Auguste Rodin

France, b.1840, d.1917

Eternal Idol

  • Presented by the New Zealand Government from the New Zealand Fund in France For Cultural Development, 1964
  • Bronze
  • 320 x 228 x 228mm
  • 69/527
  • 1959

One of the most significant sculptors of his generation, Auguste Rodin revelled in the tactile qualities of the clay or wax he used to form the sculptures from which his castings were taken. The human body was of great interest to Rodin and here he explores the sensuality and intimacy of the lovers’ forms. Rodin completed several versions of this subject in varying mediums and sizes.

(New Dawn Fades, November 2018)

earlier labels about this work
  • Auguste Rodin used the human figure as an instrument of expression, rather than as an object for anatomical study. The two figures in Eternal Idol express their intimacy and complete absorption in each other. The work, like all his sculptural figures, displays great strength, gentleness and sensuality. Rodin became one of the most celebrated sculptors of the 19th century. He broke from the rigid formulas and styles of academic sculpture, introducing a new sense of energy, imagination and invention. Born in Paris, Rodin showed promise in drawing as a child but was rejected by the École des Beaux-Arts and started working as a moulder, ornamentor and goldsmith instead. He later took lessons from the animal sculptor, Antoine-Louis Barye (1796 -1875), and studied the work of Donatello (c.1386-1466) and Michelangelo (1475 -1564). By 1880 he had become renowned for his sculptural portraits of famous contemporary figures. Rodin’s fame as a sculptor grew and in 1882 a studio was freely placed at his disposal by the state.

    (Gallery opening hang, 2003)

  • Rodin made several versions of this subject in varying sizes and materials. It was first worked in 1889 and is thought to have been inspired by a sculpture by Camille Claudel entitled "Surrender". This work emphasised Rodin's joy in the human form and in human sensuality. The two figures express their itimacy and complete absorption in each other. To this artist this interaction parallels an act of worship and he gave this composition an alternative title as 'The Host' suggesting that the physical act of adoration can also ascend to the mystical or spiritual planes of meaning. Rodin's figures all displayed great strength, gentleness or sensuality. He said: "I have invented nothing - I have only rediscovered."

    Rodin, who was born in Paris, showed his ability at an early age and persevered through early difficulites to gain entry to the Ecole des Beaux Arts. In 1875 he visited Italy where he studied the works of Donatello and Michelangelo whose influences can be seen in Eternal Idol. By 1882 his fame as a sculptor had grown and a pavillion was dedicated to his work at the 1900 Exposition.

    The foundry of George Rudier handled most of his bronze casting including the work. Limited edition castings were made in 1960 after Rodin's death from waxes held by the Rodin Museum in Paris. This work was purchased from those works in 1962 by the New Zealand Government and presented to the Gallery in 1964.

Related

Notes
Christchurch Idol

Christchurch Idol

We'd like to think that we know the Christchurch Art Gallery collection inside-out, and generally speaking, we do.

Notes
Mary Kisler's selection

Mary Kisler's selection

On 16 April 2011, Mary Kisler spoke about some of her favourite works in the Gallery on Kim Hill's Saturday morning radio programme on Radio New Zealand National.

See the works she selected here.

Notes
Eternal Idol by Auguste Rodin

Eternal Idol by Auguste Rodin

"One day, from up on the scaffolding where I was working on the Burghers of Calais, I noticed Rodin, who between some scenes, was doing a nude sculpture, for which the model was a young woman, stretched out on the table. As the session was drawing to a close, he bent over toward the woman and kissed her tenderly on her belly - a gesture of adoration of nature, which gave him so much joy."