Rodin Works: the thought, Farewell


The portrait of Camille Claudel 'The Thought' was probably created in 1886, three years after the first meeting of the sculpor with his talented model and pupil, who soon was to become his lover. The work is an adaption of a portrait of Camille with a Breton cap.

Whereas the 'The Thinker' is characterized by a strained posture, 'The Thought' rather shows a mental process that has been detached from the coercive forces of the material world. The head is isolated from the rest of the body, as if to represent the topos of free-floating thought. The Breton bonnet, symbolizes a kind of thinking cap, shields the head from outside disturbance.

An early terracotta version is exhibited in Leipzig. The marble version was executed in 1893/95. Rodin entrusted his practician Victor Peter with the carving - like he mostly assigned his assisstants with the translation of his works into marble. Later, Peter told the story that Rodin, supervising his progress, at a certain moment stopped any further editing by saying: "Don't do anything more, leave it like that!" And so the delicately sculptured head of the bust remained, from the chin downwards, joined to an untreated, raw and massive block. The same proceeding was chosen for the 'Bust of the Duchesse de Choiseul': Rodin stopped the working on this bust before the hair was finished so that a helmet-like formation emerges from the rough-hewn block.

Critical voices claimed Rodin's decision to let Camille's head directly evolve from the pedestal might have served to conceal her somewhat floating chin line. The isolation of the head from the body may also be interpreted as an expression of deprivement. Instead of rising up from the marble, the head appears to sinks into it; the downward blank gaze carries a mood of melancholy, also present in the related work 'Farewell', created and executed in marble in 1892. 

By that year, the passionate relationship between Rodin and Camille had passed its highest point already. Rodin had refused to abandon his old companion Rose Beuret, Camille was not willing to accept the role of a mistress. In 1892, she spent the summer months at the Chateau d'Islette without Rodin and started drawing acid caricatures about the elder sculptor, "glued" to his jealous Rose : the complicated  triangle relationship, that for a certain period of time had been an exciting secret, had started to disintegrate. 'Farewell' combines the head of Camille with two separate hands, that can be associated with idleness, lack of productivity, or the gesture of saying goodbye.



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