Rodin's Portraits

Consider his depictions of a writer and a friend

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

[Madame Bardey, Rodin and Henriette, 31 Rue Campagne-Premiere, Paris] (1915–1916) by Eugène DruetThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

Rodin didn’t just sculpt classical and biblical figures, but also turned his attention to ordinary people, producing more than 100 portraits throughout his lifetime. Take a look at three of them here, one of them less well-received than others...

Final Study for the Monument to Balzac Final Study for the Monument to Balzac (modeled 1897, cast 1972) by Auguste Rodin|Georges RudierThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

A sack of potatoes, a seal, a penguin... a pig. These are a few of the descriptors contemporary critics chose to describe this 1898 work by Rodin. In fact, it portrays the French writer Balzac.

Final Study for the Monument to Balzac (1897) by Auguste RodinThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

The towering figure has an ominous, mask-like face and twisted mouth, which suggest mystery and struggle. The dramatic swirls of fabric that shroud Balzac are a literal reference to the dressing gown he wore while writing, evoking the inaccessibility of his genius.

Madame X (Countess Anna-Elizabeth de Noailles) Madame X (Countess Anna-Elizabeth de Noailles) (ca. 1907) by Countess Anna-Elizabeth de Noailles|Auguste RodinThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

When Rodin sculpted a portrait of friend and prominent poet Anna Noaille, she didn’t care for the prominence of her nose. Rodin refused to change it, however, saying it was true to nature.

Madame X (Countess Anna-Elizabeth de Noailles) (1907) by Auguste RodinThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

Rodin made use of sharp contrasts. Notice the graceful, smooth head and face emerging from the rough materiality of the base. The result suggests that the figure portrait is almost emerging from the stone into life, an effect that fascinated Rodin.

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