We don't really have any Rodins popping up despite all of our progress? All of our leisure time and material wealth, and we cannot produce an artist to take a medium to a new level. Strange. Some of the problem might be a smaller audience seeking engaging art. That might not be so since some of his commissions were public works. It is just that our public works would not select for something where the artist creates, but where the artist creates with proper progressive programming. Even worse, it might be a soulless corporate piece of art exhibiting abstract ideas. "Fluidity, Inclusivity and Diversity!" If you are ever in Paris, check out the Rodin museum. It is worth the walk and time.
Enough has been written about him that my little blog will not add much. I'll share a passage from Stefan Zweig's memoir, The World of Yesterday, when he spent an evening dining and engaging with Rodin, and the master decided to work a bit.
After dinner we went over into the studio... Finally the master led me to a pedestal on which, covered with wet cloths, his latest work, a portrait of a woman, was hidden. With his heavy, furrowed peasant's hand he removed the cloths, and stepped back. "Admirable" escaped from my lips, and at once I was ashamed of my banality. But with quiet objectivity in which not a trace of pride could have been found, he murmured looking at his own work, merely agreeing: "N'est-ce pas?" Then he hesitated. "Only there at the shoulder... just a moment." He threw off his coat, put on a white smock, picked up a spatula and with a masterly stroke on the shoulder smoothed the soft material so it seemed the skin of a living breathing woman. Again he stepped back. "And now here," he muttered. Again the effect was increased by a tiny detail. Then he no longer spoke. He would step forward, then retreat, look at the figure in a mirror, mutter and utter unintelligible sounds, make changes and corrections. His eyes, which at table had been amiably inattentive, now flashed with strange lights, and he seemed to have grown larger and younger. He worked, worked, worked, with the entire passion and force of his heavy body; whenever he stepped forward or back the floor creaked. But he heard nothing. He did not notice that behind him stood a young man, silent, with his heart in his throat, overjoyed that he was being permitted to watch this unique master at work. He had forgotten me entirely I did not exist for him. Only the figure, the work, concerned him, and behind it, invisible, the vision of absolute perfection.
So it went on for a quarter or a half hour, I cannot recall how long. Great moments are always outside of time. Rodin was so engrossed, so rapt in his work that not even a thunderstroke would have roused him. His movements became harder, almost angry. A sort of wildness or drunkenness had come over him; he worked faster and faster. Then his hands became hesitant. They seemed to have realized that there was nothing more for them to do. Once, twice, three times he stepped back without making any changes. Then he muttered something softly into his beard, and placed the cloths gently about the figure as one places a shawl around the shoulders of a beloved woman. He took a deep breath and relaxed. His figure seemed to grow heavier again. The fire had died out. And then the incomprehensible occurred, the great lesson: he took off his smock, again put on his house coat and turned to go. He had forgotten me completely in that hour of extreme concentration. He no longer knew that a young man whom he himself had led into the studio to show him his work had stood behind him with bated breath, as immovable as his statue.
He stepped to the door. As he started to unlock it, he discovered me and stared at me almost angrily: who was this young stranger who had slunk into his studio? But in the next moment he remembered and, almost ashamed, came towards me. "Pardon, Monsieur," he began, but I did not let him finish. I merely grasped his hand in gratitude. I would have preferred to kiss it. In that hour I had seen the Eternal secret of all great art, yes, of every mortal achievement, made manifest: concentration, the collection of all forces, of all sense, that ecstasis, that being-out-of-the-world of every artist. I had learned something for my entire lifetime.
May we find our Rodin. May there be enough art lovers out there to appreciate him. May Western civilization or humanity find someone who can reach that ecstasis, and bring us to new heights.