Musings on Rodin's drawings
By Ellie Lerman
Rodin solidified his role as a canonical sculptor in the early 20th century, with seminal works such as ‘Age of Bronze’ and ‘Walking Man’. His contorted, visceral sculptures allow the viewer a peek into his creative process of sculpting in which he defiantly leaves finger marks, fissures, and unmoulded bronze and presents them as finished works (something that was not accepted in the 19th century tradition of the smooth, ‘licked’ marbles of Canova and the Neoclassicists). While his sculptures explore human anatomy with the traditions of classical antiquity in mind, Rodin’s drawings are preoccupied with a different kind of human anatomy: female genitalia.
In his erotic drawing ‘Before the Creation’ (1900), Rodin focuses on a woman’s vulva exposed by her outspread thighs. Her face is anonymous, assumed to be the least important detail but carefully drawn so as her open mouth mimics the vulva at the foreground of the picture. The flat, green abstract background dislocates the scene, flinging the female subject into empty space allowing her to be recognised and related to universally. The title alludes to the Biblical story of the creation of the world in which Eve is tempted to eat fruit from the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden. Rodin has reinterpreted this biblical story with an erotic twist, presenting Eve - the first woman - as a highly sexualised being brought to sin out of sexual longing. With this in mind, one can either celebrate Rodin’s presentation of female lust as commonplace among all women, or reprimand his male gaze and objectification of the female body.
My own work is self-labelled as documentary photography, out of a lack of a better title. By carrying a camera daily, I aim to embody the spirit of the Brownie in making the means to photography ready to me at every moment, without obstruction – by doing so, I can take a photograph of anything that captures my eye and interests me enough to preserve. Any of us can do this these days, with a camera readily available in our pockets around the clock – and many of us do so without even thinking about it. Next time you take your phone out to take a photograph, whether it is of your friends or of something that caught your eye, think about how you are participating in the act of documenting your life through photography. Make prints of your favourites, display them on your walls, share them with your friends and family. Follow the tradition of those who came before you and took their own snapshots documenting their lives. Everyone is a documentary photographer today, and this is a good thing.