Auguste Rodin at One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London.


A collection of sixteen bronzes and four drawings by Rodin are on display in the lobby of One Canada Square until 10th November.

Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) was the consummate commercial artist.  He devised a formula for making lots of money out of his work long before Andy Warhol proclaimed “Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art”.

He combined this acumen with a genius for sexy, sinuous sculptures which made him a wealthy man in his own lifetime and have continued to pour money into the French state long after his death.

He owed part of his success to an early failure to win a place at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, where he would have been trained to adhere to a narrowly defined ideal of human beauty dictated by the classical aesthetic.  Instead, he took a job as a modeller in the studio of Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse, where he developed a keen eye for what the art-buying public really wanted.

By the early 1880’s he was an artist in his own right with his own studio.  The works he modelled in plaster were sent to foundries where they were cast in bronze and sold to collectors.  They could select their favourite from his oeuvre and then approach him or one of his agents to have it made up for them.  Some works, such as The Kiss and Eternal Spring, were so much in demand that he left the sculptures with the Barbedienne foundry and granted it exclusive rights to their production.

This method enabled Rodin to generate numerous bronze works from each sculpture modelled in his atelier.  At the same time, a new technology was employed to produce his works on a reduced scale, which is why you can see two small versions, at 59.4 and 29.2cm in height, of The Kiss exhibited in Canada Square.

Rodin gained enormous public acclaim during his life and the French government honoured him by turning his home into the Rodin Museum, after he left them the right to all future profits made from the sale of bronzes cast from his sculptures.

The extent of his popularity with his contemporary audience is no surprise.  Respectable men and women could gaze blamelessly at erotic renderings of figures drawn from classical themes.  Approval by the academy arrived later, with the recognition of artists as diverse as Constantin Brancusi and Tracey Emin as his heirs, and increased interest in works made towards the end of his career, such as the Mouvements de Danse, where he adopted a more abstract approach.

Exclusion from the circle of classical artists formed the seedbed for Rodin’s genius.  He found beauty where others saw ugliness, in work such as in the Man with the Broken Nose, and imbued his figures such with such a strong sense of inner turmoil that they continue to exert powerful a hold over anyone open to the force of the feeling they convey.

The Bowman Collection is on loan to Canary Wharf to mark the Centenary of Rodin’s death.

Jane McChrystal © 2017.