Why does Rodin remain the most popular figure sculptor since Michelangelo? Regarding one admirer, the story goes that in 1945, a 29-year-old Wall-Street financier, B. Gerald Cantor, wandered into the Met and was touched by Rodin’s “Hand of God.” That same year Cantor co-founded the global securities giant, Cantor Fitzgerald, and as he became a wealthy man he began to collect about 750 statues, drawings, prints and letters by the great master, thirty-six of which (including a version of that hand) are now visiting Chicago.
Will you be touched as well? To make the experience more educational, each has been accompanied by text written by Rodin himself, sometimes even mentioning a specific piece. “I tried in ‘Balzac’ to find an art that is not photography in sculpture. My principle is to imitate not only form but life.” If only that direction were taken more often by the figure sculptors of today! But Rodin’s work also reflects his status as an art superstar whose every expression, however brief and unresolved, is celebrated as genius. So, the best place to see Rodin in Chicago remains the Art Institute, where his earlier pieces, like “Walking Man,” “Adam,” and one of the “Burghers of Calais” can be found.
There is also an issue with quality of bronze copies because even if a cast is legally one of the twelve “original” copies, all original casts are not the same. The turbulent surface of a Rodin sculpture requires more than merely technical skill at the foundry, and selecting a good cast is not like buying a blue chip stock. It’s too bad that Cantor’s love of sculpture seems to have never progressed beyond a blind adulation (and calculated investment) for a single artist. And it’s also too bad that LUMA has yet to display any of the great twentieth-century liturgical sculpture from its own Christian tradition, the kind of work that no secular museum will now exhibit. The only Christian piece in this show is a portrait of Pope Benedict XV—and according to the artist’s comment posted beside it, the Pope was only willing to pose for one hour, while the sculptor was not willing to work from photographs. But it’s still a good head because, after all, Rodin really was a genius. (Chris Miller)
Through August 16 at the Loyola University Museum of Art, 820 N. Michigan.
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