Rodin’s Mouvements de danse is a little-known, yet remarkable, experimental body of work produced in the last two decades of Rodin’s life.
The Courtauld Gallery’s exhibition provides a rare glimpse into Rodin’s passion for the avant-garde dance forms appearing on the Parisian stage around 1900 so we popped along one afternoon to discover more.
Though famed for producing marble and bronze sculptures of his greatest works during his later years, it is less known that during the mid-1890s Rodin’s practice also took a more intimate turn, developing a long-term passion for capturing expressive movement. Twisting torsos and elegant lines prevail throughout this remarkable exhibition, from the beautifully intimate watercolour sketches to the delicate maquettes visibly marked by Rodin’s hands.
This scholarly exhibition explores the encounters in Rodin’s life that provided the inspiration for the studies, from visiting troupes of Javanese and Cambodian dancers that enthralled France with entirely unknown traditions of movement and gesture, to the many performers and entertainers who posed for him in the privacy of his studio. Walking through each exhibition space reads like a cultural analysis of the modern response to the colourful and exotic world which took Paris by storm, as well as providing an exclusive insight into Rodin’s personal life.
A collection of watercolours, photographs and maquettes encapsulates the essence of Rodin’s endeavours whilst his twisting and leaping terracotta and plaster figurines bring to life his findings and represent the changing cultural world. Not only do these figurines capture the beauty of the moving body, they also push the boundaries of the human form, showcasing Rodin’s artistic experimentation and creativity.
At the time, this enduring body of figurines were only seen by Rodin’s closest circle of friends and supporters. Today, they may now be considered his last major project, perfectly reflecting how the final years of his life were a period of continued experimentation at a time when Paris was experiencing great cultural advancements, on the precipice of modernity.