The Thinker

Rebirth of Reason

The ThinkerThe Thinker
Auguste Rodin

A POINT OF DISPUTE: Thinking about The Thinker
(c) Copyright 1997 by Michael E. Marotta

Rodin's The Thinker embodies the essence of human nature. Certainly it reflects the primary values in Rodin's nature.
The Thinker is massive. He is a mountain of metal, a hard, dark, cold, rough triangle.  He is massive.  His muscles are herculean, even titanic. The arms, legs, back, are not elements of a man  but the geography of a mountain peak.
And he is immobile.
He is not redirecting rivers or reshaping mountains because he is thinking.  Thought, not action, is the essence of man.  Thought is the spark which ignites the engine of action.  Once man decides, he is capable of attempting anything and achieving much. But thought comes first.
The transhuman muscles -- knotted from a life of impossibly hard labors -- reflect the invisible and intangible power of thought. Do you want to see how strong ideas are?  Look at The Thinker. Those arms, that back, those legs, are the concepts, axioms, abstractions, and conclusions which are the essence of humanity.
He is immobile because he will not act -- cannot act -- without thought.  Purpose is the hallmark of the rational being.
Rodin's work is typically big, rough, hard, and cold.  His comic Balzaac has the same qualities.  Yet The Kiss is smooth, soft, plastic -- in tension with the bronze from which it springs and again with the bronze beneath the surface.   The Idole Eternelle, draws a deep erotic act of worship from the rough stone base.  This motif is similar to the method of his nymph (Danae).  Rodin's most dramatic use of this tension is The Hand of God.  The supremely perfect hand holds between its thumb and forefinger, a rough lump of clay. The clay already shows the stresses and folds of the first workings of the fingers.
These works glorify man.  They praise achievement and the fires that make it possible: thought, love, and will.  I highly recommend the works of Rodin to anyone who enjoys the works of Ayn Rand.  However, not everyone who likes Ayn Rand, appreciates August Rodin.
"As a characteristic of his work, Rodin introduces an element that had been rare in sculpture since the end of the Middle Ages: human ugliness.  His figures combine ugliness with extreme physical discomfort, expressing his subjects' state of mind.  His figures are presented in bent, twisted, strained, squatting and huddles positions; faces are left unfinished.  The surfaces of the material, usually bronze, are highly polished. but beneath the sheen one can distinguish uneven ridges and hollows that make the skin texture look broken and unhealthy.
"She Who was the Helmet Maker's Beautiful Wife is the seated figure of an old naked woman, with gnarled limbs, sagging skin and shrunken breasts.  Her sharp, thin shoulder blades protrude from her wasted back; one arm is drawn behind her, with the hand open, palm out, fingers outstretched, as if she is repelled by her own hideous appearance and cannot bring herself to touch her own body.
"Another statue, Eve, stands wrapping her arms around her chest, hiding her breasts in anguish and shame.
"One of Rodin's most popular and famous works, The Thinker, sums up his view of man's wretched state.  The figure is seated, hunched over in a position that combines strain and limpness. The muscles in his arms, legs, and toes, are knotted and cramped. The size and development of his body indicate that it was once powerful and energetic, but is now exhausted.  His external, physical state reveals his inner strain:  the strain of engaging in mental activity."
The above four paragraphs are from Part II of "Metaphysics in Marble," by Mary Ann Sures, which ran in The Objectivist in March of 1969.
[Addendum March 8, 2005.  Among the many websites for Rodin's life works are these:

It is a sophomoric problem in aesthetics that the viewer cannot know what the artist intends and that the artist cannot know how the work will be perceived.  This is true for music, dance, cinema, sculpture, all art.  On the other hand, symbols have meaning.  A performance in which an actor shouted insults at the audience would be difficult for me to perceive as "uplifting."  I go so far as to say that insulting the audience was the goal of the writer and that anyone who enjoyed it must enjoy being insulted.  .. and yet, that could be cathartic...

Ultimately, I am able or unable to project my view of myself on a work of art or to see myself reflected in art. 

What you see depends on who you are.

So, I ask: How do you perceive The Thinker?]

(Added by Michael E. Marotta on 3/08, 8:51am)

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