Auguste Rodin: The Burghers of Calais.
Poor Rodin! One of the best sculptors of the history and, no doubt, the best sculptor of the transitional period between 19th and 20th century, and always surrounded by problems (maybe every great man must be at war against human stupidity).
Once, they said his sculptures were a fake, only the copy of real bodies made in bronze; afterwards, long after, the powerful state will starve the sculptor who had donated all of his works to his country: France.
In the meantime, more problems. In 1880, Oscar Dewavrin, Calais major, decided to build a large sculpture in the town to commemorate the sacrifice that six Middle Aged men had made centuries ago to solve their citizens. Specially, he wanted to commemorate the figure of Eustache de Saint-Pierre, the most famous of them.
Calais is the most important harbor in the English Channel. Placed in current France, it has belonged to England for centuries. In 1346, the king Eduard III of England had besieged the town but citizens resisted bravely, even after the king of France had retired.
Starvation and more starvation, tears and dead children… Before surrendering, they asked Eduard to take pity of their lives:
‘How do you dare to ask me for pity? You are now defeated and you cannot ask for nothing,’ the king answered.
Then, six rich citizens offered their lives and humiliation if the king forgave the others. The leader of them was Eustache de Saint-Pierre.
When Calais major ask Auguste Rodin to make the sculpture, the artist saw this image, the six penitents going to give the key of the city to the bloody king Eduard with a rope around their necks (just to be hanged).
‘How can you to hang these brave men, Eduard’ the queen of England, Felipa de Henao, claimed.
People didn’t want a sculpture of six men at the same level, people didn’t want a sculpture of six men overwhelmed by their enormous hands and feet, people didn’t want to see their heroes in nightgown.
Auguste Rodin didn’t want to make a classic sculpture of a handsome Eustache de Saint-Pierre forgetting the group, Auguste Rodin didn’t want to make a pyramidal structure since the feeling involved everybody, Auguste Rodin didn’t want to make marketing of the project.
Discussions and more discussions.
Finally, Rodin made his project, in bronze and with postimpressionist ideas, but he had to discuss… 14 years!!!
Finally, Eduard forgave the burghers of Calais but Calais was English until 1558.
Problems and time.
Auguste Rodin’s quotes:
“True artists are almost the only men who do their work for pleasure.”
“The artist must create a spark before he can make a fire and before art is born, the artist must be ready to be consumed by the fire of his own creation.”
“Art is contemplation. It is the pleasure of the mind which searches into nature and which there divines the spirit of which nature herself is animated.”
“To any artist, worthy of the name, all in nature is beautiful, because his eyes, fearlessly accepting all exterior truth, read there, as in an open book, all the inner truth.”
“There are unknown forces in nature; when we give ourselves wholly to her, without reserve, she lends them to us; she shows us these forms, which our watching eyes do not see, which our intelligence does not understand or suspect.”
“The artist is the confidant of nature, flowers carry on dialogues with him through the graceful bending of their stems and the harmoniously tinted nuances of their blossoms. Every flower has a cordial word which nature directs towards him.”
“The modes of expression of men of genius differ as much as their souls, and it is impossible to say that in some among them, drawing and color are better or worse than in others.”
“Nobody does good to men with impunity.”