Sunday, August 28, 2011

Romare Bearden at 100 - Rodin's Missing Piece

Sue and I went to Davidson College yesterday to look at the Romare Bearden Exhibit. It is his 100th birthday and many art galleries across the nation are celebrating the occassion with exhibits by "mixed media" artists in the tradition of Mr. Bearden's work. This is Bearden's "Brown Paper Bag".

Bearden was a unusual fellow. He was born in 1911 in Charlotte, and died in New York in 1988. He was a social worker, as well as a talented writer, whose subjects covered art, music and history.

The exhibit did not contain any works by Bearden himself, but rather showcased the artwork of Kendall Buster and Chris Watts. They are both "mixed media" artists, Chris Watts being more inclined to collages, while Kendall Buster's works are more like sculptures. It was an enjoyable, low key affair.

But the thing that really caught my eye was this statue by Auguste Rodin. It has no penis! Now, I am not insecure, but I found this disturbing in some way. While I ranted about the cuts to the University's budget being responsible for this shortcoming, Sue postulated that the statue might have been damaged in transit. But, apparently Rodin did a whole batch of these statues, some as tributes to Balzac. But this one is titled "Jean D'aire Nu", and was done between 1884 and 1886.

The statue was part of a larger effort known as the "Burghers of Calais", which is set in 1347 during the Hundred Years War. It was a depiction of the 6 martyrs who chose to hand over the keys to their city in order that it be spared by the English King Charles III. The work was done in maquette between 1884 - 1886. The original resides in Paris. In the original group sculture, Jean is clothed and bears the keys which he will be handing over to the King. Rodin wanted to show him in a more humble pose. Hence, he removed his clothes, as well as some of his manhood. It seems to me that Jean's act of courage took some serious cojones, an act of self sacrifice belied in this depiction. The only other explanation I have for his lack of genitalia is that the artist was attempting to depict Jean as having been denuded, symbolically, by the King.

There are 12 copies of this maquette. They were cast by the Georges Rudier Foundry, of Paris, in 1973 from the original in the Musée Rodin, located in Paris.

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