Originally positioned at the very top of his major monument The Gates of Hell, this sculptural group titled The Three Shades demonstrates Rodin’s fondness for repurposing existing works of art, as well as his affinity for repetition and fragmentation. This bronze sculpture is comprised of three identical casts of an earlier statue of Adam, which was influenced by Michelangelo’s fresco The Creation of Adam in Rome’s Sistine Chapel.
Rodin was also inspired by the written work of the late-medieval poet Dante and his celebrated Inferno, wherein he describes the shades as departed souls who dance in a circle in Hades, or hell. Their necks are exaggerated, and their torsos twisted - formal manipulations that speak to the nature of their hellish predicament. Together, they exhibit a powerful force, with their bodies radiating out from the spot where their left hands meet, an effect borrowed from Dante, who wrote: ‘the three of them joined up to make a wheel’.
As you make your way through the Gallery, can you locate any more sculptures by Rodin? What characteristics do these works of art share? Make a checklist for someone who hasn't seen a Rodin before - what do they need to look out for?
- Rodin gave permission for his works to be cast in bronze after his death, ensuring the longevity of his work and his reputation. As a class, debate this decision and compare his ideas with other artists, such as Andy Warhol, whose works have also been reproduced posthumously.
- Look closely at The Three Shades. Assume the pose of the figures and, together with your classmates, recreate the sculpture.
- Rodin died one hundred years ago. Plot a timeline of key moments in the artist’s life and consider the turning points in his career.
- Rodin was influenced by other artists, writers and great thinkers. Rodin has also influenced many artists. Trace the influence of Rodin on the work of British artist Antony Gormley, who has described Rodin as the first artist who gave the ‘thingness’ of sculpture meaning. In class, debate what Gormley meant by this, and compare and contrast his work with that of Rodin.
- Consider your favourite author. What is it about their work that you most admire? Take a phrase or sentence from their written work and create a quick line drawing in response.
- Rodin was unafraid of fragmenting and repeating the various components of his sculptures. Design a public monument for a specific location and purpose (for example, to commemorate an historic event) and use fragmentation and repetition in your design.
- Rodin liked to work quickly in clay before making his sculptures into more permanent works via the processes of casting and carving. Use clay or plasticine to quickly sculpt a body in action. Create a frieze, or decorative panel, by combining your sculptures with those of your classmates and documenting them using drawing and photography. This work could be extended into stop-motion animation.