12 AUGUST 1905, Page 19

"WHAT is the principle of my figures, and what is

it people like in them ? It is the very pivot of art, it is balance ; that is to

say, the oppositions of volume produced by movement The human body is like a walking temple, and like a temple it has a central point around which the volumes place and spread them- selves. When one understands that, one has everything. It is simple, but it must be seen' and academism refuses to seek it. Instead of recognising that that is the key to my method, they prefer to say that I am a poet. The expression signifies that people feel, confusedly, the difference between an art resting on conventions and one derived from truth ; they call that inspira- tion. That is the belief that has led to the theory of genius being madness. But men of genius are just those who, by their trade-skill, carry the essential thing to perfection. People say that my sculpture is that of an exalte: I do not deny that there is exaltation in my works ; but that exaltation existed not in me, but in nature, in movement. The divine work is naturally exalted. As for me, all I do is to be true ; my temperament is not exalted ' ; it is patient."

M. Mauclair records these words of the great sculptor Rodin, and by them we are made acquainted with the fundamental principles of the artist. It is the intensity of the naturalism

that gives to Rodin's work that poignancy and impressiveness which so entirely separate it from the ordinary sculpture to he seen yearly in exhibitions. His works have that feeling of life which seems to be the quality which is the essential of permanent works of art. If we go back into the past, the masters who knew this secret still keep their freshness. It matters not how formal is the composition of Masuccio, his frescos remain modern in spirit because the figures he painted were inspired with life. No doubt the living quality in the art of Rodin made the path to recognition an arduous one. It is so easy to turn aside from things you do not like if they are tame and lifeless. But when the critics nursed in academic conventions were confronted with such works as the "Age of Brass" they were forced by its vitality to take notice of it. The people who did not understand a work that asserted itself so powerfully thought it must be wrong. But as its workmanship was faultless, they were driven to assert that it had been largely cast from the life. This accusation was made by some of the jury of the Salon, which had not dared to reject the statue. The injustice of the

• Auguste Rodin. By Camille Mauclair. London : Dackworth and Co. DO& &La 'the false charge was publicly disproved and the work bought by the French Government.

In the "Age of Brass" Rodin had by no means found his final method of expression. He had not yet made the experiments which showed him the way to realise the wonderful and mysterious quality of light and atmosphere that his later works possess. M. Mauclair tells us that "he took fragments of his statues and began to raise them in certain places by layers of clay, intensifying the modelling and enlarging the lines." The result was a better play of light. The outline of the statue was no longer hard against its background. The relief was more harmonious and not to sudden, "the hardness of the cut-out outline vanished, and a radiant zone shaped itself around his figures and united them gradually with the atmosphere." Rodin has called himself a " rediscoverer," not an innovator, and there can be no doubt that this feeling for the light enveloping the statues rather than isolating them is to be found in the work of Michelangelo, notably so in the tombs of the Medici.

The same effect is to be seen also in the statues of Gothic cathedrals which have greatly influenced Rodin. In this

connection we must call attention to a very striking article by him in the North American Review for February last on

"The Gothic in the Cathedrals and Churches of France." In a remarkable passage the writer bells us of the influence ' Gothic art has had upon him, and the following description of the cavernous porch of a mediaeval church divines the true spirit of the old artists who wrought these buildings :— "It looks like a grotto or a cavern—architecturally constructed, ' of course. Certain of the figures that have been carved within it are bathed in light, others are shrouded in darkness, and others again show half tints of chiaroscuro. Throughout the day, there is a continual change. While there are never more than a few figures in full view at the same instant, and the rest are either partially seen or divined, the sun's procession transports the . effects from one side to the other, transposing them gradually between morning and evening in an animated panorama." • The whole article shows the writer's sympathy with Gothic buildings, not as monuments of the past, but as great living works of art whose influence he has felt.

M. Mauclair in his book, which, like all his writing, is full of subtle and illuminating criticism, gives an account of the great work w,hich for years had occupied Rodin's thoughts, and from which his statues have sprung. This is the "Door." Originally the idea was to make a vast portal,—the

gate of the Inferno of Dante. Above the door are three shades looking down on numbers of figures below, Paolo and Francesca being among these. Over all is the Penseur, the primeval man, looking down and brooding over the fate of the generations' that have succeeded him. Gradually the scheme was enlarged, and the figures ornamenting the

door itself were no longer confined to the personages of Dante. In fact, new creations of the sculptor's imagination were constantly added to such an extent that they, could not all find a place in the work. We are told that in the studio ranged on shelves are numbers of figures which from time to time have occupied places in the structure. These compositions, as it were, all pass through the door. Frequently the sculptor develops them independently, and, indeed, the door itself seems unlikely to be finished ; it has become a method of work rather than an end in itself. Another great conception is the monument to Labour. Two colossal figures of Night and Day stand at the entrance to a crypt, in which are to be representations of subterranean work, such as mining. Above is to rise a column, and on this will be seen every variety of human activity. On the top two winged figures, Benedictions, are to crown the work. These figures have been executed in marble on a small scale, and M. Mauclair tells us that they are among the master's finest works. The rest of the project has not got beyond a rough model. The monu- ment to Puvis de Chavannes is finished, and from the descrip- tion it must be a most appropriate commemoration of that great painter.

It would be a capital error to suppose that Rodin has not a full appreciation of the Greeks. At the same time, he believes that Nature, and not a style, should be the artist's inspiration, and he is reported to have said : "The great error of this neo-Greek school is really this : it is not a type that is antique, but modelling. For want Of having understood that, the neo-Greek school has produced nothing but papier-mâché." Rodin advises that the student should begin with the study of Nature, study of the antique coming later; otherwise "he will die an old pupil : he will not die a man."

We feel sure that M. Mauclair's volume will be appreciated in England, where Rodin has so many admirers, for from its pages a just appreciation of the artist can be gained. A word must be said of the excellent photographs of the statues. One is especially impressive. It represents a fragment—a nude figure without head or arms—photographed out of doors against a twilight sky. Thus seen it is no longer a frag- ment, but a vast and elemental form like the Matterhorn.