“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.”
When I selected the Thinker (Le Penseur) as the primary image and logo for Beyond the Rhetoric, I knew virtually nothing about sculptor Auguste Rodin. I was just somehow drawn to the iconic sculpture, feeling that it somehow reflected who I was as a person. It was as if Auguste Rodin, who had been dead for nearly a century, was still peering into my soul, gaining such a deep understanding of my very being.
And so, when I made my way to Paris earlier this month, my visit to the Musée Rodin was particularly special… even though I still knew virtually nothing about Rodin himself. Educating myself a little further, I now feel an even stronger bond and connection. While I may not gain an equivalent place in human history as he did, I recognize that we share many of the same sentiments about art and about life.
In the quote above, we gain two very important insights. First, the artist can’t expect to “make a fire” without first creating a “spark.” It’s not enough to think about the end objective, because you must first discover the necessary elements to get you there. You must first find that ever-elusive spark of inspiration. I don’t sculpt, but I can certainly understand that struggle as a writer.
Second, the artist must be “ready to be consumed by the fire of his own creation.” The work that you create can take on a life of its own and you must be willing to accept the entirety of it. This means being able to face criticism with an open mind. This means accepting the attention (or lack of attention) that your work may attract. This means understanding that you may have copycats and slanderers, understanding that you could be fully engulfed in the flames of your own creation.
What you see at the top there is not a sculpture by Auguste Rodin; rather it is a sculpture of Auguste Rodin created by admirer and assistant Antoine Bourdelle.
Rodin is perhaps best known for Le Penseur (The Thinker), but this statue is oftentimes taken out of context and it is usually seen in isolation. It was originally a part of Rodin’s grander work, The Gates of Hell (La Porte de l’Enfer), which depicts a scene from Dante’s Divine Comedy. It is a remarkably complex work and many of the individual components (it contains 180 figures) have since been re-cast and re-purposed, appreciated as amazing pieces of art in their own right.
“A mediocre man copying nature will never produce a work of art, because he really looks without seeing, and though he may have noted each detail minutely, the result will be flat and without character… the artist on the contrary, sees; that is to say, his eye, grafted on his heart, reads deeply into the bosom of nature.”
We may never know exactly what Rodin was thinking about when he created the Thinker and we may never know what is on the sculpted mind of Le Penseur itself, but we are reminded that deep thought and philosophy, gazing “deeply into the bosom of nature,” will always be a worthwhile endeavor.
I continue to be inspired by Rodin and that’s why I refer to the readers who leave comments on this blog as top thinkers. This blog is an arena for open thought and exploration. We mustn’t be afraid to explore. We must be resilient.
“He who is discouraged after a failure is not a real artist.”