Auguste Rodin (Paris 1840 - Meudon 1917)
Pencil and watercolour.
Signed Auguste Rodin at the upper right.
Inscribed bas and triton near the lower left corner. 325 x 249 mm. (12 3/4 x 9 3/4 in.)
Drawn around 1900, the present sheet may be added to a group of around a hundred drawings of male nudes, inspired by mythology or antiquity, produced by Auguste Rodin from the late 1890s onwards. These drawings are often titled by the artist with reference to such mythological figures as Homer, Ulysses, Icarus, Prometheus or Neptune; several examples are in the collection of the Musée Rodin in Paris. As the Rodin scholar Christina Buley-Uribe has noted of the present sheet, ‘Drawings of male nudes are not rare in Rodin’s work even though they are less numerous than the hundreds of drawings made after female models. The Ulysses series (Musée Rodin) and the drawing of Marsyas (private collection)...have shown, amongst other things, the reinterpretation made by Rodin from numerous drawings of male models, in light of ancient texts or inspired by Greco-Roman mythology. Triton is not an exception. Redrawn from a Half length study of a man (D. 463, Paris, musée Rodin) sketched ‘blindly’ as Rodin was used to doing, without looking at his sheet of paper, the drawing has been turned vertically in order to create a more dynamic figure. The movement of Triton, toppling to the left, is reinforced by the presence of a dolphin, summarily outlined, diving in the background in an opposite motion.’
As noted by Clément Janin in his 1903 article, Rodin would often take his initial pencil drawing and make a tracing from it, probably by holding it up to a window. More carefully drawn, this second version ‘stablizes the composition on the page, reduces the distortions and pentimenti, and arrives at a more unified visual image.’ Such is the case with the present sheet which, as Buley-Uribe points out, is traced from a drawing of the same figure, rapidly drawn in pencil alone, in the collection of the Musée Rodin. With this second, more refined treatment of the composition, Rodin added pale washes of watercolour to the figure, and added a title to the work. A somewhat similar pose and treatment of the nude male figure is seen in a drawing of a Kneeling Male Nude with One Hand on the Ground in the Musée Rodin, which, like the present sheet, was in turn based on a rough pencil drawing, also in the Musée Rodin. It remains uncertain which orientation Rodin intended this drawing to be viewed. Although the sheet is signed as if the composition was meant to be seen horizontally, as is the case with the cognate drawing in the Musée Rodin, the artist also titled the work and added the word ‘bas’ (’bottom’) in such a way as to imply that this more elaborate version of the composition should be viewed vertically. As has been noted of Rodin’s late drawings, the artist ‘sometimes altered the center of gravity of his figures by turning the sheet on edge and writing the word “bas” below the new and perhaps even more interesting position, changing, say, a reclining figure into a flying or hovering one.’ Rodin’s late watercolours are among his most personal and expressive works, and distill a lifetime of study of the human body into the simplest and most immediate terms.
Anonymous sale, Marseille, Leclere, 8 March 2008, lot 132Private collection.
To be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the drawings and paintings of Rodin, currently in preparation by Christina Buley-Uribe.