Wednesday, November 18, 2015

For Want of Sin No. 2

Color me bowled over by "Rodin: Evolution of a Genius."

Walking over to the VMFA at the butt crack of dawn (8:30) on this sunny morning, I was unprepared for what a magnificent - and extensive - show this is, yet very much eager to see all those naked bodies.

"I have infinite worship for the nude," the master sculptor went on record as saying, and after seeing so many examples of his interpretations, I get it. Acknowledging that he couldn't work without a model, Rodin gets extra points for insisting on choosing ones with strength and vigor.

Both qualities, I might add, that I used to get my half-asleep self to the museum this morning.

"The All-Devouring Female or Sin No. 2" showing a woman consuming the other figure has a name fit for a high-end perfume...or a dominatrix.

Not sure what appealed to me more in the erotically-charged "Ecclesiastes," that the recumbent figure rests on a book (my reader roots run deep) or that Rodin used a figure of nude female bending forward and places her on her back on the book. Yes, that's a curvy bottom, her legs in the air, facing the viewer.

So many pieces caused me to pause, walk around for a 360-degree view or just stare in awe, pieces such as the "Despairing Adolescent" - and aren't they all? - with its arms outstretched overhead, portraying 19th century teen-aged angst.

Angst also abounded in the many figures cast to be part of the monumental commission for the "Gates of Hell," yet it brought to mind Ghiberti's far less gruesome "Gates of Paradise" in Florence, another set of magnificent doors I'd ogled while in Italy.

Despite being a rabid Whistler fan, I'd never heard that Rodin had been commissioned to create a monument to the artist after his death. The public, unfortunately, was not happy with his large armless nude, criticizing it as unfinished looking and rejecting it after his death for that reason.


What I hadn't expected was the collection of photography - deliberately dreamily shot with soft focus and blurring of images -documenting his work and apparently hung at shows along with his sculpture.

It was impossible not to be gobsmacked at seeing "The Kiss," a monumental casting of "The Thinker" and, at least for this art history geek, "The Burghers of Calais," and revisiting that story, which I only vaguely recalled from long ago college classes.

Standing under one of the larger-than-life size burgher figures to inspect the anguished face may have been the ultimate Rodin in Richmond moment.

Or maybe not. Already I know I'll need to see this exhibition several more times. In fact, I was talking to a guy who works there about it and he said that the Rodin galleries were his cut-through when he needed a cup of coffee.

Even though I'm not a coffee drinker, I might consider taking it up if I worked there, solely so I'd have a frequent excuse to walk through.

In case you haven't guessed, I have infinite worship for Rodin's nudes.

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