Auguste Rodin Portrait by Nadar, 1891 Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Sculptor Rodin featured in a huge number of photographs across his career, some featuring himself, others focusing on his artworks. This particular picture was taken in 1891 by Nadar.

This was an entirely charismatic figure who was well suited to photographic portraits. He would employ the finest professionals to visit him within his studio and make visual records of all manner of different elements of his life. His old mansion that now serves as a museum holds around 7,000 photographs from his life and this allows us an unusually rich insight into the man and his art. He would also hire a large number of models as well, and these would also be photographed so that he could refer to them later on. He was an open minded artist who found uses with other mediums in ways that could support his main concern - the sculptures. Another element to his photographs of drawings and paintings is that he would sometimes draw over them as a means to expressing himself and trying out new ideas and alterations, whenever they came to mind.

Within this photograph itself we find the artist looking directly at us with a pre-planned portrait. He sports some simple glasses and a short, smart haircut. His beard oozes out to cover much of his upper torso, it looks fairly unstyled but big and imposing. He wears a thick winter coat and many layers below that, one would imagine. The background is simple and neutral, allowing Rodin to keep all of our focus. Despite his age, he looks fairly healthy with few wrinkles and a clear complexion. The lighting differs behind him, though, with a much darker shade to our left hand side than on the right. This contrast does not overly impact the portrait, though, as the sculptor is fairly evenly lit and also faces us directly face-on. This angle gives him a threatening presence, as he seemingly peers directly at us. Some of the best portraits of him would be paid for by some of his own sculptures.

The Musee Rodin has in recent years started to collate a more comprehensive list of the sculptor's photographic print collection. It runs into the thousands of items though he would never take photographs himself. He liked to direct others for this task and would call upon some of the biggest names in French photography at the time, as well as calling in other from abroad. Being based in Paris, it was fairly easily to attract these big names to his mansion and this city at the time was perhaps the most significant within world art, due to the rise of the Impressionists and also other contributions from the likes of Rodin.