of the two towers of the cathedral at
Chartres, the one is bare, just a huge wall; the other is covered with
ornamentation, and the first is possibly the more beautiful because of
the potency of its plan. What does this force of simplicity express to
us? It is the soul of a nation. A people expresses its nature through
the medium of its architecture. Stones are faithful when we do not
retouch them. They are the signatures of a nation.

[Illustration: HEADLESS FIGURE.]

Through the science of plans the great oppositions or contrasts of light
and shadow are obtained. They give life and color to the structure.
According to the position of the sun, the appearance of a building
varies. One part is in the shade, the other in the light, and between
these two is the gradation of shadings.

The master architects did not set their edifices apart from the
universe; they gave them the benefit of all the phenomena of
nature--dawn and dusk, twilight, cloud effects, haze, and fog. Every
moment of the day adds to or detracts from their effect.

Sometimes I stand before a cathedral, and it does not seem at all
beautiful. I feel I should like to alter it. Then I revisit it at
another hour and see it in a different lighting. The light strikes it
aslant, the shadows are deeper; the cathedral is absolutely beautiful,
and I feel abashed at my former impatience and critical mistrust.


These great effects of light and shade, obtained by the plan--effects
simple in their means, yet mysterious in their power of attraction for
us, have strengthened the idea that Gothic art is idealistic. The masses
who see the cathedral dominating the city, with its two slanting roofs
like hands joined at the finger-tips, certainly feel in it the great
idea, the poem. They do not realize that the sentiments aroused in them
by the beauty of the building are wholly due to the science of the plans.

By means of what principle did the master builders support the weight
of these enormous masses of stone, which yet join lovingly in the
imponderable atmosphere? By obeying the law of equilibrium of the human
body. The human body, standing upright, the feet joined, in equilibrium,
is the basis of the Greek column. Pediments and roof, supported by a
series of these standing bodies, these human columns, that is the Greek
temple. The architecture of the Parthenon reproduces the equilibrium
of the body in a state of rest. In action the body sways; that is to
say, the weight rests on only one leg, while the body inclines to the
opposite side to regain its balance by counterpoise. That is the sway
of Gothic architecture. This sway constitutes the law of motion for the
body of man and animal, ever seeking perfect equilibrium.

Without this law we could not move; we would be like blocks of stone.
Every motion that we make produces an initial swaying, which an opposing
weight instantaneously balances. Thus without any consciousness on
our part a perpetual balancing is taking place within us, a change as
facile and immediate as the changes which take place in the phenomena
of respiration and circulation. All goes on with the speed, order, and
silence that exist in the domain of electricity. It is a perpetual
prodigy to which we do not even give a thought.

It is not surprising that the Gothic masters, who copied from all
nature, took from man and animals the charm of balance.

The ogive (pointed arch) of the cathedral, is achieved by two opposing
thrusts. But the archivolts do not always harmonize with the capitals;
they are not set exactly over them, they are out of the perpendicular.
Two movements of equal force, exactly opposed, cause a stable
equilibrium. Just so the masses of stone are supported by this same
opposition of thrusts.

The interior of the cathedral is high and vast, broken by large windows
that diminish the resistance and help to support the great weight. It
was necessary to find a way of reëstablishing the equilibrium, lest the
nave break down under its own weight. That is the purpose of the flying
buttresses. Like the arms of giants, they throw their opposing weight
against the exterior walls.

Some have drawn the conclusion that cathedrals are imperfect, since they
cannot stand without this support. It is a characteristic idea of our
age. Just as though one would reproach the human body for bearing first
on one leg and then on the other.

These powerful buttresses are wonderfully effective in their contrast
to the lacework of the sculpture. What is more beautiful than Notre
Dame in Paris at night, with its island as its pedestal? It is the huge
skeleton of the France of the Middle Ages which appears to us here. How
attractive the light and shade on the buttresses! Indeed, it took genius
to bring out beauty in that which is in reality only the skeleton of the
edifice, and which could be offensive, were it badly carried out.


The Gothic style exists by virtue of oppositions, contrasts in effects
and in balance. They built huge bare walls, but in the upper heights
ornamentation flourishes and abounds. There the "increase and multiply"
of the Bible has been figuratively carried out.

Once the basis of construction was established, the masons embellished
the "line" by admirable ornamentation, due to their splendid
workmanship. We should never forget that modeling supplies the
life-blood to the mass; without it we can have neither grace nor power.

Formerly I did not understand the architecture; I merely saw the
lacework of the Gothic. But even in my conception of that I was
mistaken, for I thought it a caprice of genius. I did not know that it
had a scientific _raison d'être_; namely, to break and soften the line.
Now I see its importance: it rounds off the outlines; it gives them life
and warmth. These statues, these graceful caryatids, propping up the
portals, these copings in the covings, are like vegetation which softens
the rigid summit of a wall. There again we find the Gothic artists as
skilful colorists as the cleverest painters, because they have gained
insight from the vegetation of our country. In our plants, in our trees,
all is light and shadowy, and from them they gained their wonderful
mastery of the art of depth, which brings out the finest shadings of
light, the mellowness of half-tints. To-day we misuse black, the medium
of power. We use it too extensively; we put it everywhere for the sake
of effect, and therefore lose its effect entirely.

The Gothic is nature transposed and reproduced in stone. To show
admiration for this form of art is to preserve the memory of the
creation. The artist is the confidant of nature. Shakspere says in "King
Lear," we

    ... take upon 's the mystery of things,
    As if we were God's spies.


A church is spread out like a dolmen between two menhirs. The interior
breathes the solemn calm of a forest, the columns are the trees, the
masses of the base are the rocks, the pointed arches are the massive
roots, the vaultings are the caves, and the windows are radiant flowers
in large bowls. When I emerge from the darkness of a cathedral, I feel
as if I came from the shadow of a vast, extinguished world.

Without the brightening light of the stained-glass windows, our churches
would be sad. In Spain the gloom is funereal, but the genius of France
has understood how to capture the caressing light through its windows.
The productiveness of the Celtic spirit is also noticeable in the
capitals. Gothic art abandoned Greek ornament, which had been reproduced
so often that it lost all significance. It found its models in the woods
and gardens. From the oak it took its crown of foliage, from the thistle
and cabbage their gracefully drooping leaves, and from the bramble
its intertwined thorns. They made wonderful capitals by reversing the
acanthus, and copying the languid grace of falling blossoms.

The cathedral of Bourges--the vastness of this church makes me tremble.
One might say there are three churches in its three naves. Grandeur
demands repetition. The superbness of this work of architecture
enforces silence. People attribute their emotion here to religious
sentiment alone, and do not realize that it is due also to the correct
calculations of art. They do not realize that the impressive darkness
of the vast church, its lighting, the wax tapers here, and the
daylight with its brilliancy there, have all been planned beforehand.
The stained-glass windows of Bourges are dazzling, almost terrible, in
their beauty. There are flashes as red as blood, and dashes of blue, a
flame--the wounds of Christ, the funeral pile of Jeanne d'Arc. When the
sun sinks, the bright light will fade away; then we have before us only
the charming effect of bowls of flowers.

The legends which are told on the stained-glass are good enough to amuse
children; but the glass itself, the splendor of its colors, the extent
to which it harmonizes with the nave--all that is the actual result and
object of profound thought. The Middle Ages put life into everything;
they worshiped life. They drew extensively from nature, wisely realizing
that its source is inexhaustible, while the day of man is fleeting.


The science of plans, balance of volumes, and proportion in the moldings
govern the spirit of Gothic art. Of late I believe I have discovered how
the masters struck upon the beautiful Gothic molding, that undulating
molding which gives so much suppleness to the architecture. I have found
something new in the well-known, and beauty in forms which I did not
understand before. This change is due above all to my work. Having
always studied more intensely, I can say that I have always loved more

I believe the masters of Gothic art got their ideas of molding through
their understanding of the human body, and perhaps above all of the body
of woman. The body, that human column, seen in profile is a line of
projections and protuberances, of the nose, the chin, the breast, the
flank. Thence springs the beautiful undulating line which is the outline
of Gothic molding. For Gothic molding, like the Greek, is soft and
swelling. The "doucine" (a molding, concave above, convex below), a term
of the trade, tender as the name of a woman, well expresses the charm of
the beautiful French molding.

The proportions of molding exist in nature, but in such form that we
have not yet been able to subject them to rules. It required men of
positive taste, of most profound understanding, to grasp the harmony of
these proportions and to express them in sculpture. One might say the
Gothic architects understood molding by means of their intelligence as
well as by means of their heart.

By means of the cathedral the artists of the Middle Ages have shown
us the most impressive drama in existence--the mass. The mass has the
grandeur of the antique drama. Greek tragedies are in fact only a form
of the mass. The human mind starts afresh at different epochs. When the
priest officiates, his gestures have the beauty of the antique, and this
beauty merges into that of the church music, that sublime tongue, the
voice of the sea. Then, when the crowds prostrate themselves, when they
arise simultaneously, the undulation of their bending bodies is like the
waves of the ocean. Truly the Gothic master builders were the familiar
friends of the sublime. From what source did these men spring! From what
minds did those ideas arise! God has shared his power with some of his



Criticizing nature is as stupid as criticizing the cathedrals. It is the
vice of our cold and petty age to criticize. It is the evil of decadent
races. We are constantly being told that we live in an age of progress,
an age of civilization. That is perhaps true from the point of view of
science and mechanics; from the point of view of art it is wholly false.

Does science give happiness? I am not aware of it; and as to mechanics,
they lower the common intelligence. Mechanics replace the work of the
human mind with the work of a machine. That is the death of art. It is
that which has destroyed the pleasure of the inner life, the grace of
that which we call industrial art--the art of the furniture-maker, the
tapestry-worker, the goldsmith. It overwhelms the world with uniformity.
Once artisans created; to-day they manufacture. Once they rejoiced in
the pleasure of making a work of art; to-day the workman is so bored in
his shop that he has invented sabotage and has made alcoholism general.

The sight of a modern monument throws one into melancholy even while
an ancient one has not ceased to enrapture. I visit a small city, and,
losing my train, am obliged to wait for the next one. I take a walk
about the ancient church, a delicious thing, very simple, but with its
Gothic ornaments placed with taste, in a delicate relief that, in the
light, provides an enchantment for my friendly glances. In the little
nave, which invites to calm, to thought,--thought as soft and composed
as the light shadows that move slowly across the pillars,--I settle
myself. Ah, I come away charmed. If I had waited in the station, I would
have been wearied to death, and would have returned home fatigued and
discontented. As it is, I have gained something--the beautiful counsels
of moderation and the fine charm of a monument of former days.

Art alone gives happiness. And I call art the study of nature, the
perpetual communion with her through the spirit of analysis.

He who knows how to see and feel may find everywhere and always things
to admire. He who knows how to see and feel is preserved from ennui,
that _bête noire_ of modern society. He who sees and feels deeply never
lacks the desire to express his feelings, to be an artist. Is not nature
the source of all beauty? Is she not the only creator? It is only by
drawing near to her that the artist can bring back to us all that she
has revealed to him.

When one says this, the public thinks it a commonplace. All the world
believes that it knows that; but it knows it only in seeming, the truth
penetrates only the superficial shell of its intelligence. There are
so many degrees in real comprehension! Comprehension is like a divine
ladder. Only he who has reached the top rounds has a view of the world.
The public is astonished or shocked when some one goes against its
preconceived notions, against the prejudices of a badly interpreted or
degenerate tradition. Words are nothing; the deed alone counts. It is
not by reading manuals of esthetics, but by leaning on nature herself
that the artist discovers and expresses beauty.

Alas! we are not prepared to see and to feel. Our sorry education, far
from cultivating in us the feeling for enthusiasm, makes us in our
youth little pedants who without result overwhelm ourselves and others
with our pretensions. Those who too late, by long efforts, escape this
demon of folly arrive only after that education has fatally sapped their
strength and has destroyed the flower of enthusiasm that God had planted
in them as a sign of His paradise. People without enthusiasm are like
men who carry their flags pointed down to the ground instead of proudly
above their heads.

Constantly I hear: "What an ugly age! That woman is plain. That dog is
horrible." It is neither the age nor the woman nor the dog which is
ugly, but your eyes, which do not understand. One generally disparages
the things that are above one's comprehension. Disparagement is the
child of ignorance. As soon as you discover that, you enter into the
circle of joy.


Man, animals, down to the smallest insects, down to the infinitesimal;
the earth, the waters, the woods, the sky--all are marvelous. The
firmament is the vastest landscape, the most profound, the most
enchanting, with its variations, its effects of color and light, which
delight the eye, astonish the thought, and subjugate the heart. And
to say that artists--those who consider themselves such--attempt to
represent all that simply as it appears to them, without having studied
it, without having deciphered it, without having felt it! I pity them.
They are prisoners, slaves of stupidity.

I was like them in the first periods of my perverted youth, but I have
delivered myself. I have regained the liberty to approach the things
that I love by the pathway of true study. Who follows me on the road?
Who can learn it from a study of sculpture and design in books? You who
have caught a glimpse of the splendor of that tree, of that giant whose
magnificent column has been denuded by autumn of its leafy capital,
but which is perhaps more beautiful in the nudity of its members;
you who admire the structure of its branches and twigs, etched in an
infinitude of forms against the sky, where they resemble the lacework
of the windows of our churches, would you not understand far better that
beauty, would not your pleasure be far more complete, if you sketched
that tree not only in the mass, but in the innumerable details of its
framework? And to think that the schools recommend to pupils, painters,
and sculptors research on the subject! The subject! The subject does
not exist in that--the poor little arrangement that you, one and all,
summon up while poring over the same anecdotes, the same conventional
attitudes. The human imagination is narrow, and you do not see the
hundred thousand motives of art that multiply themselves under your eye.
I could pass my whole life in the garden where I walk without exhausting

The subject is everywhere. Every manifestation of nature is a subject.
Artists, pause here! Sketch these flowers; writers, describe them for
me, not in the mass, as has always been done, but in minute detail,
in the marvelous precision of their organs, in their characteristics,
which are as varied as are those of animals and men. How beautiful to
be in the same moment an artist and a botanist, to paint and model the
plant at the same time that one studied it! Those great realists, the
Japanese, understand this, and make the knowledge and cultivation of
plants one of the bases of their education.

We place love and sensual pleasure in the same category. Undoubtedly
it is nature herself who has led is astray in this by the instinct to
perpetuate ourselves, in youth this instinct is like an overflowing
river; it sweeps away everything, yet pleasure is everywhere about
us. I imbibe it in the forms of the clouds that build their majestic
architecture in the sky, in the rapture of this woman who holds her
child in her arms, an attitude divine, so beautiful indeed, that the
poet of the Gospels has deified it. It is the attitude of the Virgin. I
imbibe it in the atmosphere which bathes me now, and will still continue
to bless me, bringing me peace, rest, and health.

For that which is beautiful in a landscape is that which is beautiful in
architecture--the air, space. No one in these days realizes its depth.
It is this quality of depth that carries the soul where it wishes to go.
In a well-constructed monument that which enraptures us is the science
of its depths. The throngs in the churches attribute their emotion
to mysticism, to the transport of the soul toward divinity. They are
unaware that they owe their emotion to the exact knowledge of great
planes possessed by the architects of former days. Even upon the most
ignorant beholder they impose this. Man disregards that which he already
has, and longs for something else. He longs for swiftness, to have wings
like a bird. He does not know that he already enjoys this pleasure of
moving through space. He rejoices in it in his soul, which takes wing
and goes where it pleases, through the sky, on the waters, to the depths
of the forests.

All the misfortune here below arises from a lack of comprehension. We
classify our limited knowledge in narrow systems, like the card-systems
of an office, and these pitiful conventions we take seriously. They
teach us disconnected things, and we leave them disconnected. Those who
have a little patience assemble these isolated facts; but such patient
ones are rare, and nothing is so unbearable as that man who, not having
it, speaks ill of him who has a sense of the truth. To see accurately is
the secret of good design. Objects dart at one another, unite, and throw
light on one another, explain themselves. That is life; a marvelous
beauty covers all things like a garment, like an ægis.

God created the great laws of opposition, of equilibrium. Good and evil
are brothers, but we desire the good, which pleases us, and not the
evil, which seems to us error. When we consider matters from a distance,
does not evil often seem good, and good, evil? That is only because we
have judged without proper consideration. Just as white and black are
necessary in a drawing, so good and evil are necessary in life. Sorrow
ought not to be cast out. As long as we live it is as strong a part of
life as radiant joy. Without it we would be very ill trained.

To comprehend nature it is of importance that we never substitute
ourselves for it. The corrections that a man imposes upon himself are a
mass of mistakes. The tiger has claws and teeth and uses them skilfully;
man at times shows himself inferior. Possessing intelligence, too
often he strives to turn to that. Animals respect everything and touch
nothing. The dog loves his master, and has no thought of criticizing
him. The average man does not care that his daughter should be
beautiful. He has in his mind certain ideas of manner and instruction,
and the beauty of his daughter does not enter into the program that he
has made. But the daughter herself feels the influence of nature, and
displays her modest and triumphant movements, which this blind one does
not see, but which fascinate the artist.

The artist who tells us of his ideal commits the same error that this
average man commits. His ideal is false, in the name of this ideal he
pretends to rectify his model, retouching a profound organism which
admirably combined laws regulate. Through his so-called corrections he
destroys the ensemble; he composes a mosaic instead of creating a work
of art; the faults of his model do not exist. If we correct that which
we call a fault, we simply present something in the place of that which
nature has presented. We destroy the equilibrium; the rectified part is
always that which is necessary to the harmony of the whole. There is
nothing paradoxical here, because a law that is all-powerful keeps the
harmony of opposites. That is the law of life. Everything, therefore, is
good, but we discover this only when our thought acquires power; that
is to say, when it attaches itself indissolubly to nature, for then it
becomes part of a great whole, a part of united and complex forces.
Otherwise it is a miserable, debased, detached part contending with a
whole that is formed of innumerable units.

Nature, therefore, is the only guide that it is necessary to follow. She
gives us the truth of an impression because she gives us that of its
forms, and if we copy this with sincerity, she points out the means of
uniting these forms and expressing them.

Sincerity, conscience--these are the true bases of thought in the work
of an artist; but whenever the artist attains to a certain facility of
expression, too often he is wont to replace conscience with skill. The
reign of skill is the ruin of art. It is organized falsehood. Sincerity
with one fault, indeed with many faults, still preserves its integrity.
The facility that believes that it has no faults has them all. The
primitives, who ignored the laws of perspective, nevertheless created
great works of art because they brought to them absolute sincerity. Look
at this Persian miniature, the admirable reverence of this illuminator
for the form of these plants and animals, and the attitudes of these
persons which he has forced himself to render just as he saw them. How
eagerly has he painted that, this man who loved it all! Do you tell me
that his work is bad because he is ignorant of the laws of perspective?
And the great French primitives and the Roman architects and sculptors!
Has it not been repeatedly said that their style is a barbaric style? On
the contrary, it has a formidable beauty. It breathes the sacred awe of
those who have been impressed by the great works of nature herself. It
offers us the strongest proof that these men had made themselves part of
life and also a part of its mystery.

To express life it is necessary to desire to express it. The art of
statuary is made up of conscience, precision, and will. If I had not had
tenacity of purpose, I should not have produced my work. If I had ceased
to make my researches, the book of nature would have been for me a dead
letter, or at least it would have withheld from me its meaning. Now, on
the contrary, it is a book that is constantly renewed, and I go to it,
knowing well that I have only spelled out certain pages. In art to admit
only that which one comprehends leads to impotence. Nature remains full
of unknown forces.

As for me, I have certainly lost some time through the fault of my
period. I should have been able to learn much more than I have grasped
with so much slowness and circumlocution; but I should not have tasted
less happiness through that highest form of loss; that is, work. And
when my hour shall come, I shall dwell in nature, and shall regret


If the artists of antiquity are the greatest of all it is because they
approached most closely to Nature.

They studied it with magnificent sincerity and copied it with all
their intelligence. They never wasted their time in trying to invent
something. To invent, to create, these are words that mean nothing. They
contented themselves with rendering the adorable model that enchanted
their eyes. This love and this respect for creation has never since
their time been surpassed. They did not copy literally what they saw;
to a certain degree they interpreted the character of forms. The aim of
art is not to copy literally. It consists in slightly exaggerating the
character of the model in order to make it salient; it consists also in
reassembling in a single expression the successive expressions given by
the same model. Art is the living synthesis.

This is what the ancients did, with what taste, what incomparable
science! From this science that respected unity their works derived
their calm, contained force, the sentiment of grand serenity, the
atmosphere of peace that envelops them. The ignorant and the professors
of esthetics who do not know the source of all this have named it Greek
idealism. This is nothing but a word that serves to conceal a want
of understanding. There is no idealism in the ancients; there is an
exercise of choice, a marvelous taste; but it is by the most realistic
means that they render human beauty.

[Illustration: THE TEMPEST.]

We others, we moderns, are carried away by the restlessness of the
epoch; we are superficial, we only regard things cursorily, and we have
concluded from this sublime simplicity that Greek art is cold. To us
indeed it seems very cold. It is really warm. To it alone belongs in
this respect the quality of life, reality in forms, and precision in
movement. It is through this that it attains perfect equilibrium. But
that is beyond our little spirit of detail. We seek nothing but detail;
the Greek, for his part, saw nothing but the whole; that is to say, the
equilibrium, the harmony.


The value of the antique springs from _ronde-bosse_. It possesses in a
supreme degree the art of relief. How can the critics and the professors
explain this, being what they are? They do not belong to the trade. Art
should not be taught except by those who practise it.

Observe any fragments of Greek sculpture: a piece of an arm, a hand.
What you call the idea, the subject, no longer exists here, but is not
all this debris none the less admirably beautiful? In what does this
beauty consist? Solely in the modeling. Observe it closely, touch it; do
you not feel the precision of this modeling, firm yet elastic, in flux
like life itself? It is full, it is like a fruit. All the eloquence of
this sculpture comes from that.

What is modeling? The very principle of creation. It is the
juxtaposition of the innumerable reliefs and depressions that constitute
every fragment of matter, inert or animated. Modeling creates the
essential texture, supple, living, embracing every plante. It fills,
coördinates, and harmonizes them. It penetrates everything, it animates
everything, as well the depths as the surfaces. It comprises the minute
as well as the immense. Mountain, horse, flower, woman, insect equally
owe to it their form. When God created the world, it is of modeling He
must have thought first of all. If you consider a hand, you notice its
contours and the character of the whole. But the eye of the artist,
that eye, sees more: it sees the infinite assemblage of projections and
depressions forming a texture more closely knit, more exactly blended
than the most perfect mosaic. It is this that he seeks to render; this
that he translates, if he is a sculptor, by the science of depression
and relief, if he is a draughtsman or painter by that of light and
shadow. For light serves, in conformity with depressions and reliefs,
to give the eye the same sensation that the hand receives from touch:
Titian is just as great a modeler as Donatello.

To-day the sense of _ronde-bosse_ is completely lost, not only
in Europe, but among the peoples of the Orient. It is the age of
the _flat_. No one knows anything about it. Men love what they do
themselves, until they are made to see that it is not beautiful; but it
takes years and years for this to penetrate into their consciousness. In
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries China and Japan still produced
charming works. In ancient times their art was very great; it approached
the Greek. At the exposition of 1900, we were enabled to see antique
Japanese statues, superb nudes nearly as fine as those of Greece. In our
time the pest of flatness has contaminated the Asiatic races as well as
the European: decadence is universal.

We are so far removed from antique beauty that when we photograph the
works of the ancients we take them in the spirit of our own taste,
which is that of low-relief; we take from them that flower of beautiful
modeling, their richness, their crowning grace. When I say low-relief,
I do not use this term exactly; it is only that I know no other means
of expressing the modern evil of uniformity; but I know that good
low-relief is as full and as fruit-like as sculpture in the round, that
it is sculpture in the round itself, as in the friezes of the Parthenon,
as in our buildings of the Renaissance and of the seventeenth century.

The great concern of my life is the struggle I have maintained to escape
from the general flatness. All the success of my sculpture comes from
that. Although it has little enough taste, the public, despite all, is
tired to death of this flatness. The charm of _ronde-bosse_ is so great
that it captivates the ignorant even without their knowing it.


Observe this little torso of a woman; it is a little Venus. It is
broken; it has no longer a head, arms, legs, yet I never weary of
contemplating it; each day, each hour for me adds to this masterpiece
because I only understand it better. What could it say to our
indifferent glance? For me it has the ineffable voluptuousness of
softly maturing flesh. The effect lies in no part and in every part.
It is perfection. This little childish body, has it not all the charm
of woman? It does not catch the light, the light catches it, glancing
over it lightly; without any effect of roughness, any dark shadow. Here
shadow can no longer be called shadow but only the decline of light.
She does not become dark, she grows pale in imperceptible depressions,
in delicious undulations. She is indivisible; she is whole or
incomplete, but her unity is not disturbed. And this passage that joins
the abdomen to the thighs, this little declivity of graces, this valley
of love! Everything is full of the calm, the lightness, the serenity
of pure beauty in the perfect confidence of nature. The ideal that you
imagine you find in a gesture, in a momentary attitude, is here; it is
here because of the infinite love of the flesh, of the human fruit. What
you call the ideal is nothing but the perfume of beautiful modeling.
What more could you ask?

When I look at this marble in the evening by candle-light, how the
wonder deepens! If those who have been telling us for a hundred years
that Greek art is cold studied it with care, could they for one hour
maintain this absurdity? This sculpture, on the contrary, is of an
extraordinary living complexity, which the flame reveals; the whole
surface is nothing but depressions and reliefs, but united, melted
together in the great, harmonious force of the _ensemble_. I turn the
little torso about under the caressing rays of the light. There is not
a fault, not a weakness, not a dead spot; it is the very continuity
of life, its intoxicating voluptuousness hidden in the bosom of the

Why should such artists have sought to create an abstract Beauty by
the idealization of forms? These men of genius loved Nature too well to
presume to correct her. They knew well that despite their genius, they
still remained beneath her. Nothing can surpass the marvel of creation.
The conception of an idealistic art comes from the Academy. Before the
purity of the antique forms people used to believe that the beauty lay
solely in the exterior profiles. It is really beautiful because of
the interior modeling. And still we make this distinction between the
profiles and the modeling, thanks to our mania for dividing things; but
we know that the one is inseparable from the other; the surfaces are
nothing but the extremities of volumes, the boundaries of the mass.

All the sculpture of the period of Louis-Philippe was imitated from the
antique, but only by means of the exterior profiles. If it had been
practised by true modelers, by geometrical minds, it would have been
as beautiful as its original. What pleased people in that epoch, what
pleases people in ours, is not at all the antique; it is the fashion
in which we see it. It was the Renaissance that really understood the
Greek. It created works exactly the same in feeling, though somewhat
different in arrangement and general color. For color does not exist
in painting alone. Its rôle is equally great in sculpture. To-day this
color is bad; it fails to obtain the chiaroscuro which derives from
_ronde-bosse_. Good sculpture owes to chiaroscuro clarity, unity, charm,
even, I might say, the voluptuousness of breathing flesh. Shadow, at
once luminous and mysterious, models the fulness of the body in the
exuberance of health; it makes one understand abundance, solidity. In
the art of the Renaissance and the eighteenth century shadow is always
supple and warm as in Greek art; it has the tender coloring of the
vegetation of our country, the sweetness of which our great artists have
captured. The chiaroscuro of the antique consists of the density and
depth of light falling over the entire modeling. Chiaroscuro penetrates
to every plane and renders the reality of them; it is reality itself.
This is because the antique and nature are part and parcel of the same
mystery, the infinitely harmonious mystery of force in suspense. The
great artists compose as nature itself operates.

Undoubtedly the Greeks possessed certain methods which they handed down
from master to pupil, as has been the case in all artistic epochs. They
had celebrated ateliers, schools, where they taught their principles.
By the fifth century they had established a canon of the human body;
but they never made use of it without consulting the model. As for us,
we have imagined that we could use it like a magic formula. It is not
the formula that makes the art; it is the experience of the artist
that creates the formula. If we abandon nature for a rule, if we do
not constantly vivify the one by means of the other, we soon speak a
language that means nothing.

One cannot repeat this enough: the ancients are realists; they work in
_ronde-bosse_. This explanation seems commonplace and even vulgar; it is
the whole truth. It can be understood by the humblest artisan, provided
only that he knows his trade. But it is as difficult to get it into the
heads of people to-day as it is to restore faith in a man who has lost


What I have said of Greek art applies equally well to Roman. Another
opinion has been adopted by critics and the world in general: the Roman
is less beautiful than the Greek. It is less beautiful perhaps, by a
certain shade, a shade which those who speak of it are incapable of
appreciating. It is a little less substantial, but it is superb. It is
Greek, with a different character, a certain ruggedness, and more! The
Maison Carrée at Nîmes, that little temple, the flower of austerity, the
smile of the race as sweet as the smile of Greece; the Pont du Gard,
that heroic masterpiece, that giant which bestrides the country, which
imposes the power of Rome on the peaceful landscape, these are what they

Rome is magnificent. We say it, but we do not believe it; otherwise it
would not be despoiled. No, in Rome itself, they have no idea of the
beauty of Rome. Where are there artists great enough to appreciate you,
severe genius, splendid city, daughter of the she-wolf? Your genius
they pillage every day. They destroy its proportion, and that is to
strike at the foundation of the master work. Proportion is the law of
architecture. ... In the very midst of the ancient city they are setting
up atrocious monuments, enormous or too petty.

In Rome, as in Athens, as in the France of Gothic art, the architect of
old planned the monument in relation to the landscape; he harmonized it
with the outline of the mountains, with the expanse of the surrounding
country-side; he determined its proportions according to its environment.

The architect of to-day plans out his monument in his own study on a
piece of paper and produces it ready-made. Whether this mass of stone
obliterates the buildings that surround it or whether, on the other
hand, it turns out a miserable little contrivance in the midst of great
works of the past matters little to him: he does not see it.

The French Academy sends students to work in Rome. But they get nothing
from Rome, they can get nothing; they come there with a spirit entirely
opposed to it. At a time when I did not know the city I heard the bridge
of Sant' Angelo spoken ill of and fun made of the contorted angels;
but they are all very well in their place; they are needed there;
there is enough repose elsewhere. Bernini, so often sneered at, is as
beautiful as Michelangelo, although he is not so fine. It is he who made
the Rome of the seventeenth century. They do not know that the Appian
Way is sublime. It will disappear one of these days. These things are
awaiting their condemnation. They are constructing quays like ours. If
they do not put a stop to it, Rome will be destroyed. Those who have
not seen cities such as this was in the nineteenth century will not
understand anything. I have said as much to my Italian friends, who
appeared greatly astonished; for nobody makes these reflections which
come to me constantly in my studies. They consider me a gloomy fellow, a
misanthrope. Gloomy, yes; for it is painful to live in a decadent epoch;
but I have no _parti-pris_; I only wish to try to arrest the general
massacre. In France, as everywhere, we commit exactly the same faults.
We destroy our monuments by surrounding them with great open spaces;
we have ruined the effect of Notre Dame, on the side of the parvis. At
Brussels, in the Musée du Cinquantenaire, they have set up a model of
the Parthenon; but they have placed it in the midst of enormous objects
that annihilate it. We have come to that! We have killed the Parthenon!
Barbarism could go no further. We live in a barbarous age. There is no
doubt about that! People cry out that we must create schools for people
to learn art; we bungle the most beautiful of all schools--the Museum.


These things ought to be said again and again to the point of satiety,
if we wish to save any remnants. Coming from me, whose opinions carry
some weight, they are repeated when I am no longer on the spot. People
feel the justice of them, the shaft goes home. A few who are more
ardent than the rest propagate them and stir up a current of opinion
that may lead to reform. There is no reason therefore to fear repeating
them in America, where also people have fallen into the general error.
American artists have followed our teaching, altogether in a bad sense.
Notwithstanding that in taking their point of departure they could have
escaped into the good epochs of art, they have saddled themselves with
the poverty of modern taste.

Let them return to the school of the past; above all, let them return to
nature; it is as beautiful with them as elsewhere. The mountains, the
trees, the vegetation, the men and women of their own country--these
should be their masters in architecture and sculpture. America is full
of will. It desires to be a great nation. It stops at no expense in
order to obtain instruction; it creates immense universities, libraries,
museums. It pours into them streams of money. The favor with which my
work has been received there is the sign of a movement toward truth in
art; they are developing an affection for this naturalistic school which
borrows from life its charm and its variety. But all this will be as
nothing unless America creates work of its own; unless it breaks with
the old errors of the nations of Europe in order to find the path of
true science.

[Illustration: THE VILLAGE FIANCÉE.]





NOTRE DAME--Notre Dame de Paris--more splendid than ever in the
half-light of this winter day. The veils of the atmosphere redress the
evils that modern restorations have done to this monument; the folds of
the mist soften the sharpness of the retouched outlines: the elements
are more respectful to this masterpiece than are men.

I come upon it at the turn of the bridge. At once I drop out of this
industrial epoch of ours, so poor despite its love of money; my
sculptor's soul escapes from its exile.

The Gothic sphinx rises before me. The strength of its beauty overwhelms
me. I struggle against it and I am broken by it. Then it attracts me
anew with its sweetness; it exalts me. My spirit makes the ascent of
this sculptured mountain. What power in these motionless stones to
create the sense of movement in the mind! What makes this possible?
The mason of genius; the science of oppositions. That whole effect of
power--he has put it in the thickness of the foundations, the enormous
walls, the buttresses. They are as formidable as the tiers of a dike,
as a breakwater planted in the sea. One would say that this church was
built to combat the forces of nature: the temple of peace and love has
the air of a fortress.

One's spirit is weighed down by the bareness of the stone, but stirred
by the height of the structure and the towers; it soars toward them
as toward a world that reassures it; the hard material has become
humanized; the genius of man is at play there amid the lacework of
stone. He has placed there angels, saints, animals, fruits, flowers, all
the gifts of the seasons; it is life in its entirety such as the Creator
in His infinite munificence has bestowed upon him. The Gothic artist
knows that paradise is on earth; he has no need to invent another. The
childish and monotonous heaven presented to us in our legends is nothing
but a poor copy of the marvels of our life.

Let us enter. I tremble. The beauty is terrible. I am plunged into
night, a living night in which I do not know what mysteries are being
enacted--the cruel mysteries of the ancient religions? There are
shimmering rays from the long windows, the rose windows. Hope enters my
heart: there is light here, then? I am no longer alone.

My eyes grow accustomed to this populous obscurity. There is a world
about me, a world of columns. It seems terrible, it _is_ terrible
because of its power, but this power has its _raison d'être_. It
seems frightening to me but it is only necessary. It is distributed
power; therefore it is beneficent. It holds the vault in the air, the
prodigious weight of stone that it maintains aloft, above my head, as
lightly as the canvas of a tent. Marvel of equilibrium, calculation of
the intelligence, how is it possible not to adore you? It is you that
one comes here to worship under the name of God.

The darkness grows lighter; it becomes chiaroscuro. We are in a picture
by Rembrandt, that great Gothic of the sixteenth century. The forest
of pillars divides the nave into spaces of shadow and light. It is the
order of nature which knows nothing of disorder. This I rediscover with
joy: the eye does not love chaos.

I familiarize myself with the people of the columns. I recognize them:
they are Romans. It is the Roman, the Romance, hardly altered, that
comes to receive the Gothic arch. The immense nave which I thought a
forest full of hidden dangers I see, I understand, I read like a sacred
book. The mystery is not that of cruelty; it is only that of beauty. It
grows lighter gradually in order to allow the spirit to approach slowly
the joy of a perfect interior. This solemnity of the nave, this immense
void, is like the bed of a great river; the columns range themselves
respectfully on each side in order to give free passage to the flood of
human piety. It flows like a majestic river; it bears onward toward the
tabernacle, about which it spreads itself like a lake of love under the
rays of the thought of God. Amid the stones the architect has known how
to play the part of the apostle: he has created faith. Art and religion
are the same thing; they are love.


It is the interior of this church that should be admired. Here I do
not experience the same commotion of the spirit as in Notre Dame. I am
bathed in the fine light of the sixteenth century. At Notre Dame it
was the shadow of Rembrandt; here, it is the clear tonality of French
painting, of a Clouët. Admirable is the _élan_ of this Renaissance
nave; it is as bold as, and even perhaps bolder than that of the Gothic
buildings. It proceeds on the same plan. The skyward lift is only to
be found in the Gothic; it is of the very spirit of the race. Are the
vaults round and no longer pointed? What does it matter if they are
equally elegant, if they have the same aërial grace as the ogive?

What I rediscover in Saint-Eustache, less austere than its grand sister
of the Middle Age, but with a sweetness which is itself noble, is
the determination of the architect to subordinate everything to the
effect of simplicity, to the total effect. On each side of the nave
the columns cutting the side wall are disposed fanwise in order to
hide the light of the lateral windows. One sees nothing but the stone,
and yet there is no effect of heaviness; one could not make anything
lighter. This is because the color of the stone is admirably varied by
the diversity of the flutings that line the columns. The main fluting
marks the outline, and the others, less emphatic, shading off, give it
a velvet-like quality. The light throws a golden haze between the great
columns, among the deep gorges, and is, on the other hand, channeled,
streaked by the little nerves that impel it upward toward the vaults.
By this effect of lightness the building seems to rise; it is an
assumption. It is no longer the forest of trees that one finds here,
but the forest of creepers. These vertiginous columns are like fine,
delicate vines. Above the altar the great lights of the windows, with
their beautiful glass, harmonize well with the general color. The light,
at once abundant and restrained, has the coolness which the Renaissance
recaptured from Greece. This church welcomes one as with an immense
smile; it has the sweetness of Christ holding out his hands: "Suffer the
little children to come unto me." Intelligence has planned it, but it is
the heart that has modeled it.

If we enter Saint-Eustache at nightfall, we could almost believe
ourselves in a Gothic building. The Renaissance did not bring about such
profound transformations in architecture as people think. There is a
heavy Italian Renaissance element that is altogether alien to us; but
in the true French Renaissance the Celtic taste was not betrayed: it
was modified with a certain grace and elegance. Grace is an aspect of
strength. A nation no more escapes from its racial quality than a man
from his temperament. The Celtic mingled with the Roman produced the
Romance, out of which the Gothic sprang directly--the Romance, that is
to say, the Roman which has passed through the spirit of the Franks. It
has the severity, the Roman qualities, united with the imagination of
the Barbarians, since we have agreed so to call them. The Romance of the
second epoch has already sprung forth; it rises during the eleventh and
twelfth centuries and goes to make the Gothic. The Gothic elevates and
magnifies the Romance. It detaches the buttresses, even to the point of
separating them from the walls, in order to carry them further out to
sustain the height of the nave.

As for the Renaissance, it continues the Gothic. We could not have a
more striking example of this than just here in Saint-Eustache. Here
are the same lines, the same idea, with a different ornamentation.
It is the same body, clothed in a new way. It is another age of the
Gothic; sweeter, less powerful, the final florescence of the French
genius, which, despite the adorable eighteenth century, follows a
descending path down to the first restoration. Contrary to what has
been thought and taught for so long, the Renaissance already marks
a stage of decadence. The most beautiful epoch in architecture and
sculpture is the Middle Age, an age as beautiful as, perhaps more
beautiful than, the great age of Greece, and almost universally despised
by our nineteenth century, the century of criticism and pretension, the
century of ignorance. Yes, with the Renaissance things begin to give
way. And yet to say that is almost a sacrilege! It is as if one struck
one's father! Our ravishing Gothic of the sixteenth century has charmed
France with its masterpieces; it has made artists cherish a whole
country, the sweet country of the Loire. Despite its misalliance with
the Italian Renaissance, it stood firm, it did not bend; it remained the
grand French style. Witness the Louvre with its high pavilions; that
sprang, that too, from the Gothic vein; the sculptors of the Renaissance
decorated it less severely, but the general aspect remains the same.

The Gothic under different names has been the main path of our genius
during five hundred years. It has been the blessing of France; it was
its active principle down to 1820. If we wish to return to art it will
only be through comparative study--the comparison with nature of our
national style. The beautiful lines are eternal. Why are they used so


The true difference between the Gothic and the Renaissance does not lie
in the structure of the building but in the quality of the sculpture and
in its color.

What is meant by color in sculpture and in architecture? It is the law
of light and shade, the great law of oppositions which constitutes
the charm of nature, the beauty of a landscape at dawn, its splendor
at sunset. The color springs from the quality of the modeling; it is
the relief which gives the light tones and, by contrast, the dark,
in the parts that do not stand out. The ensemble of the intermediary
diminutions of light and shade produces the general coloring, whose
nuances can be infinitely varied according to the skill of the artist.
Modeling is the only way in which to express life; and there is only one
thing that counts in sculpture and in architecture--the expression of
life. A beautiful statue, a well-made monument, live like living beings;
they seem different according to the day and the hour. How beautiful it
is to give to stone, through nothing but the values of planes, through
the handling of shadow and light, the same charm of color as that of
living nature, of the flesh of a woman. In the plastic arts, the color
betrays the quality of the planes as a beautiful complexion reveals
health in a human being.

The antique has shorter planes than the Gothic; it lacks therefore
those deep shadows that give to the Gothic such a tormented and tragic
aspect. The Greek balances the framework of the human body on four
planes, the Gothic on two only. The latter produces a stronger effect,
a more _hollowed_ effect, that _effet de console_ which is essentially
Gothic. Nevertheless, the shadow that results from it is more sustained
than in the antique and nothing could be softer or more full of nuances.

The Roman presents an abundance of dark shadows which, in turn, create
an effect of heaviness and density. The Greek puts in just enough of
them to quicken the general coloring. The Roman gives a flatter effect,
which shows nevertheless a magnificent vigor. As for us, we copy these
styles endlessly without understanding them, for if we did understand
them we should do quite otherwise. We abuse the black, the powerful
lines, we put them everywhere; we do not know how to shade light. That
is why our sculpture is so poor, why our monuments appear so hard, so
dry. The Bourse, the Corps Législatif, might be made of iron with their
columns set against a uniform background which prevents the light and
air from circulating about them and enveloping them and destroys the
atmosphere. This is what people call a simple style. It is not simple,
it is cold. The simple is the perfect, coldness is impotence.

The Renaissance recaptured the antique measure and imposed its generous
color upon the Gothic plane. It used less shadow than our sculptors of
the Middle Ages; it diminished the reliefs. The effect in consequence
was lighter. This was because the Renaissance was enchanted by all the
Greek statues that were discovered at this period; and in its enthusiasm
it recreated Greek art, not by copying it, but by copying nature
according to antique principles. It is perhaps a little less beautiful
but it has quite the same feeling of gentle strength, of delicacy. One
feels the joy of the artist who throws himself against the problem of
the nude in the open air. Till then statues had been draped, but under
the draperies was concealed a carefully studied nude. In the Renaissance
the drapery was dropped: the nymphs of Jean Goujon, of Germain Pilon--I
recognize them; these long bodies of women, these undulating bodies, are
Gothic statues unclothed and set in another light. Our whole sixteenth
century is a song of grace rising from the Gothic heart to the art of
the Parthenon.

But nowhere than in the country of the Loire is there Renaissance art
more gentle and amply luminous. This is the Greek part of France. The
tranquil river touched the heart of our architects and bestowed on them
some of its calm and smiling majesty. From it, from the air impregnated
with its vapors, came those châteaux so happy in their beauty and those
lovable cottages; for the artist worked as beautifully for peasants as
for kings. Before Ussé, before Chenonceaux, Blois, Azay-le-Rideau, I am
not in the presence of dead things but of a living spirit, the spirit of
divine beauty that animated equally the antique and the Gothic. Charming
sixteenth century France, it is you who have forced me to the study of
chiaroscuro. Formerly I tried my best to understand your motives, your
thousand nerves, but the general law escaped me. I did not see your
soul, which consists entirely in the voluptuous shadings of light; I did
not perceive your principle, the modeling which impressed movement upon
everything and gave the movement life.


The eighteenth century is the exaggeration of the sixteenth. Our elegant
houses, our houses in the style of Louis XV and Louis XVI have always
the Gothic line with its proud, graceful air. Without moldings, without
ornaments, their beauty lies in their very lack of ornaments, in their
nudity. But what proportions they have! The finest of the fine!

The eighteenth century is considered too frail, too affected. It is,
on the contrary, full of life and strength. It possesses admirable
sculptors: Pigalle, creator of that immortal masterpiece, the tomb of
Marshal Saxe; Houdon, whose busts to-day are bought for their weight in
gold without even then bringing their proper price. There were thousands
then, the whole rank and file of the trade, who created marvels, with a
sureness of hand accustomed to every difficulty. The outline of a table,
of a chest, was as much considered as that of a statue. For that matter,
what difference did the dimensions of a work make? It was the modeling
that counted. The peasant himself sat down in a well-made chair. Artists
and artisans had a taste, an alert grace, and a dexterity sufficient to
fit out the whole world; but their dexterity was based on a foundation
of intelligence as an ornament is based upon a building. The dexterity
we possess nowadays is nothing but mockery, a kind of banter that
touches everything without discernment; it kills force.

The Louis XV and Louis XVI styles possessed grandeur. We call it the art
of the boudoir, but the boudoir of that period had a nobility like that
of those white and gold salons where the seats are disposed with dignity
like persons of quality. The music had the same character; the dances
also, the dances, those charming scenes in which men and women with the
natural spirit of play threw themselves into the cadence, translating it
with the eloquence of youth. The dance--that was architecture brought to

The eighteenth century was a century which _designed_; in this lay its
genius. Nowadays people are searching for a new style and do not find
it. Style comes unawares through the concurrence of many elements; but
can we achieve it without design? To-day we design no longer and our
art, which is altogether industrial, is bad. The central matter in art
is the nude, and this we no longer understand. How can we be expected
to have art when we do not understand its central principle? The minor
arts are the rays that go out from the center. When I draw the body of a
woman I rediscover the form of the beautiful Greek vases. Through design
alone we arrive at a knowledge of the shading of forms. The forms that
delight us in the art of past centuries are nothing but those presented
by living nature, those of human beings, animals, verdure, interpreted
by men of supreme taste. The art that people are struggling to discover
to-day might be deduced from my sculpture and my drawings, for I have
always drawn with passion. The quality of my drawing I owe in large
measure to the eighteenth century. I am nothing but a link in the great
chain of artists, but I maintain the connection with those of the past.
At the Petite Ecole they made us copy the red chalks of Boucher and the
models of flowers, animals, and ornaments. They were Louis XVI models,
very well executed; they certainly gave me a little of the warmth of the
artists of that period. In my youth I made drawings by the hundreds, by
the thousands. At the Petite Ecole we were badly placed, badly lighted
by poor candles; when we touched them we made them sticky with the clay
with which our fingers were covered so that they were worse than ever
afterwards. It did not matter; we were working according to the right

To-day the Petite Ecole is entirely in the power of the larger school,
that of the Beaux-Arts. Far from learning one gets spoiled there for the
rest of one's life. One copies the antique, but one copies it badly.

I am speaking with the experience of a genuine artistic life. There was
a time when I never talked; to-day I hold forth! If I am understood
it will not have been in vain. But how much effort it will take to
reestablish truths which are so self-evident, so obvious, so fundamental
that one is ashamed to repeat them so many times! Nevertheless they are
_essential_. The public is a thousand miles away from them, the public,
by which I mean the general taste. If it does not become enlightened,
art will disappear. Observe its attitude before the works of the new
school, before the pictures of those who call themselves cubists:
sarcasm, anger. These artists show us squares, cubes, geometrical
figures colored according to their own ideas. They name them: _Portrait
of Mme. X._ or _Landscape_. This exasperates the public. What does it
matter? Is it good? That is the whole point. Is the ornament well
treated? That is the capital question, the only one that is not
discussed. Their canvases are combinations of color recalling mosaic
or even stained glass. We have accepted many other things; we have
accepted the green or rather the violet women of our later salons, and
women with wooden heads, but we do not wish to admit the squares of the
cubists. Why? They are not portraits, we say. They are not landscapes.
So much the better! They are something else. What does it matter if
the artist has deceived himself knowingly or wilfully on a matter so
insignificant as the subject? It is ornamental, that is enough. They are
curious, these quarrels that break out, these sects that are created for
reasons like this--for a sock put on inside out! Ignorance inflames the
passions. There are struggles whose aim is great; others that appear
useless have their use perhaps.

It may be that this slackening of taste and knowledge is necessary.
Perhaps it is a period of transition, a fallow period required by the
intelligence like that required by a soil that has been productive for
too long. If ignorance is prolonged it will mean that the history of
France is ended; it will mean the annihilation of the Celtic genius
which has fertilized Europe for two thousand years. We shall become like
Asia. Roman art declined for four or five centuries after Augustus. With
us the decadence has only been going on for a hundred years. During
the present war marvels have been destroyed. Formerly, even during
the religious wars, the monuments were spared; it is for this reason
that France is still so rich. When stone is no longer respected, it
means decadence. The cannon turn up the earth like a plow, leveling
everything. This war appears therefore like an explosion of barbarism;
at bottom it indicates a latent state of soul which has been shaping
itself since the beginning of the nineteenth century. During this period
the world has ceased to obey the law of beauty and love; it has lived
for nothing but business. What is the leading idea that has precipitated
the nations against one another? Trade: the desire, the longing to make
more money than one's neighbor. Trade is the anxious care of people who
think of nothing but their own petty welfare; it is not the basis on
which is founded the grandeur of peoples. It alone regulates at present
the relations between things. The war is nothing but the consequence of
such habits and their natural conclusion.


Do you ask me what will spring out of the conflict? I am not a prophet.
I know only that without religion, without art, without the love of
nature--these three words are for me synonymous--men will die of ennui.
But nothing easily resigns itself to death. An outburst of courage has
just transfigured the world. Can we preserve this courage during peace?
The patience of the soldier, the patience of the trenches surpasses
in sublimity the virtue of the ancients. Will it produce a rebirth of
intelligence? Shall we have, in study, the force of soul that we have
had in the great struggle? That is the question. Of course the stupid,
the ignorant will not suffer any transformation through the war; but
men of character will be reinvigorated by the hardships of the military
life; we have recaptured patience and we have yet to learn what we can
expect from this virtue. Genius is as much character as talent. If we
have men of force in this country where taste is a natural gift, it
seems to me impossible that this force will not quicken the gift and
develop it and that we shall not have once more an era of beauty.





In 1877 Rodin visited our most illustrious cathedrals, Rheims, Amiens,
Chartres, Soissons, Noyon. During his youth, the choir of Beauvais
and Notre Dame de Paris appealed more to his imagination than to his
taste, and it required many years of travel and comparison to enable
him to grasp the splendors of that Gothic art which he was to admire
thenceforth at least as much as the antique. As a splendidly gifted,
but inexperienced young man, he shared the error of his epoch: the
eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth century had despised the
Roman and the Gothic; they had ridiculed them and called them barbaric;
the nineteenth century, while flattering itself that it appreciated
them, did still worse--it restored them.

The romantic writers of the Schools of Chateaubriand and Victor Hugo
had exalted the art of the Middle Ages, but chiefly because of their
hatred of the classic and without understanding its true worth. What
struck them, especially, was the immensity and the picturesqueness of
the buildings, the luxuriousness of this stone vegetation, but not the
unique character of their architecture and sculpture.

Victor Hugo was perhaps one of the few to discover the precise
explanation of this beauty: relief and modeling. This all-powerful
writer, this architect of words who constructed poems like cathedrals,
understood the plastic intelligence of the master masons because he
himself possessed the _sense of mass_. One is convinced of this not only
in reading his descriptions of cities and monuments, but in studying
those astonishing pen-and-ink drawings which he multiplied in idle

If the romanticists have failed fully to explain medieval art to us,
let us still be grateful to them: they gave our cathedrals back to us,
they denounced ignorance and scourged the stupidity that would have
ended by tearing down those sublime piles. Finally if the writers and
art critics of this epoch have not given them superlative praise, if on
their behalf they have not burned with apostolic zeal, it is because it
was necessary for this prophecy of art to come from a man of the craft,
a man dominated, captivated, himself, by the craft, a man who understood
stone and adored it because he had married it in spirit with all its
difficulties and its dazzling possibilities.

That man was to be Rodin. Although he has been listened to by the
ignorant and superficial multitude, it has not been chiefly because of
the authority of his genius, of the general renown that he has enjoyed.
He has truly thrown a new light over the mystery of Gothic construction.
Thanks to him, we understand in a measure, for tangible reasons, the
reasons of an actual carver, this "world in little" that constitutes the
Gothic cathedrals. What study, what researches are necessary in order to
comprehend the art of stonework! Does any one suppose that Rodin himself
has attained this in a day? By no means. That lover of perfection in
detail does not possess the instantly penetrating glance that is often
the property of genius: to the task of deciphering our monuments he
brought that slow-minded, customary patience of his, together with
his energy. He had first of all to rid himself of the false current
ideas. After that thirty years of observation were necessary for him to
reach conclusions that satisfied his artistic conscience. Even to-day
he is far from affirming that he has understood everything, that he
has grasped the full significance of the Gothics. Read his book, "The
Cathedrals of France," published in 1914; observe the carefullness of
his judgments, the gropings of his thought, the constant retracing of
his steps. He makes attempts, ventures; he never proclaims his opinion
in the peremptory tone dear to specialists in criticism, but endeavors
to approach respectfully, as closely as possible, to the spirit of
the masters. Sometimes a flash of genius springs from his brain and
illumines to the depths of its mysteries the Gothic universe; but
nothing is suggested that does not spring from a prolonged observation,
and when at last he speaks it is in the tone of a man who mistrusts
himself. It must be confessed that in this work, "The Cathedrals of
France," something is lacking, even though it is prefaced by a long and
very learned introduction by one of our good writers, Charles Morice. It
lacks the magnificent lesson that the reader will find in these pages,
signed with Rodin's name. This lesson constitutes really a vital page
that is, as it were, the key and the summary of the whole work; but the
master, having given me the first rights in it, had scruples, as had
Charles Morice, about including it in his own book.

Before obtaining this page, with what insistence did I have to question
Rodin not once, not twice, but twenty times, during the course of a
number of years. Every time he came back from one of his pilgrimages
to some old city of the provinces, to our churches, our town halls, I
renewed my questions without receiving any satisfactory answer. In my
heart I could not but honor this rigorous honesty which was unwilling to
venture anything lightly on so vast, so noble a subject.

In 1877, after having accomplished his first tour of France, he came
back filled with wonder. But the impression that he carried with him was
still confused; he did not know at what point to begin the analytical
study of French architecture, for in what concerned sculpture he
had immediately been struck with amazement and adoration before the
essential beauty of the status of Chartres, Amiens, and Rheims. He had
returned from Italy haunted by the antique and Michelangelo, and now
here he was haunted by the modeling and the rhythm of the Gothic figures.

But in order to understand them entirely he had to rediscover this
modeling and these movements in nature, he had to verify them in the
living model. Fortune favors those who seek greatly. When one is the
victim of an idea unexpected elements arise to nourish and develop it.
One day two Italians knocked at the door of his studio. One of them,
a professional model, had already posed for Rodin and he introduced
the other, his comrade. He was a peasant from the Abruzzi who had come
to seek his fortune in Paris. He was fresh from his native province.
His robust body, his fierce head, his bristling beard and hair, and
above all his expression of indomitable force charmed the artist. He
undressed, climbed upon the model's stand, planted himself firmly on
his legs, which were spread like a compass, the head well raised, and,
continuing to talk, advanced with a gesture full of ardor.

Rodin, struck by this wild energy, immediately set to work. He made the
man such as he saw him; he desired to capture this movement of the legs,
this brusk forward movement that complemented the movement of the arms,
the shining eyes, the open mouth. He surrendered himself to a great
study, without any preconceived idea, without any intention of treating
a _subject_. What he made was _a man walking_. The name has stuck to the
figure. The first study remains incomplete; Rodin has sculptured neither
the head nor the arms; what he sought eagerly, passionately, was the
equilibrium of the torso and of the legs cast forward into space. He
succeeded; he made a superb fragment, "The Man Walking." Thirty years
later it occurred to a group of his admirers to ask the state to acquire
this study and erect it in the court of the French embassy at Rome, in
the Farnese Palace; but the official architects up to the present time
have objected to the erection of this statue, and for the last seven or
eight years it has awaited, in some obscure shed, the good pleasure of
these gentlemen.

Rodin, in the presence of his Italian peasant, had rediscovered, to his
great joy as a seeker, the peculiar equipoise of the Gothic figures. In
the antique statues the plumb-line falls through one of the legs, while
the other, lightly raised, impresses on the different planes of the body
the graceful effect that has become classic. In Gothic statues, on the
contrary, the line of equilibrium passes through the middle of the body
and falls right between the two legs as they are planted on the earth.

In "The Age of Bronze" Rodin has adopted the balanced rhythm of Greek
sculpture; in his new figure he passed to the Gothic equipoise, with
a harmony that is less gracious, but with a reality stronger and more
living. What he did not abandon was the rigorous construction and the
strength of modeling which his study of the antique had given him. "The
Man Walking," as well as the greater part of his subsequent works, thus
exhibits the union of the two great principles of sculpture that have
governed the Occidental genius.

Rodin, strengthened by study, now made a complete statue with head and
arms. While he was working he discovered that his model was half a
savage, still close to the animal and its ferocious instincts. Sometimes
his eyes burned, his jaws, armed with powerful teeth, were thrust
forward as if to bite something; he resembled a wolf. At other times a
kind of strange passion inflamed him. His face radiated faith and will;
he spoke with such energy that he seemed to be haranguing a crowd; one
would have thought him a prophet of the primitive ages, a visionary
bursting forth from the desert to preach and to convert the people.
Rodin regarded him in amazement. It was no longer his model, but a man
from the Bible; surely it was a prophet that stood before him: it was
Saint John the Baptist brought back to life. The sculptor bowed before
the command of nature: his statue should bear the name of the forerunner.

[Illustration: EVE.]

He thought at first of emphasizing the disturbing impression: he placed
on the shoulders of Saint John a simple cross. But here was revealed the
all-powerful instinct of the sculptor, making the subject, the anecdote,
the literary connotation a matter of secondary importance. The cross,
the sublime symbol, would be here only an accessory, not really needed.
It would complicate the simplicity of line dictated by the laws of
sculpture, destroying the appositions of equilibrium of the great body
and distracting the attention from that speaking head.

So Rodin gave it up. He came at last to the decision that his work
should remain free from what was not of the very essence of art. He sent
it off in the form in which it appeared in the Salon of 1880, adding
also "The Age of Bronze."

The artists, the true artists, those whose enthusiasm was not poisoned
by envy and jealousy, applauded these two superb figures artistically
so different, but so similar in their sincerity; they acclaimed them
with the grave joy of generous souls who perceive the dawn of a great
talent. The name of Rodin became fixed forever in their memory.

As for the jury of this Salon, it considered it sufficient to award
the "Saint John the Baptist" and "The Age of Bronze" a medal _of the
third class_. Let us, in turn, give it our reward--the reward for its
insensitiveness--by not disclosing the names of the sages who composed


While finishing these works, which he was not even certain of being able
to sell, Rodin was still compelled to provide for his own subsistence
and that of his family; he had also to meet the expenses of his trade.
A costly trade! It requires a studio, models, large fires to keep them
warm, clay, tools of every kind. It was luck enough if the sculptor,
still unknown, was able to have plaster casts made of his work. But
this did not satisfy him; he dreamed of seeing them take on a new
aspect in the richness of marble and bronze. Alas! in many cases he
had to wait until middle age to have this dream realized. Rodin has
never complained of the slowness of fortune. He knows that in order to
attain the fullness of his productive power it is well for the artist
to be thwarted, exalted by difficulties, the desire to conquer. After a
five-years' stay in Belgium he had returned to Paris to take part in the
work of the World Exposition of 1878, and he had taken a position with
the ornament-worker Legrain, in whose workshop he met Jules Desbois,
the future great sculptor, to whom he became attached for life. What
innumerable decorations he executed at that time--decorations which
disappeared like the leaves and flowers of the season when the stucco
palaces of the exposition vanished! Only the masks ornamenting the
Palais du Trocadéro remained.

At the same time he accumulated busts, studies, large figures with
a fury of work which from then on was to resemble that of the most
powerfully productive minds, the fecundity of a Rubens, of a Balzac, of
a Michelet, of a Hugo. In the studios which he rented in the Faubourg
St. Jacques, from 1877 to 1883, besides the "Saint John the Baptist," he
executed the admirable little tough model of the "Monument Commemorating
the National Defense"; after his wife, whose characterful features and
naturally tragic countenance he had often reproduced, he made a helmeted
bust, a "Bellona." He exhibited three life-sized figures: "The Creation
of Man"; "Adam," since destroyed; and "Eve," the bronze of which did
not appear until the Salon of 1899. He did the busts of W.E. Henley;
the painter Jean-Paul Laurens (to mention some of the most beautiful),
Carrier-Belleuse, the etcher Alphonse Legros, all in the midst of
difficulties and injustices which did not in any way disturb the depths
of his serenity, the noble tranquillity of the artisan sure of attaining
his end by labor. Is it possible to-day to believe that the model of the
"Monument of the Defense" was not only refused, but was not even classed
among the thirty designs that were retained by the jury of 1880 after
the first choice had been made? This same jury, the composition of which
is also worthy of passing into history, decided on a solemn confection
by M. Barrias for the _prix de Rome_, the result of which was that four
years later its creator was elected a member of the Academy of Fine Arts.

I do not know whether many collectors contend for reproductions of M.
Barrias's monstrous design for a clock; but Rodin's group, a wounded
soldier entirely enveloped by the wings of a prodigious figure of a
warrior goddess crying out for aid, which was later renamed "The Genius
of the Defense" or "The Appeal to Arms," and which has acquired to-day
so pathetic a character of actuality, is coveted by most of the museums
and art collectors of Europe and America.

As if these works, which have since acquired such glory, were nothing
but fragments of secondary importance, Rodin attacked a great piece of
work, like those that used to be executed in the great ages of art: he
undertook the famous "Gate of Hell."

At the time of the affair of "The Age of Bronze" there was at the
head of the ministry of fine arts, an under-secretary of state named
Edmond Turquet. To him fell the task of deciding in the last resort the
case of Rodin. M. Edmond Turquet was a brilliant lawyer who had become
_procureur_ under the empire, which did not altogether qualify him for
the part of director of fine arts under the republic. In the field of
art he knew no more than any one else, Rodin says; but he was a very
fair-minded man, and his honesty had the effect of quickly straightening
out the affair of the sculptor. In his genuine desire to atone for the
wrong done to Rodin in the eyes of public opinion he not only offered
to obtain for him a position in the porcelain factory at Sèvres, in
order to assure him a regular livelihood, but ordered from him a great
ornamental piece, a door destined for the Palais des Arts Décoratifs.
In addition, by a special privilege created in favor of artists under
Louis XIV,--a privilege the traditions of which the French Government
has happily perpetuated,--M. Turquet granted Rodin a good studio in the
Dépôt des Marbres, so that he could execute his order.

"And what will you represent on that door?" enquired the under-secretary
of state.

"I am sure I don't know," replied the artist. "But I shall make a
quantity of little figures; then no one will say that they are casts
taken from the life."

Thus we find him at Sèvres, a ceramist; he has carried on so many
different trades that he succeeds marvelously with this one. It was his
task to decorate vases of delicate clay; he modeled light bas-reliefs,
representations of mythological scenes, idylls. Nymphs, cupids, fauns,
evoked by his miraculously delicate fingers, were born out of the milky,
transparent material, bringing back to life the flowery graces of the
drawing-room art of the eighteenth century, the dainty elegances of the
wax figures of Clodion, but with a graver sense of the mystery of nature
and of love.

Unfortunately, when these vases left the hand of the master they were
overladen with hideous ornaments in the style of Louis-Philippe.
Moreover, the officials at the head of the factory did not like them.
They were carried up to the attics, they were left lying about on the
floor, in the secret hope of seeing them broken by the feet of some
careless or ill-willed workman.

The feeling of being isolated and misunderstood at times threw a shadow
over the soul of the sculptor; but on the other hand he felt himself
so strong, so solidly based in his will, in his self-confidence, and
in the virtue of labor that these moments of depression passed away
quickly. Besides, he knew the secret of the poor, the secret of creating
happiness for oneself out of everything that the rich and powerful
despise: a simple life, health, regular work, the contemplation of
nature, and a few real friendships. Rodin earned at Sèvres only two or
three francs an hour and lost a great deal of time on the railroad. What
did it matter? He found pleasure and rest in these little journeys.
Every day he set out from Paris by train, and, the day over, winter and
summer, his wife came to meet him. They returned together on foot either
along the banks of the Seine, charming in their profusion of little
hills and islands, covered with meadows or fine trees, or through the
woods of Meudon and Clamart, with their vistas of Paris, its heights,
its buildings, its changing sky full of light and spirit.

At the end of four years of opposition and annoyance Rodin gave up
pottery in order to consecrate himself wholly to his own work. The
museum of the factory preserves a vase signed by him, and the future
Musée de l'Hôtel Biron can show a second example. What has become of the
others? What price would not be paid for them to-day by admirers of the

These supplementary works did not turn him away from his essential task;
whatever were the technical means employed, his efforts tended toward
one unique end, the plastic quality, and he gave himself up desperately
to this search in executing his new order, the "Gate."

Rising at four in the morning, as he had done in his youth, he studied
the plans and the details of this great work. He had announced a series
of little figures. How was he to group them? What visions surged in the
sculptor's imagination? Of what legendary theme, what theme of history
or poetry, should he make use in order to realize his program? He had
never ceased to be a passionate reader. He read especially the Greek
poets and dramatists, the Roman historians, the old French chronicles,
Dante, Shakspere, Victor Hugo, and Baudelaire. He did not wish to draw
the subject of his future work from Homer, Æschylus or Sophocles;
the School of the Beaux-Arts had so abused the theme of the antique,
already immortalized by Greek sculptors, that it had entirely lost its
freshness. The moderns attracted him less, but he was obsessed by the
work of the great poet of the Renaissance, by the "Divine Comedy" of
Dante. He had read and reread it and made a sort of commentary in the
form of innumerable sketches which he jotted down mornings and evenings
at table, while walking, stopping by the wayside to dash off attitudes
and gestures on the leaves of his note-book. He rediscovered in the
poem of Dante the fateful grandeur of the Greek dramas, but with an
atmosphere more modern, closer to ourselves, more mournfully familiar to
our anguishes and our torments. The idea took shape in his imagination,
"that imagination ceaselessly rumbling and groaning like a forge"; it
exalted his bold spirit. Genius joins to the richness of the intellect
the simplicity of heart that creates faith. Genius _believes_ ever more
than it _thinks_. It has the strength which succeeds in anything, and
it possesses also that supreme gift, the ingenuousness of the child who
doubts nothing. Rodin believed the poem of Dante as if he had lived it,
as Dante himself believed in Vergil. What a magnificent homage great men
render to one another in this credulity of genius toward genius!


The subject chosen by Rodin for his decorative panels, then, was
hell--hell as Dante conceived it in a vision that lends itself, for
that matter, marvelously to a plastic realization. The "Gate" would
be a poem, an immense sculptured poem; that is to say, a résumé of
the attitudes and gestures of life called forth by the release of the
passions, a strange catalogue of the expressions of the human body under
the shock of sorrow and of joy. If the imagination of Rodin caught
fire like that of a visionary, he remained beyond everything and above
everything the sculptor, and he plunged immediately into the search for
the general scheme of the work.

The truth of the movements, the poetry of the evocations, his models
would give him; he could feel at ease as to that: the resources that
nature would offer him were inexhaustible. But the plan, that he
must find himself; he must do the work of the builder, almost of the
geometrician. There could be no self-deception as to that. The fuller
the ornamentation was to be of figures and movements, the more solid
must be the frame of the immense picture, the more vigorous and compact
must be the general plan of the work.

Rodin's mind wavered between two great schools, that of the Renaissance
and that of the Middle Ages, that which had produced the doors of the
baptistry at Florence and that to which we owe the portals of the Gothic

The celebrated gates of Florence are a series of bas-reliefs arranged
symmetrically in a regular framework; they present a series of separate
pictures having no common bond except their subject. The execution
is admirable, and it is perhaps impossible to surpass it. Lorenzo
Ghiberti has done there the work of an incomparable modeler, actually
a goldsmith; but he has in no way troubled himself with regard to
architecture. Now, architecture is the great French point of view. The
Roman and the Gothic have placed in their monument (the church) that
other monument (the portal). The portal is complete in itself; the
art of the sculptor and that of the architect have united and become
indistinguishable here in order to realize an absolute beauty.

Rodin, profoundly French, inheriting the instinct and taste of his
ancestors the master-masons, having to compose a door, was fated to
conceive a portal. On the other hand, he could not escape the influence
of the antique, the result of his early studies. This was the entirely
different element which in the course of the work he had undertaken was
to mingle with the Gothic element.

It was not the first time that the mingling of these two great
conceptions of art had occurred in France. From it had sprung our
Renaissance sculpture; in that epoch the sculpture of the Greeks united
itself with the Gothic architecture, the Hellenic sunlight brought to
blossom the majesty of our monuments. Does not Rodin himself, with his
vast outlook over the whole field of art, call this period of national
art, the sixteenth century, the French Gothic?

"The Gate of Hell," then, took on in its general structure a Renaissance
aspect. It preserves the graceful line of the Gothic portal and has the
luminous whiteness inspired by Greek sculpture. This singular work has
touched all contemporary artists. Most of our writers have described it,
and, after them, the critics of other countries. This living multitude,
this suffering, groaning multitude that covers the two panels with a
thousand passionate movements, has drawn into its magic whirlpool the
world of literature, which has been able to liberate itself only by
means of innumerable printed pages. The poem of Dante has come forth as
it were revivified from the hands of Rodin. Fresh tears, one would say,
have bathed the most poignant passages; the pity of a man of to-day,
of one like ourselves, our brother, has enveloped the terrible work of
the Florentine poet, that man of the Middle Ages, with an atmosphere of
tenderness and compassion which seems the emotion of Christianity at its
purest, its original source. In order to become our own, it has passed
through the great soul of Rodin. It is not surprising, then, that the
sensibility of our artists, reanimated by this new spectacle, should be
touched to so voluminous an expression by this haunting work.

But what has not been sufficiently remarked is that the "Gate" is, above
everything, a piece of architecture of the highest order.

When we see it we are at once struck with an impression of majesty, of
calm strength and plenitude. It seems even longer than it actually is.
It is a rectangle six meters high and two and a half meters wide, but
the source of the illusion is the justness of the proportions and the
value of the masses.

The powerful frame is furrowed with deep depressions. It rests on the
ground upon a strong base from which rise the two door-posts, as robust
as pillars and mounting together toward the summit. A pediment in the
shape of an entablature overhangs the entire monument, casting over
it a deep shadow full of nuances; and it is this shadow, skilfully
graduated, that gives to the work its rich, soft color. The body of
the portal is divided into two panels; a vast tympanum surmounts them
transversally. This tympanum, surmounted by a large cornice, dominates
the work. Without weighing it down, it gives it its mass, it attracts,
it obsesses, the eye; it is the soul of the edifice, its intellect. No
word can more justly describe it than the word brow, for it is magnetic,
haunting, mysterious, like the forehead of a man of genius.

The panels sink deep into a shadow that is heavy, but not harsh, while
in the foreground the pillars advance into the light; the delicate
bas-reliefs that cover them keep them in a silvery atmosphere, the
source of the great softness which envelopes this work, otherwise severe
and tragic, the source of the fugitive lightness of the lines, which
strike up from the earth toward the somber and tormented upper regions.

Carried away by this marvelous technic, the spirit of the visitor
succumbs; it follows this ascending movement of the door-posts, to lose
itself in the sorrowful dream sculptured on the tympanum.

On the panel writhe the clusters of human figures, the eddies of the
multitude of damned souls pursued by the rage of the elements, by
the devouring tongues of the infernal fire, by the frozen waters, by
the wind that tears them and stings them. "It is," says the eminent
art critic Gustave Jeffroy, in the most beautiful pages that have
been consecrated to a description of this work, "the dizzy whirl, the
falling through space, the groveling on the face of the earth of a
whole wretched humanity obstinately persisting in living and suffering,
bruised and wounded in its flesh, saddened in its soul, crying aloud
its griefs, harshly laughing through its tears, chanting its breathless
fears, its sickly joys, its ecstatic sorrows."

The genius of Rodin became intoxicated with all the resources of his
art. Master of a technic of the first order, he delighted in every kind
of effect, arranging them as a great symphonist arranges the instruments
of an immense orchestra. Low-relief, half-relief, high-relief, and
sculpture in the round, he omitted none. He did not yield to the
literary temptation. At the height of his fever of invention he was
circumspect, measured, guided by his knowledge as a modeler. The poet
thinks, but the carver speaks; he speaks justly, he speaks admirably,
because he uses only his own true and personal language, which he knows
from the ground up. That is the whole secret of the way in which this
man inflames our soul and subjugates our imagination.

Two principal notes, two motives form, above the whirlwind of the
infernal fires, a resting-place for the eye troubled by so much
vehemence: one, in the midst of the tympanum, is the figure of Dante. It
is Dante, but it is even more the eternal poet. Seated, leaning over the
abyss of suffering, thrilled with anguish, he seems to seek in the very
depths of the pit itself the word of infinite pity that will deliver
this sorrowful humanity.

Higher yet, above his bowed head, rising suddenly from the frame and
splayed in a large protuberance, a group of three entwined figures
crowns and completes the brow. With the same despairing gesture they
point to the multitude of the damned. One does not know what these
shuddering beings are, but they have the sweetness of angels; at once
we seem to hear their lips murmur the words of the grand Florentine,
"_Lasciate ogni speranza_"; but across their forms, their compassionate
forms, their fraternal forms, one feels passing a tremor of love and
pity. Far from condemning, their clasped hands offer to the sad wreckage
of fatality that writhes at their feet a sign, a unique sign, the sign
of good-will of pity.

       *       *       *       *       *

"The Gate of Hell" was shown only once to the public. This was at the
Universal Exposition of 1900. Although it was nearly finished, it was
seen then only in an incomplete state.

The day of the opening arrived before the master had been able to have
placed on the _fronton_ and on the panels of his monument the hundreds
of great and small figures destined for their ornamentation. People saw
the "Gate," then in the nudity of its construction, grandiose assuredly,
but despoiled of its extraordinary raiment of sculpture.

That day was a sad one for the true friends of art and of Rodin. A band
of snobs, full of their own importance, crowded about the great man.
Having considered the work with the hasty and casual glance of men of
the world of the sort that are concerned above all to get themselves
noticed, they remarked to Rodin, in a tone of augury, "Your doorway is
much more beautiful like that; in no circumstances do anything more to

This absurd advice befell at an evil moment: the artist felt worn out
from overwork and anxieties of all kinds and, moreover, was troubled
over the fate of his exhibit the failure of which might in truth have
ruined him completely. In these circumstances he did not have the
freedom of spirit necessary to judge correctly the value of his own
work. And besides he had seen it too much during the twenty years in
which it had been before his eyes. He was tired of it, weary of it.


Thus everything combined to make him lend an ear to the unfavorable
opinions of the Parisian aviary. Had he been in better health, more
the master of himself physically and morally, he would have replied to
the prattling of these excited paroquets and guinea-hens:

"Take more room, examine my 'Gate' from a little farther off, and you
will see once more the effect of the whole--the effect of unity which
charms you when it is deprived of its ornamentation. You must understand
that my sculpture is so calculated as to melt into the principal masses.
For that matter, it completes them by modeling them into the light.
The essential designs are there: it is possible that in the course
of the final work I may find it necessary to diminish such or such a
projection, to fill out such or such a pool of shadow; nevertheless,
leave this difficulty to my fifty years of artisanship and experience,
and you may be sure that quite by myself I shall find the best way of
finishing my work."

But the master was silent. Later, carried away by the abundance of his
conceptions, by his ever-deepening researches, he lost all interest in
the "Gate" and has never taken the trouble to have it entirely mounted.

Fortunately, casts of it have been carefully preserved. It would be
only an affair of a few months to reconstruct the work in its original
integrity. Since the Universal Exposition time has rolled forward, and
events also. Auguste Rodin has entered into the great serenity which
age brings with it. He composes less, he corrects his work, he judges
himself, and he does not deny his "Gate," one of the most exceptional of
his works.

At last the creation of the Musée Rodin has been decided upon by the
state. "The Gate of Hell" will be one of its important pieces; we shall
be able to contemplate it then in all its majesty; it will not then
simply be molded in plaster, but cast in bronze and cut in marble.
It will offer a noble example of what work can accomplish when it is
served by that supreme gift, will; for it will testify as much to
resistance against the powerful enemies of the life of thought as to the
intelligence of the man who created it. It forces upon us not only a
formidable impression of strength, labor, talent, but also an impression
no less lofty of method, order, and inner harmony. The multitude, who
through their profound instincts approach much closer than one might
suppose to the man of genius, will exclaim in contemplating this work,
this true monument which undoubtedly the sculptor has raised through his
own force of character, "Whoever erected this beautiful thing with his
indefatigable hands was truly a man."


BALZAC (1898)

At the time the plaster model of "The Burghers of Calais" was first
offered to the judgment of the public, in 1889, nearly seven years had
gone by since Rodin had originally undertaken the group.

This is the period of my own childish memories of the master. He was a
frequent visitor at the home of my father, who lived in Sèvres, on the
outskirts of Paris.

Rodin, with his silent nature, apparently so full of calm and
meditation, delighted in the ardor, the patriotic enthusiasm, the
ferment of character, the brilliant conversation of that powerful,
original writer, my father; he loved his books, too, spirited and
passionate like himself, and possessing a vigor of expression that was
new to French letters.

Léon Cladel received his friends on Sundays. In winter they gathered in
the drawing-room, in summer on a terrace shaded by great chestnuts and
limes, where thousands of birds twittered and chattered so energetically
that at dusk they ended by drowning the voices of the visitors. Among
the latter were writers, painters, and sculptors, several of whom have
since become famous. Among them were Auguste Rodin and his colleague,
his dear comrade, Jules Dalou, creator of many fine works, notably the
monument to Eugène Delacroix which stands in the Luxembourg Gardens.

The sculptor of "The Burghers of Calais" was then barely fifty. He was
far from possessing the immense fame that is his to-day, but artists
already regarded him as a master. Of medium height, robust, with large
shoulders and heavy limbs, placid and deliberate in appearance, never
gesticulating, he himself resembled a block of stone; but above this
heavy base his countenance, with its broadly designed features and its
gray-blue eyes, expressed an extraordinarily keen intelligence and
finesse. Despite my youth I was struck by this physiognomy, so singular
and so penetrating, and also by the remarkable shyness that made the
sculptor blush whenever he was addressed. Since then innumerable
portraits have familiarized people with these features, which with age
have settled into an expression of authority and firm will; his strange
timidity has disappeared with time, with the consciousness of his
strength, with his having become accustomed to glory. Moreover, Rodin
has become a ready talker. Of old he listened intently, but always
held his peace; at most a few words, spoken in a soft, clear voice,
escaped from the waves of his long beard. He would at once relapse into
silence, while with a slow movement giving his beard an instinctive
caress with his large, square, irresistible hand, the true hand of a
builder. But when he raised his eyelids, almost always lowered, the
transparent eye, that limpid gray-blue eye, betrayed a perspicacity
that was almost malicious, almost cunning: one felt that he penetrated
through the forms of people to their very souls; and this he fixed so
skilfully in the clay of his busts that his models were not always
pleased with it. Many of Rodin's portraits have been refused by sitters
offended by their pitiless realism.


Sometimes my father kept Rodin and Jules Dalou to dinner. The two
sculptors were devoted to each other. They were comrades from of old who
had traveled together the hard road of beginners; since their student
days at the Petite Ecole they had many times reëncountered each other
in the same workshops, where they had received the same contemptuous
wages for their long days of labor. They felt a profound esteem for each
other's talent, different as these talents were, altogether opposed, in
fact, as were their natures; and it was a fine, a lovely thing to see
them bring forward each other's respective merits. Alas! I shall have
to tell later how an artistic rivalry came one day to destroy this noble

The appearance of "The Burghers of Calais" aroused a flood of enthusiasm
in the world of art. I remember it well. At that time I was only a
young school-girl, and my father was unwilling to allow me to "miss
my classes" in order to accompany him to the opening of the Rodin
Exhibition. After all, the lessons I received that day, following them
quite absent-mindedly, were they worth the lesson I should have received
from the contemplation of that masterpiece, even if my age would have
prevented me from quite understanding it? Beauty is always the most
fertilizing teacher.

A rich art-lover, acting with the municipal authorities of Calais, had
ordered from Rodin the statue of Eustache de Saint-Pierre, the Calais
hero whose devotion had in the fourteenth century, during the Hundred
Years' War, saved the city when it was besieged by King Edward III of

Rodin, true to his principles, sought as ever to approach his subject
from the quick of reality. He consulted history. He read the old
chronicles of France, above all those of Jean Froissart, who was
contemporaneous with the event and almost a witness of it. Froissart was
a man of the fourteenth century, a man of the age of the cathedrals,
and therefore himself a Gothic. His narrative has the force, the
savor, the naïveté, the simple and profound art of the masters of that
marvelous epoch. What a source of emotion for Rodin, a Gothic likewise
in his faith and his artistic rectitude! He caught fire at the recital
of the old master as at the voice of a brother-in-arms. He read, he
learned that Edward III would not consent to spare the city of Calais
from pillage and destruction unless six of her richest citizens would
come out to him dressed only in their shirts, barefoot, with ropes about
their necks, bringing him the keys of the city and their own heads to be
cut off. In response to this terrible message, Eustache de Saint-Pierre
and five of his fellow-citizens, taking counsel with the notables
of the place, at once rose to go to the king's camp. They set forth
immediately, escorted on their way by the hunger-stricken multitude,
weeping and groaning over their sacrifice and "adoring them with pity."

This was the vision which from that time on took possession of Rodin,
dominating him and never leaving him. But it was not an isolated person
detached from his environment that he saw: it was the six martyrs just
as they appeared in history, just as they were in life. In his thought
he followed this band of heroes marching to the sacrifice in the midst
of the weeping city. He could not bring himself to separate them either
from their whole number or from their tragic surroundings. Therefore,
in accordance with the genius of his theme, that is to say, with
historic truth, he would make all six of them, and he would insist that
they should be set up in the midst of the city, among the old houses,
where they would continue to live their sublime life in the heart of the
very town that they had saved.

For the price of one statue, therefore, Rodin set out to execute six.
He rented a vast atelier in the rue des Fourneaux, in the Vaugirard
Quarter. He worked unceasingly. To keep this enormous group in good
condition, to maintain the proper temperature, he moistened the clay
morning and evening, having as his _garçon d'atelier_ no one but his
devoted wife, who had become thoroughly experienced in these matters.
Despite all, accidents would happen: the clay would give way, an
arm, modeled with his habitual exactitude, would fall and have to be
laboriously repaired; but the fervent modeler never hesitated in his
work, and on the day when he exhibited "The Burghers of Calais" at the
house of Georges Petit the praise and the homage that sprang forth from
the soul of all true artists recompensed him magnificently, bringing
him the intoxicating caress of dawning glory. They spoke, in connection
with the "Burghers," of the image-makers of our cathedrals; they spoke
of the statues of Claus Sluters, of the famous statues of the "Well of
Moses" at Dijon. Really, in the Calais monument Rodin is more than ever
under the Gothic influence in subject, in thought, and in execution.
The equilibrium of the figures composing the group is the same as that
of the "Saint John the Baptist." The long shifts that cover the naked
bodies of his heroes recall those draperies in vertical folds dear to
the Middle Ages. The very modeling of the figures and of the faces
increases this effect of elongation caused by the fall of the fabric;
the modeling in large planes, the vigorous accents, the simple and
pathetic movements are certainly those of the sort that out-of-door
sculpture calls for. In twenty years Rodin had made innumerable visits
to the Gothic monuments. Here was the result of his tours of France. He
had made them in order to recapture the traditions of art from the hands
of our wonderful old stone-cutters, and his heart must have throbbed
with joy when he was told that in his own hands that tradition had
suffered no loss.

Naturally, the appearance of "The Burghers of Calais," even that,
could not fail to have its share of comic anecdote, that bitter and
painful humor that marks the adventures of genius in its struggle with
vulgarity. Let us not complain too much. The contrast between these
adventures and the proud way of life of a great man, the regularity
of his hours of toil--it is this that creates opposition, movement,
life. The elect soul feels a savage joy in these blows which shake it
like a tree tormented by brutal hands, a tree aware of the vigor of its
resistance and its ever-increasing tenacity.

The municipality of Calais, hearing that there were to be six statues
instead of the one that had been ordered, took umbrage, and deliberated
for two years. The heroic group waited, and, as it encumbered Rodin's
atelier, where other works were going forward, it was placed in a
stable. At last the worthy town authorities decided to assign it a
site. Naturally, the site in question was exactly opposed to the ideas
of the master--ideas that had been thought out and that were perfectly
logical, based on the laws of decorative art and still more determined
by that infallible criterion, taste. Rodin desired that his monument
should be in the center of the town; they placed it on the edge of
the sea. He counted on emphasizing the tall stature of his figures
by enshrining it in the narrow frame of the houses; they placed it
against a horizon without limits. He requested that the group should be
placed very low, almost on the ground, or else very high on an elevated
pedestal, like the "Colleoni" at Venice or the "Gattamelata" at Padua;
they placed it at a middle height, thus diminishing the effect of its
imposing proportions. The lesson had to come from foreign lands. The
city of Antwerp has erected, in front of its museum of fine arts,
two of the statues of the celebrated group, and England, which does
things splendidly when it is a question of embellishing its cities or
of rendering homage to the valor of its adversaries, has erected the
effigies of the six heroes of Calais on one of the most beautiful sites
in London, before the Palace of Westminster.

       *       *       *       *       *

By this time the reader is sufficiently familiar with the technic of
Rodin for it to be unnecessary to analyze here in detail this well-known
work. What must not be forgotten is that the sculptor had first modeled
these six powerful bodies entirely in the nude. This is his invariable
method when he executes draped figures. One realizes this, even without
knowing it, before these arms, these hands, these legs, and these feet
constructed with that rigorous conscience which, with the true artist,
is at once a necessity and a delight; one divines the slope of the
torsos bent with grief or rigid in the pride of sacrifice.

"Yes, they are beautiful," the master said to me one day when I was
talking with him. "The shirt, the blouse are garments the folds of
which yield simple planes and effects that, rightly rendered, are those
of true sculpture. But there is something better still, and that is
sackcloth. If I had clothed my 'Burghers of Calais' in sackcloth, they
would certainly be more beautiful. I did not dare to. Some one else will
do this and will succeed. It is sufficient to express an idea and leave
it to its destiny."

We ought to love in Rodin this intellectual vigor that skirts the
borders of the impossible. In our age, consumed with indecision, it is a
priceless aid, a resting-place, a _point d'appui_ from which one starts
forth afresh, fortified, one's nerves recharged with vitality, to the
conquest of one's share of knowledge or of talent. This accounts in part
for the irresistible influence which for thirty years the illustrious
sculptor has exercised over the minds of artists. One feels that this
fount of strength condensed in his virile soul comes from something
deeper than his personality alone; it comes from the very depths of
the national reserves. The conviction, the energy of Rodin are those
of the workman who knows his trade, of the laborer impassioned by the
culture of his own soil. This endurance is the foundation of the French
temperament; the events happening now have proved it. When a country
possesses such individualities through the course of history, the roads
of the future open out before it brilliant with hope despite passing
shadows, and promise the highest surprises.

[Illustration: DANAIADE.]


The creation of "The Burghers of Calais" marks the middle of a period
of truly prodigious fecundity. From 1889 to 1896, monuments, busts,
statues, and groups of every kind issue without interruption from the
ateliers of Rodin, and the more numerous the works his hand models,
the more it grasps the contexture of the work, the more it refines the
execution. Orders for portraits pour in; collectors hold it an honor to
possess a marble, a bronze, signed with a name which every day increases
in celebrity. In 1888 comes that jewel of marble, the bust of Madame
Morla Vicuñha, and the monument to Claude Vicuñha, president of the
Republic of Chile; in 1889, the bronze portrait of Dalou, the statue of
Bastien-Lepage, that admirable head "La Pensée," acquired by the Musée
du Luxembourg.

In 1890 comes the portrait of Mme. Russell, a bust in silver, of
noble simplicity, which one would say was the head of a Roman matron,
with the luminous veil upon her thoughtful forehead and the flower of
good-will blossoming upon her delicately swelling mouth. Then there is
"The Danaïd," "La vielle Heaulmière," and a great study, a long woman's
torso, "La Terre."

In 1892, not to mention delightful minor works like "The Young Mother"
and "Brother and Sister," appear two masterpieces: the bust of Puvis
de Chavannes and that of Henri Rochefort, magnificent contrasts in
construction and execution. The painter-gentleman carries his haughty
head like an old leaguer chief, and the pamphleteer bends over the
destinies of France, which for fifty years he has defended day in, day
out, with his flaming pen, an enormous brow--a brow like a spherical
vault that seems to contain a world.

"You have made it grander, you have made it more beautiful than nature,"
some one said to Rodin one day.

"One can never do anything so beautiful as nature," he replied.

In this same year, 1892, he exhibited the charming monument to Claude
Lorrain, in which he recaptured the spirit of the eighteenth century. It
was the town of Nancy that ordered this figure of its painter and has
placed it in its vast park.

One cannot mention everything. Forms and attitudes renew themselves,
but not the terms that express them. To measure the abundance of this
work one should read the catalogue, till now incomplete,--for it has
been impossible to compile one that was not so,--of the master's
works; only so can we realize how almost dizzily his productiveness
became accelerated with the epoch of his maturity. Mythological
subjects dominate it, but are always treated with a profoundly human
understanding of the poetry and the grace of the form in which they
achieve an aspect delightfully new.

Such titles as "Venus and Adonis," "The Education of Achilles," "The
Death of Alcestis," "Cupid and Psyche," "The Faun and the Fountain,"
"Pygmalion and Galatea," Rodin inscribed only as an afterthought on
the pedestals of his groups. They are not the result of a necessary
preliminary conception; it is his figures themselves that breathe them,
his models unconsciously repeated the combinations of movement and
gesture through which are translated the eternal sentiments immortalized
by the legends of paganism. So true is this that Rodin obtained his
charming groups by assembling in harmony with his researches the
animated little figures that encumbered the windows of his ateliers.
He amused himself by uniting them, by marrying their attitudes; with
these little figures, these puppets of genius, he composed actual little
intimate dramas or idylls revived from the antique. In the hollow of
a Greek bowl he places a little nude body, and one would say that it
is the soul of the wave that conceals itself against the side of the
vase. He enlaces three feminine figures, upright, beside the body of a
recumbent youth: they are the Graces, who come to bend over the dying
poet. Thus he perpetuates the fantasy of things through that of his own
taste; he eternalizes the most delicious caprices of nature.

       *       *       *       *       *

We come now to the year 1896 and the appearance of the "Monument to
Victor Hugo."

This monument had been ordered for the Panthéon. Rodin, who had modeled
in 1885 the bust of the singer of the "Légende des Siècles," was
doubly, on this account, entitled to the order. In the midst of what
difficulties had he achieved that bust! It required all his patience,
all the tenacity of a Lorrainese peasant, to accomplish it. When he
had begged the honor of reproducing those illustrious features, the
poet, already nearing his end, tired out with having posed for mediocre
plaster-daubers and unaware of the superiority of his new sculptor,
consented to pose only for two hours. All the same, he authorized Rodin
to come as often as necessary and make as many sketches as he needed
while he, Hugo, worked or received his friends.

Rodin accepted these difficult conditions. Was it not Victor Hugo with
whom he was dealing, the father of modern poetry? And then what a
spectacle for his artist's eyes, that of the great man bending over his
papers that Jupiter-like head of his in which thought, in gestation,
swelled the sublime brow with a tumult of ideas! When he talked, what
majesty in "this face of a lion in repose"!


The sculptor placed a stool, some clay, some tools in the corner of
a gallery; it was there that he worked out the general form of the
bust. Then, studying his wonderful model for months, he made hundreds
of sketches of him, under every aspect; at times, having used up the
pages of his note-books, he even covered entire blocks of cigarette
paper with rapid notes and jottings. Then he transferred this record
of observations to his clay. Working in this manner, it took him three
months to finish his bust. He exhibited it, in bronze, at the Salon of
1884. One cannot fail to admire the volumes, the beautiful mass of the
whole, even though it does not show that brilliant touch of genius which
strikes us before the bust of Jean-Paul Laurens or that of Rochefort;
but later, relying upon this document and upon his own special memory
of forms in action, Rodin was to restore for us this moving head in his
monument of the poet, which was to be one of his very loftiest works.
This same bust of Victor Hugo was to rupture the friendship between
Rodin and Jules Dalou--Dalou of whom he sent to the same Salon of 1884,
by a curious coincidence, an incomparable bust that puts one in mind of
those of Donatello.

The family of Victor Hugo did not like Rodin's portrait of the master.
When the poet died (1885), it was Dalou whom they called to execute a
death-mask of the features of the great poet. Filled with ambition and
eager for official glory, Dalou had the weakness to accept, forgetting
what he owed to Rodin, not even informing him, in fact. Deeply hurt, the
latter withdrew his affection for his old friend. My father, saddened by
this occurrence, which destroyed so rare and noble a friendship, brought
the two friends together at his table in the hope of reconciling them;
but nothing could melt the wall of ice that had fallen between these
dissevered hearts.

Ten years afterward a magnificent compensation was offered to Rodin.
From him was ordered the monument of the poet for the Panthéon. He
represented him nude, under the folds of a vast cloak, and seated on
a rock, as if by the seashore, with his wonderful head bowed in an
attitude of meditation, just as Rodin had often contemplated it in
priceless hours.

This manner of representing a great man, quite simply revived from the
Renaissance and the eighteenth century, shocked to the last degree the
administrative staff of the department of fine arts. Why this nude
personage, instead of a quite respectable Victor Hugo in the frock-coat
of an academician? Why not one of those statues that peacefully occupy
some corner of a public square without attracting any one's attention,
one of those statues that are not made to be looked at? As for this
poet, who resembled a Homer, a hero or a demigod, this grand body,
outrageously beautiful and simple, is it not scandalous in the midst of
the conformity of bourgeois civilization, enslaved by the ugliness of
fashion, whose perverted taste can no longer recognize the beauty of the
nude? The painter David used to say of his epoch, in which, however, the
mode of dress was less displeasing than it is to-day, "What misery to be
obliged to spend one's life in fashioning coats and shoes!" Rodin, like
David, and like Phidias, preferred the trade of the sculptor to that of
the tailor.

Such an uproar arose that he had to withdraw the model of his monument
and promise another. But everything comes with time, even the best: the
fortunes of politics brought to the ministry of fine arts an intelligent
and cultivated director, the dramatic critic Gustave Larroumet.
Delighted with Rodin's scheme, the magnificent symbolization of French
poetry, he confirmed the order for the audacious monument, no longer for
the Panthéon, but for the Luxembourg Gardens; and, not satisfied with
this reparation, charged the master with the additional execution of
another monument destined for the Panthéon. One can imagine the anger in
certain circles--two orders on the same subject to the same sculptor!
What an aberration! What madness! But the decision was made and well

Rodin took six years to perfect his first "Victor Hugo"; the marble
was not exhibited until 1901. The vigor of the work and the sovereign
gesture by which the bard of contemplation seems to impose silence upon
the voice of nature in order that the voices struggling within himself,
in the depths of his genius, may be the better heard, the suppleness of
the material, of this Carrara marble, with its warm reflections, as if
melted under the pressure of a fiery hand, obstinately make one think of
Michelangelo; one has the disturbing sensation, not of an imitation, but
of a resurrection of the plastic power reincarnated out of nature, of a
new spring of sap from the same vein of genius.

The original plan allowed, in addition, for two allegorical figures,
"The Inner Voice" and "The Tragic Muse," which, placed beside the poet,
should breathe into him thought and inspiration. But, very beautiful
in themselves, they gave to the monument, once they were executed and
placed, an anecdotal quality that diminished its force; they weakened
the grandeur of the Olympian gesture and destroyed that feeling of
solitude inseparable from such a personality as that of the great man:
an island in the midst of the flood of the human multitude, genius
itself is aware of its own splendid isolation.


This is what I ventured to express one day to the master, not without
hesitation. Nothing equals the simplicity of Rodin face to face with
what he knows is sincere and animated by a true love of art. He
listened, gazed at his work, and, turning toward me, gave me a joyous

"You are right," he replied, with a spontaneity that put my sense of
responsibility on its mettle. "I sacrificed to the mania of the age,
which is to overload things. My modeling is there, the eloquence of the
gesture also. The rest would only spoil the essential things. It is a
stroke of genius. I am going to write to the under-secretary of state
that my monument is ready."

In lieu of the two figures that were to have accompanied the statue of
Victor Hugo, to indemnify the Government Rodin gave to the Musée du
Luxembourg a series of his most beautiful busts in bronze, including the
head of the poet.

As for the marble, it was in the garden of the Palais Royal that it
was finally erected; but this site is not of the happiest: a large
lawn separates the spectator from the monument; one sees it from the
wrong angle, and this destroys the equilibrium of its planes. Moreover,
in our damp climate marble quickly loses the charm of its purity and
transparency; streaks of brown already stain and deface that of the
"Victor Hugo." Let us hope that the organizers of the Musée Rodin
will find it possible to place it in one of the rooms of the future
museum, substituting for it a bronze upon which the inclemencies of the
atmosphere will serve to produce a beautiful patina.


This is the most famous and the least known of Rodin's works. Newspaper
controversies have made it famous throughout the whole world; but it
has, nevertheless, made only one brief appearance in public, in 1898, at
the Salon of the Société Nationale des Beaux Arts. It marks at the same
time a vital stage in the career of the master and the most poignant
period of his life as a fighter. It is the point of equilibrium in
the perpetual balancing of the art of Rodin between the several great
traditions. It was the object of a famous quarrel, in which the glory
of the sculptor, momentarily all but eclipsed by ridicule, recovered
itself, nevertheless, and rose higher than ever.

What strikes one in this statue, at first sight, is its strange
block-like aspect, its monolithic simplicity. People say quite rightly
that it looks like a stone _lovée_, a druidic monument. Ever since "The
Burghers of Calais," one of the figures of which at least, that of
the man with the key, already suggests the idea of a monolith, Rodin
had been going further and further in his stubborn search for the
simplification of planes, and here he finally achieved his object. In
order to obtain it, he went back all the way to the primitive Gothic
and even to the archaic Greek, which likewise preserves in the general
outline of its statues the rigid aspect of those statues of wood that
had preceded it. In all these early epochs of art one finds the form of
the tree trunk in which their sculpture was cut. One of the examples of
this art that had most forcibly impressed Rodin was the statue of Hera
of Samothrace in the Louvre. The beauty of this figure, denuded of all
foreign artifice in the exact research for masses, the public little
comprehends; but the sculptor perceives its justness, the power of its
relief and its modeling, disconcerting in these primitive artists,
qualities that are concealed under the extreme simplicity of its
appearance. In this magnificent Hera it is as if one saw the rotundities
of woman coming to birth and undergoing in the tree, the vegetal column,
one of those metamorphoses familiar in the fables of paganism. The
"Balzac," with its athletic body, veiled in a spread robe that envelopes
it, does not it also resemble a powerful tree trunk from the summit of
which looks down, like a solitary, monstrous flower, the head of the
inspired writer?

This statue had been ordered by the Société des Gens de Lettres, and was
intended for one of the public squares of Paris. After Victor Hugo,
Balzac. After the giant of modern poetry, the giant of the novel. What
a redoutable honor, but also what a homage to the talent of the great
sculptor! What joy for artists in the association of these two names,
Balzac and Rodin! On the other hand, how many adversaries rejoiced in
the hope of seeing Rodin come to grief with this task, fraught not
less with peril than with glory! He did not conceal from himself that
the statue of Balzac would be a severe problem to solve. We possess
no authentic bust of the creator of the "Comédie Humaine," not even
a death-mask giving the exact measure of the cranial bones and hence
the actual planes. We know through his contemporaries that the author
was fat and short. Fat and short--that is far from facilitating the
composition of a work of decorative art. But, more precious than
mediocre portraits, there is a famous page about him by Lamartine,
another great genius. "Balzac," he says, "was the figure of an element
... stout, thick-set, square at the base and at the shoulders, ample,
much as Mirabeau was; but not heavy in any way; he had so much soul that
it carried _him_ lightly."

[Illustration: STATUE OF BALZAC.]

It was this essence that he set out to render. A frank artist takes
no liberties with reality. It alone gives him force; the "majesty of
the true" is alone durable. Nature, which dowered Balzac with one
of the most prodigious intellects known to us, dowered him at the
same time, to support this intellect, with the physical breadth of a
colossus. To have altered anything that went to make up the harmony of
the structure would have been to commit a grave error; it would have
been to denaturalize the divine work. On the other hand, above this
mass of flesh it was necessary to make that marvelous spirit hover,
that sparkling spirit, that myriad-faceted spirit of the greatest of

Rodin knows by experience that nature repeats herself. Has not a
humorist said: "It is useless to make a bust of you; it exists already.
You have only to look for it in the museums"?

He set out to find a man who resembled Balzac, going all the way to
Touraine, the writer's native province, a hundred times depicted by
him in his books. The family of Balzac was originally from Languedoc,
but that made no difference; the intuition of a great artist is always
rewarded. Rodin found at Tours the model he desired; he was a young
countryman, a carter, who resembled his hero to an almost miraculous
degree. Of him he made a very animated bust, in which one sees the full
face, the nose, concave and large at the end, but voluptuous and full
of spirit, the rounded chin, the vast shoulders of the master of the
"Comédie Humaine." There was lacking, however, the flame of thought that
spiritualized and rendered buoyant this mass of human substance. Rodin
modified the expression, illuminating the physiognomy with delicacy and
frank gaiety. It is Balzac at twenty-five, a peasant Balzac, breathing
at every pore youth, self-confidence, and the love of life. Not yet
is it the man tormented by fate, the tragic visionary of the "Comédie
Humaine," the slave of his work who in twenty years wrote fifty novels,
staged a thousand characters, and gave life to an entire society. It is
not the man who has suffered, thought, meditated, with all the power
of one of the most extraordinary organisms known to us; it has not the
appearance of a phenomenon.

After this Rodin skilfully altered these features; he gave them the
scars of the interior effort, he made them soft and hollowed them, he
made them old and grave. In a few weeks he did the work that nature
had taken years to accomplish. He finished by creating that Titan's
mask which we know, that head as round as a bullet and, like a bullet,
terrible in its concentrated force. Later he augmented this; that is
to say, he doubled its proportions: and this head, almost frightening
in its expression, recalls the masks which the Greek tragedians wore
when they played in the open air. Finally he modeled the body of the
colossus, making it entirely nude, with arms crossed, braced against
the earth with the tension of the whole will, evoking the idea of some
prodigious birth. Then he draped this heavy body in the monk's robe
in which the writer used to envelope himself for work and the straight
folds of which enwrapped him like the sheath of a mummy, offering to the
sight nothing but the tumultuous head--the head ravaged by intelligence
and savage energy.

Rodin felt almost frightened by his own work.

He kept it a long time before turning it over to the cast-makers. He had
worked it out in his atelier, but it was destined for the open air. How
would it appear in broad daylight?

The gestation of this work was accompanied by a thousand miseries. The
committee of the Société des Gens de Lettres incessantly demanded the
"Balzac"; they were dumfounded before the extraordinary figure that was
shown to them, before this white phantom the conception of which was so
utterly the reverse of all current ideas. Not knowing what to say, they
insisted that it should be modified and urged haste upon Rodin, whose
extraordinary dexterity became slowness itself when it was a question
of putting the final touches upon a great work. The press began to
take note of the affair. He himself became troubled and nervous. With
what transports would he have left it, fled, gone away to rest and to
dream of something else for a few weeks! The time of the Salon was
approaching. Quite suddenly he made his decision, gave the clay to be
cast, and ordered an enlargement. The statue was brought back to him at
the Dépôt des Marbres, in the rue de l'Université; it was twice as large
as the original model. It was placed in the garden that stretched out
in front of the studio. He examined it as it rose against the depths of
the open sky and the bright spring light. It was as if he had never seen
it, and suddenly his mind was illuminated. The work was grand, simple,
strong; the essential modeling was there, and the details they had
exhorted him to add would only have diminished its unsurpassable unity.

Rodin had made up his mind. He sent his "Balzac" to the Salon.

Immediately there was war. The press, worked upon by the committee of
the Société des Gens de Lettres, was unfavorable in advance. On the day
of the opening of the Salon the word was passed around, and the official
art world _s'esclaffe_. There was a crowd at the foot of the lofty
image, near which Rodin took up his position, calm according to his
wont, and talked quietly with his friends. Some, a very few, told him
how they admired this work so proudly offered, so strange in its banal

The next day the press broke forth. What an uproar! Everything went off
at once: the heavy artillery of the great newspapers scolded solemnly,
the light artillery crackled in the political sheets, and the grape-shot
of the minor papers spat their rage, only too happy for so rich a prey
to cut to pieces. The Institute, as might have been foreseen, fanned the
conflagration. The public, excited, in turn broke loose, in the fury of
ignorance stirred up against knowledge.

[Illustration: THE HEAD OF BALZAC.]

It became a "case," an affair, the _affaire de Balzac_. The committee of
the Société des Gens de Lettres mobilized; by a vote of eleven to four
it declared that it "did not recognize the writer in the statue of M.
Rodin." The president of the same society, the poet Jean Aicard, refused
the chance of immortality which this stupidity was to confer upon his
colleagues and flung his resignation in their faces. A group of members
of the municipal council of Paris decreed that it would be ridiculous
to accord "this block" a place in one of the squares of the city. For
two months music-halls and café-concerts vented every evening the wit
of the gutter on the scandalous statue and its sculptor; peddlers sold
caricatures of it in plaster, Balzac being represented as a heap of snow
or as a seal. In short, such was the event that it required nothing
but the pen of Aristophanes to note down the harmonies of this chorus
of frogs. The health of Rodin suffered a reaction from his long effort
and from this battle. Then, too, there are hours when the strongest are
seized with nausea before the bad faith and the stupidity of people.
Nervous, his mind aching, a prey to insomnia, the master offered a
melancholy spectacle, that beautiful serenity of his destroyed and his
working strength put in jeopardy.

"For all that," says M. Léon Riotor, who tells the story with eloquence,
"Rodin had a wonderful awakening. All the young world of letters rose
up to declare its sympathy with the vanquished in this new skirmish. A
number of painters and sculptors joined in. And the protest that was
circulated came back covered with signatures."

No, Rodin was not vanquished. He retired for a moment from the mêlée
to recover and to meditate in peace, but without deviating by a single
step from his line of conduct. A collector offered to buy the "Balzac."
A group of intellectuals started a public subscription; funds flowed
in. Although he was not yet wealthy, Rodin courteously declined these
offers, and, declaring that "an artist, like a woman, has to guard his
honor," decided to withdraw his monument from the Salon and not have it
erected anywhere.

The epic statue was transported to Meudon, and placed in the garden of
the villa. In its loftiness it imposes itself against the sky, against
the hills, against the trees that surround it, with the quality of
nature herself. Like a gigantic pole it triumphs in the open air. It
is specially on clear nights that its disturbing authority strikes
the soul. The great phantom appears then formidable in the extreme
simplicity of its planes, which, as in strong architecture, distribute
over large spaces the masses of shadow and light. The American painter
Steichen has passed nights in this enchanted garden in order to take
of the "Balzac" photographs that are more beautiful than engravings.
Haughty, with a ferocious majesty in the moonlight, the master of
the "Comédie Humaine" brings his soul face to face with nature; he
listens to its silence, he sounds its mysteries, he questions it in
mute dialogue, the like of which has not been heard since the colloquy
of _Hamlet_ with the shade of his father. For it is of _Hamlet_, of
the most profound symbolization of the human spirit wrestling with the
unknown, that one dreams before this meditating Balzac, alone, under the
nocturnal light. This is what Rodin has known how to make out of that
short, thick-set man who was the author of the "Etudes Philosophiques";
this is how he has lighted the fires of the intelligence on the mask of

It is at the Musée Rodin that we shall rediscover this statue. Time
will have progressed, and ideas also. When they see it anew, how many
people will be astounded at having formerly scoffed at the work and
offended the master, struck dumb and secretly humiliated at having thus
contributed to the writing of the hundred thousandth chapter of that
endless book, the book of human stupidity.


In 1899, Rodin exhibited a large part of his work at Brussels and in
Holland. The effect produced upon artists and upon the cultivated
portion of the public was such that he resolved to repeat this
experiment at the Universal Exposition of Paris.

It was foreordained that nothing should be easy for the great toiler,
that it would be necessary for him to conquer everything through effort
and struggle.

The administration of the Exposition, which had granted innumerable
requests for space addressed to it by the industrialists and business
men of the whole world, by bar-keepers, itinerant booth-holders, and
managers of café-concerts, raised a thousand difficulties when it
was a question of according a few feet of ground to the greatest of
living sculptors. It required all the insistence of his most devoted
and powerful friends to gain his point. Rodin finally received the
authorization to construct a pavilion not in the Exposition itself, but
outside the grounds in the place de l'Alma.

Once again, so much the better. How much finer for a man of the élite to
stand aside from the rout!

According to the master's plan, there was erected a hall simple in
appearance, elegant, reservedly in the Louis XVI style, a veritable
repose for the eye strained by the strident architecture of the great
fair of 1900. There were assembled the people of his sculpture.

[Illustration: THE STUDIO AT MEUDON.]

Once more Rodin experienced an hour of trial, a formidable hour. If
for the last dozen years he had left poverty behind, he had not yet
achieved wealth, and it was a great risk to assume the expenses of his
exhibition. If these expenses were not covered by the entrance-fees and
the sale of his sculpture, how would he come out? He would be forced
to a kind of transaction that he had always spurned, he would have to
turn over all or part of his work to the art dealers. These groups,
these busts, so painstakingly cast, or cut in the most beautiful
marble by excellent workmen, and often by renowned sculptors, once the
dealers had acquired rights in them, would they not be duplicated in a
quantity of replicas of mediocre workmanship or, worse, reproduced by
undiscriminating stone-cutters, who would disfigure the modeling and
the character? The idea was odious to the scrupulous sculptor. He had
reached the age of sixty, and if he did not show it, thanks to the vigor
of his temperament and the persistent youth that goes with great minds,
it was not less painful for him to put his apprehensions to the test.
Too dignified, too proud, to give way to vain lamentations, he made only
the most reserved references to his ordeal.

The success of the exhibition remained uncertain during the first
weeks: many people hoped it would be a failure. At the end of a month
or two, visitors from abroad, to whom thanks be given, began to pour
in; the principal museums of Europe wished to possess some important
figure of Rodin's. Soon the number of purchasers increased day by day,
and I do not have to mention here how many art-lovers from the United
States decided to enrich their collections with some rare piece signed
by the master. In short, during the latter months Rodin had the joy
of perceiving that he could remain the sole possessor of his work,
that nothing could now separate him from his dear family of bronze and
marble. It was happiness for him; it signalized also the great glory
that comes with outstretched wing, bringing fortune with it.

The pretty pavilion in the place de l'Alma was transported and reërected
in the garden at Meudon, and he filled it with masterpieces. Since then
the whole world of art and literature and that portion of the political
world that esteems art has passed through it. The French aristocracy
and that of England, the most eminent personages of the two Americas,
have been eager to visit it. One receives in it an impression at once
grand and touching, giving one the highest idea of the supremacy
of intellectual valor above the other goods of this world when one
perceives the contrast of these artistic treasures with the altogether
modest little house, almost bare, attended by a single servant, where
Rodin continues, in the midst of the luxury of an epoch intoxicated with
pleasures, to maintain the simplicity of his life in the sober company
of his old single-spirited, faithful-hearted wife. This impression I
never felt more vividly than on the occasion of the visit of the late
King of England. Edward VII, like others, had conceived the desire to
render this homage to French art. The day before, when I encountered the
master in Paris, he said to me, without further explanation, "Come and
have a look at the studio."

It was a beautiful afternoon in May. When I entered the pavilion, I
could not restrain a cry of admiration. Marbles, nothing but marbles,
of a dazzling whiteness! He had brought together all that he possessed,
all those that his friends and the purchasers of his work had consented
to lend him for the occasion, and one would have said that it was
these groups of young, enlaced bodies, these busts of women, with
their transparent, rosy flesh, that gave forth the light with which
the apartment was filled. It was a unique vision, a vision which, in
its purity and its unity, surpassed in delicate splendor that of the
most celebrated collections, with all their accumulation of pictures,
tapestries, bronze, and jewels. I wondered in silence; I wondered
at the sure taste of the artist, but I wondered also at his will:
everything of him was there. Who can deny that it was necessary for him
to put pressure on himself to decide on such a choice, to sacrifice
the bronzes, the sketches, the terra cottas, and many charming pieces?
Nothing but marble, the kingdom of marble, but also that of life; for
the sumptuous material trembled and palpitated under the play of the
light that entered through the bay-windows of the atelier, bringing with
it the soft brilliance of the season.

Since the Exposition of 1900, Rodin's reputation has increased steadily
in France and abroad. England and Italy have organized triumphal
receptions for him of a sort reserved hitherto for the most illustrious
men of state. The artists of London have acclaimed him, and have charged
him, on the death of Whistler, with the presidency of the International
Society of Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers. Oxford University has
given him a doctorate. The municipality of Rome has greeted him with
special homage at the capitol; the court of Greece, having invited
him, awaits his visit; at Prague, where he was received by the Society
of Young Czech Artists, they accorded him royal honors, the public
unharnessing the horses from his carriage and applauding at the same
time the personal genius of this great Frenchman and the free ideas of
his country.

Without altering in any way his life of labor, which these tributes have
at times slightly interfered with, he has permitted himself only one
luxury as the result of his fortune--a collection of antiques. This he
has formed with passion. It is, once more, for purposes of study, and
what a study, to possess a few of these sublime fragments, to feel them
and handle them under all aspects of light! Rodin has placed a certain
number of them in his garden, arranging them among the trees, among the
shrubs; he has placed them on the fresh grass, where they seem to live
in another and a happier way than in the rooms of museums. At a stroke
the little garden at Meudon, with its pedestals, its statues, with its
grove where a charming little marble, the "Sleeping Cupid," reposes, has
become like the villa of a Roman citizen of the time of Augustus.

       *       *       *       *       *

The art of Rodin has in a certain measure shown the effect of these
happy events. During these latter years he has grown calm; he displays
a serenity of spirit and a self-possession that increases day by day.
But if the struggle in his composition has been tranquilized, his
workmanship has grown freer. The sculptor's effort concentrates itself
now in the search for a modeling ever more ample and suppler, which
with him constitutes a new and decisive manner. It is to this that we
owe those exquisite marbles, "Psyche Bearing the Lamp," "Benedictions,"
"The Young Girl and the Two Genii," "Romeo and Juliet," "The Fall of
Icarus." This has been the epoch also of the busts of Mrs. Simpson and
the proud and handsome George Wyndham, the English statesman. It is
the epoch, finally, of the "Monument to President Sarmiento," which
offers at the same time, in happy opposition, the two most recent and
most characteristic methods of Rodin. The bronze statue of the great
Argentine statesman has an aspect at once romantic and realistic that
recalls that of "The Burghers of Calais," and the marble pedestal that
supports it, a vanquishing Apollo emerging from the clouds all luminous
with youth and glory, belongs to the latest period. Of this monument,
ordered by the city of Buenos Aires, France does not possess a replica,
though the model has been preserved. The Musée Rodin will soon contain a

From 1901 to 1906 there was an uninterrupted creation of figures and of
portraits, among them the busts of Sir Howard Walden, Berthelot, Gustave
Geffroy, Mme. Hunter, and Bernard Shaw.

One must add the myriad drawings that Rodin has never ceased to execute.
The will to sustain his eye and his hand instead of permitting them to
become weakened with age has become a passion with him. He draws as a
writer thinks. He thinks pencil in hand; his drawings are aphorisms.
Line-sketches, stump-drawings, water-colors in strange tints multiply
themselves like the leaves of a tree and quite constitute alone a
complete work. The master has sold and given away quantities of them,
yet; nevertheless, the Musée will contain more than three thousand. I
have been honored with the charge of counting them over and classifying
them. After days of this work one has a sensation of dazzlement, as I
have discovered, before this accumulation of toil and beauty.

The most precious of these drawings are the most recent. The study of
light has been carried in these to the supreme nuances. More and more
Rodin detests what is black, what is hard, what is dry. He adores, on
the other hand, that which is supple, enveloped, drowned in the light
mist of the atmosphere. He conceives everything through an almost
imperceptible veil which softens the contours, and which he discerns
with an eye that grows every day more sensitive. His sculpture has
followed the same path. In the greater part of his marbles he has
pursued the effects of mass and of the ensemble in what concerns the
volumes and the effects of gradation, the study of the diminutions of
light in what concerns the coloring. The color that obtains uniquely in
the art of shadow and light is the charm of beautiful sculpture. Rodin
thus captures the variations with a competence that ravishes our eyes,
accustomed to the dryness of limits that are too distinct. It is in the
reliefs entitled "The Seasons" that Rodin has attained the apogee of
this science of luminous modeling.

These works, executed for La Sapinière, the estate of Baron Vitta at
Evian, comprise three high-reliefs fashioned on a gate and two fountain
basins, or monumental garden urns. They are cut in the stone of the
Estaillade, a white stone the richness of grain and delicate golden tone
of which make it unsurpassable for the interpretation of the human body.
They were exhibited for a short time in February, 1905, at the Musée du
Luxembourg, on the initiative of M. Léon Bénédite, the very accomplished
curator and critic of art, who arranged them with perfect taste. But far
from being embraced and vindicated, as he would be now by the present
administration of fine arts, Rodin was still regarded as a revolutionist
whose example could neither be followed nor trusted.

This was made quite plain to the audacious curator who decided quite by
himself to exhibit the latest works of the master before their departure
for Evian. After this _coup d'état_ he was for several years the victim
of attacks from academic circles, and underwent, on the part of the
Government, a sort of disgrace. Since then he has been brilliantly
compensated, and to-day he has been placed in charge of the installation
of the Musée Rodin at the Hôtel Biron, a great work in which I have the
happiness to be his collaborator.

The decorative designs of the villa of Evian adorn the vestibule of the
home of Baron Vitta. "Their subject," says M. Bénédite, in an excellent
notice which served as a catalogue for the Exhibition of 1905, "if
one wishes to speak of the motive that serves as their pretext, is
the most banal in the world. One would find it difficult to count the
number of times that it has served artists since antiquity. So true it
is that the commonest, the most general, the most seemingly worn-out
themes are those in which the great artists find themselves the most at
home. Without difficulty they renew them, and stamp them unforgettably
with their own peculiar mark. Rodin has calmly returned to the four
seasons, confident that they would bear without effort the impress of
his personality and his time and that they would suffice to express his
whole conception of beauty and of life."

Rodin has figured "The Seasons" under the aspect of four sleeping
women. Their beautiful forms model themselves in the warm-tinted stone,
which itself seems animated with the reflections of the living flesh.
Their mysterious sleep evokes the successive phases of the year. Now
it marks the quietude of the earth, full of the joy of yielding up her
flowers and her fruits under the caresses of the sun, now it is death
revealing itself through a nature tormented with the heavy travail of
generation. In the "Spring" it is a young body that lies voluptuously
under a rose-bush the fragrant petals of which are mingled with her own
flesh, enveloping her in the dream of their perfume. In the "Autumn,"
the sleeper crouches close to the ground under the fruits and the
vine-leaves, oppressed by the intoxicating aroma. The "Winter" presses
her chilled limbs closely against the cavities of the denuded earth,
while above her the roots of the trees enlace themselves intricately,
like sacred serpents charged with protecting her slumber. The "Summer"
is a siesta upon the bosom of a Nature _en fête_, lulled by the golden
sounds of harvest balanced on the breeze and the murmur of a spring that
pours forth freshness and quietude.

But in what, you ask, resides the originality of these decorative
commonplaces, their brilliant, unquestionable originality? In the
deliberate simplicity, in the spirit of sobriety that has presided over
their composition, and, above all, in their execution. It is through
their execution that the sculptures of Evian occupy a place apart in
the work of Rodin. Since the beautiful Greek epoch, stone has perhaps
never assumed such a living sweetness under any human hand. One might
believe that it had not been touched by the steel of the chisel, but
caressed by a touch as delicate as it is firm, molded like wax under
the warmth of that hand. These mellow figures do not detach themselves
from the living framework in which they are set; they stand out,
thanks to an insensible transition which leaves them enveloped, in the
reflections of the fair material; they mass themselves under a sifted
light, among the flowers and the clusters of grapes. With all this there
is no insipidity. Under the skin one feels the plenitude of bodies rich
with health, harmonious organisms: it is a force that has found its
equilibrium, a force relaxing in sweetness. Strangely enough, when one
seeks for antecedents to which it is possible to relate the reliefs of
Evian, it is not in the domain of sculpture, but in that of painting,
that one finds the terms of comparison. The intense power, carefully
measured as it is, of this vibrant modeling and this color drenched in
sunlight we find again among the tenderest creations of Correggio, of
Rubens, and, closer to ourselves, of Renoir.

The two jardinières which complete this unique series represent groups
of children mad with joy and with liberty; in the one case playing and
jostling one another in a field of wheat, in the midst of the moving
sea of spears, and in the other, spread out on the green summer grass,
rapturously holding up in their little arms, already robust, the grapes
heavy with wine. They are exquisite fantasies of movement, of grace, of
mad life just beginning. Here, too, the flesh of these little laughing
gods, melting in the mass of ripe corn and tottering vines, seems bathed
in the clearness of a beautiful day, full of air and of light.

These five works of the old age of the master might be entitled the
"Poem of Youth." It is the privilege of genius to return, in its
decline, to its point of departure, to remount to the sources of life,
which remain ever the most intoxicating. The sensations of infancy and
adolescence solicit him with all their unforgettable seductiveness, and
he surrenders himself lovingly to the sweetness of this lost dream; but
it has cost him his entire, existence to acquire the gift of translating

This search for the envelopment of forms fruitful of new effects is the
decisive point in the career of Rodin; it is the supreme thought, the
end and aim of sixty years of toil and reflection. Therefore it is a
very happy thing for French sculpture that Rodin has been able to live
long enough to realize completely this definitive conception of his
art. For from the summit attained by him other artists can spring forth
afresh, to renew once more perhaps the manifestations of the national
genius. The resources indicated by Rodin have hardly been used hitherto;
to bring them fully into employment meanwhile there will perhaps be born
a new school of sculpture.

[Illustration: BUST OF BERNARD SHAW.]

What constitutes the originality of a great artist is that it is never
isolated. It belongs at once to the past, to the present, and to
the future; it is altogether a derivative and a root. It springs from
the past through atavism, through study, and through admiration for
the masters; it is of the present through contact with those of the
artist's contemporaries who march at the same time with him along the
road of discovery; finally, it influences the future by bequeathing to
the generations that follow a new conception and new methods. To-day
we see clearly the sources from which have come the ultimate aspect of
the talent of Rodin. They are the art of Greece; they are also certain
marvels of Gothic art in which miraculously reblossomed the Hellenic
suppleness and sweetness, as if the springs of the Greek genius had
mysteriously coursed under the earth from Athens to France, bursting
forth at last in the walls of our cathedrals; then there are those
unfinished marbles of Michelangelo from which Rodin derived the idea of
vapor and flow in sculpture. But other artists have arrived, at about
the same time, at the same end, or almost the same end, by different
paths. Among these are two of our great painters, friends and comrades
of Rodin, Renoir and Carrière. Does not this community of thought
prove how profound is the vitality our country continues to possess in
the domain of art? We are less struck by this phenomenon than when we
verify its effects in the past, when we see them related and summed up
in the history of art; because we are not in a position to disengage
it from our present life, which is encumbered and complicated, and to
draw a conclusion from it. And then, too, the present political régime
does little to signalize the great artists, to muster them before the
untutored admiration of the multitude, to give value to the intellectual
wealth of the country. As a rule, when a man of genius receives the
homage he deserves, it is when he is near his end, if it is not after
his death. What public festivals have been given in France in this
century to honor the glories of our artistic and scientific life,
Victor Hugo excepted? When and how have we celebrated men like Puvis de
Chavannes, Rodin, Renoir, Carrière, Claude Monet, Besnard, Odilon Redon,
and Bartholomé, to mention only masters of the chisel and the brush?
Occasionally they have been gratified by the boredom of an official
banquet, where they have been assigned a rank considerably lower than
that of the least important politician, and they are expected to be
thankful when they have had bestowed upon them a few parchments and some
bits of ribbon. Fortunately, their joys are in another sphere, whither
no one who is not their equal can follow them.

In their ardent effort toward a similar end, then, it is necessary to
associate Rodin, Renoir, and Carrière. All three, for that matter, have
mutually admired and even influenced one another. Whether in the course
of their work or in their conversations, one cannot deny that the
attempt of the Impressionist School, which consists precisely in not
separating the being or the object from its atmosphere, in prolonging
its life in the life of that which envelopes it, really succeeds only
in the work of these masters. They have, if not recreated, at least
broadened the law of the distribution of shadow and of light in their
intricate fusion. Certainly others had already manifested and realized
similar ways of seeing things, according to their various temperaments,
such men as Fantin-Latour and Henner in the study of the human figure
and Claude Monet in landscape. But, except for Monet, no one affirms
them with the authority of a Rodin, a Carrière, a Renoir. If Carrière,
too early interrupted by a cruel death, is a tragic, a somber genius,
a genius of the Gothic line, which in him does not exclude great
sweetness, Renoir and Rodin, in their maturity, are happy geniuses,
masters of young beauty and of a serenity which art has scarcely known
since ancient Greece. A like sentiment of serenity, a like aspiration
for harmonious unity, therefore a closer contact with nature, bring them

This serenity, this aspiration for unity, Rodin and Renoir have sought
during their whole life, and it is in the radiant works of their old age
that it triumphs. The genius of form and its union with the universal
has been the master thought, the plastic ideal, which their fraternal
minds have realized simultaneously by different methods.

"With Rodin a style begins," said Octave Mirbeau twenty years ago. The
phrase stirred up a tempest. All the time that has passed since then has
been required to make people admit its truth. The great writer might
have said with more exactitude, but with less force, "With Rodin style
itself has begun anew."

Will it continue? It has never entirely ceased to exist, even if it has
no longer the force of expansion with which, from France and through
her, it spread through all Europe. Will it begin again with its vigor as
of old? The question touches those problems raised by the events that
are to-day overturning the world and also the profound modifications
which the war will bring.

The master gives us his opinion on this matter in a few words,
circumspect and measured, as he himself always is. How could he be
otherwise before the formidable unknown that still hides from us the
next turn of destiny? It is fitting, then, to leave him the last word on
this subject. Fortunately his word has the warm ring of hope.


This hope he draws in a measure from himself, from his own strength,
which is, he feels, a distinct outgrowth of the national strength, of
the unconquerable soul of our ancestors; he draws it also from the
consciousness of a task accomplished in the face of the hard blows
of life; and finally from the promise of the artistic youth of the
country, of that which belongs to his school. For if with two or three
exceptions he has not directly formed pupils, his artistic principles,
his faith in the virtue of character and labor, supported by the example
of an unequaled body of work, have given him innumerable disciples. The
lesson which he offers us and which will soon be offered to all at the
museum in the Hôtel Biron, will endure for centuries. He says himself
justly, with pride and modesty, that this museum will form a true home
of education.

       *       *       *       *       *

A few words more about this life which in the fecundity of its
unexpected incidents remains for the attentive witness profoundly
significant to the very end.

At the moment when the war of 1914 broke out, the master was in his
villa at Meudon. When the German armies approached Paris, he thought
of leaving his home. He had excited great admiration in the land
of Schiller and Goethe, he had been urged to take part in numerous
expositions there; but he had quite special reasons for knowing that
his work, were it to fall into their hands, would not be spared by the
soldiers from beyond the Rhine. Overwhelmed by the terrifying surprise
of the invasion, he did not know where to go.

As he had many friends in England, I offered to guide him there. He
therefore crossed the channel, accompanied by his wife, the companion
of his good and evil days. It was without a word of bitterness that he
set out, without expressing a regret for all that he was leaving behind
him. Before the immensity of the national misfortune he seemed to have
completely forgotten the menace that hung over the work of his whole
life. In the train that carried us by night to one of the French ports,
he said in his clear and always tranquil voice: "Yes, I am leaving
much behind me. It is the work of an entire life that will disappear,
perhaps." That was all. This attitude of an old exiled king inspired a
respect free from all compassion.

The fate of his collection of antiques caused him more disquietude.

"If they take them, that is nothing; they will still exist. But if they
break them! They will have destroyed what is irreplaceable."

He did not wish to remain in London. Too many relationships would
have hindered him from collecting himself and from preserving that
dignity of solitude, that reserve of a refugee which was proper to his
situation. He preferred to accompany us to a small country town, where
for six weeks he lived a modest life, very retired, interested only, but
passionately interested, in the reading of English newspapers, which we
translated for him.

When we apprised him of the burning of Rheims Cathedral, he replied
with a laugh of incredulity. For two days he refused to believe it. It
seemed to him an invention of the press designed to stir the public and
increase recruiting. At last, convinced, he said, with inexpressible
sadness: "The biblical times have come back again, the great invasions
of the Medes and the Persians. Has the world, then, reached the point
where it deserves to be punished for the egotistical epicureanism in
which it has slumbered?" After this he became absorbed in his own

The Battle of the Marne, in saving France and the world, saved also that
little temple of art, the museum at Meudon. Rodin, on his return from
England, found it intact.

He took up his work again, without a pause, with that unalterable
patience of his--that patience of the peasant that turns him back to his
field the moment the enemy has passed. He awaits there sadly the dawn of

       *       *       *       *       *

During the last months of the year 1916 the question of the Musée Rodin,
broached five years ago, became again a living one; it was brought
before the assembly. Certain of the master's adversaries who have not
been calmed even by the events of the present affected a righteous
indignation that the discussion of this question of art should at
this moment have any place in the order of the day, and they tried to
make people believe that it was he who had chosen this tragic hour for
debates of this kind. Let us repeat that five years ago Rodin offered
this gift to his country, and that the delay in settling the matter is
imputable solely to the procrastination of public affairs.

On the day I write these lines the creation of the Musée Rodin has been
determined upon. The two chambers have voted by a majority that proves
that everything France contains in the way of cultivated intelligence
desires to assure a home worthy of itself for the works of its greatest

But before we have arrived there what other mishaps may not befall! It
is too soon to write the history of the Musée Rodin. Its adventure is
not less singular than all the others that have marked this long career,
certain of which have been summed up in these pages. The more forceful
the personality, the more it is in contradiction with the passions of
the vulgar, the more are the incidents that spring up in the contact of
these two opposite elements. It would require a whole volume to recount
those that have punctuated the life of Rodin during these later years.

Despite the bitterness of the combat, the master has had nothing to
complain of and does not complain. The outcome of his life-story is most
beautiful, and if this beauty already strikes us, it is in the years
to come that it will attain its full glory. For if the gesture with
which Rodin offers to France his work and his dearest possessions is
that of those who count in the annals of their country, no one perhaps
has ever received such a homage as that which the country has bestowed
upon him in the manner of accepting his gift. In the midst of war, in
the very hour when the country is suffering unheard of evils, it has
self-possession enough in the firmness of its indomitable soul to honor
in a magnificent way the work of one of its sons--a work accomplished in
time of peace. Turning its attention for an instant from the necessities
of war, from the front where it struggles, suffers, and dies, it remains
calm enough, sufficiently sure of itself, to offer to one of its heroes
of toil, and of the thought which its soldiers defend, a testimony of
its gratitude and admiration.


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