Produced at the acme of the artist's career, Walking Man in many ways laid down the parameters of Modernism at the turn of the 20th century. Frozen midstride, the figure contains drama at every angle.
By 1900, Auguste Rodin was the most celebrated sculptor of his time. He worked thematically and often returned to earlier pieces in a constant revision of form. In Walking Man Rodin revisits his first masterwork, St. John the Baptist Preaching (1878–80). Walking Man's trunk is based on an 1878 torso study for St. John. At what point Rodin added legs to create a striding man is not documented. As the figure evolved, Rodin stripped away its narrative context. Further, he took extreme liberties in his rendition of the male physique. Walking Man's scarred surfaces reveal the artist's process; the unusual fragmentation of the body focuses attention to the figure's powerful legs. This bronze sculpture is also profoundly modern: The stance is not that of an antique statue. Rather, it embodies the thrust of contemporary urban life.