Auguste Rodin’s Burghers of Calais Essay

The decision of the sculptor Auguste Rodin to have his Burghers of Calais to be different from the norms of other existing three dimensional works of art is evidence that Burghers of Calais represents the innovation of modernism. Though the modernism movement is believed to have started five years after the installation of Rodin’s sculpture in the Place de Richelieu in Calais, the sculpture could still be recognized as a product of modernism art as it defies the norms for sculptures during the late 19th Century.

Seven characteristics of Rodin’s work had been enumerated in the book of Auguste Rodin: The Burghers of Calais: a resource for educators. They were the (1) Exaggeration of figural proportions, (2) Numeral focal points in a single piece, (3) Elimination of a pedestal, (4) Lack of a pyramidal structure, (5) Repetition of forms, (6) Use of fragments, and (7) Evidence of the sculptor’s working process. These characteristics were said to have inspired many twentieth century artist (http://www. metmuseum. org/explore/publications/pdfs/burghers/Burghers_entire_book. df). For the seven given above, I would like to expound more of the first four. Exaggeration of figural proportions can be seen in the hands and feet of the six figures in the sculpture. Rodin explained it why. As Miller & Marota (1986) had explained, The large hands and feet signifies that the six burghers were obliged by their souls to sacrifice their own selves for the benefit of others but their fear to death refuses their body as what their souls wanted them to do (as cited in Benedek, 2000, p. 19).

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Since the six figures were installed without a clear front and back, a viewer needs to see all sides to appreciate its entirety thus having numeral focal points in a single piece. Another difference of the Burghers of Calais sculpture from other three dimensional work of art is that its sculpture wanted to eliminate the use of pedestal in spite of criticisms from the commissioner of Rodin’s work. The pyramidal structure to perceive that Eustache de Saint-Pierre was the leader of the six men was also eliminated by Rodin for such figurative reason.

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