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Re-writing Rodin

Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) crafted his image as carefully as his work. The great self-mythologiser cast himself as a solitary, brooding genius and liked to be photographed chipping away at marble figures with a chisel. The irony, of course, is that Rodin worked mainly in terracotta — other people handled the plaster work, the casting, patinating, chiselling and carving. In an exhibition at Tate Modern, Rodin’s radical brilliance is celebrated, but some of the myth dismantled. “It’s not a take-down,” says curator Nabila Abdel Nabi. “It’s a take-on. A take-on of a very complex artist. He was an entrepreneur and he used the new art of photography to build up and disseminate his work. But he also used it to act the part of the artistic genius. We’re trying to take a more considered approach to his working environment, to modulate that very male image. He needed other people to help bring his vision to life.” Those other people were very often women, such as his collaborator Camille Claudel, his beleaguered wife Rose Beuret, and the actress Hanako. “We’re very careful in the show to acknowledge the uneven dynamics between a white, male sculptor and the many women with whom he worked,” Abdel Nabi continues. “Claudel was an artist in her own right and worked with him for a very long time. But there was an imbalance of power and she was in a secondary position. We’re trying to insert her voice wherever we can.”


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