Kissing, Thinking, Hanging: Sculpted Drama With Rodin At Tate Modern

The Making of Rodin, Tate Modern ★★★★☆

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 6 months ago
Kissing, Thinking, Hanging: Sculpted Drama With Rodin At Tate Modern The Making of Rodin, Tate Modern 4
The central room gives the feel of Rodin's studio.  © Tate  photography (Matt Greenwood)

Two lovers are locked in a naked, passionate kiss as if nobody's watching. A group of men stand with nooses around their necks, ready to sacrifice themselves to save their townspeople. It's all going on at Tate Modern's The Making of Rodin.

Versions of the French sculptor's best-known masterpieces, The Kiss and The Thinker, make an appearance here, yet Tate is keen to show us another side to the great artist: Rodin the experimenter, Rodin the appropriator, Rodin the rebel.

Rodin's Burghers of Calais who were willing to be executed to save their townspeople. © Tate photography (Matt Greenwood)

In his lifetime, Rodin was accused of being too good; his depiction of a soldier was so life-like, people claimed he'd casted directly from the model. You can see where the critics were coming from; the bronze sculpture is so realistic, you can imagine the young man hopping off his pedestal and strolling around the exhibition.

Rodin took offence to such criticism, and was spurred to set off in new directions — including sculptures that captured movement rather than proportions. His dancers might not be anatomically correct, but you could swear they'd been dancing just before Rodin cast his spell on them.

A revelation at this exhibition is the room of broken sculptures. Rodin purposefully snapped off chunks of his creations in a bid to recreate the magic of ancient museum pieces with missing heads and limbs. It's enchanting to see a master of his craft trying out such bold ideas.

Broken bits show us Rodin the experimenter. © Tate photography (Matt Greenwood)

The show is set in one central room, with over a dozen sculptures atop a raised wooden surface; you feel like you're in a working studio. And that's the clever thing about the curation here; it's like being in the presence — the creative thought process — of an artist, sculptor and genius.

The EY Exhibition: The Making of Rodin is on at Tate Modern from 18 May to 21 November. Tickets £18.

Last Updated 12 May 2021