"Awakening, the slow return home from a deep dream." This was the quality that Rodin, many years later, said his statue embodied for him. The Age of Bronze was the sculptor's second life-size work and the earliest to survive. He struggled with it for a year and a half, wanting to achieve the most harmonious relationships between contour and volume. Walking around his figure -- originally modeled in clay -- he checked each view, each "profile" as he said, against the man posing before him. He was a young soldier, Auguste Neyt, "a fine noble-hearted boy, full of fire and valor." Rodin had avoided a professional model because he sought naturalness, not exaggeration. Some critics at the time thought it too natural and accused the artist of having cast the work from life, from molds made on Neyt's body itself.
The public was confused about the statue's meaning. Rodin initially exhibited it without any title at all. Later he called it Le Vaincu (The Vanquished), but by the time a bronze cast was shown at the Salon of 1880, it was called The Age of Bronze, referring to man's awakening progress toward a more complex civilization. For Rodin, however, what counted more was how his statue looked. He wanted to create a figure that was beautiful and expressive -- not a representation of some particular idea, of some hero like David, or a god of the ancient world. Nineteenth-century audiences, however, expected that sort of meaning, meaning they could apprehend. Rodin's priorities were modern and stunning.
The Age of Bronze
model 1875-1876, cast 1898
DIMENSIONS: 180 x 71.1 x 58.4 cm (70 7/8 x 28 x 23 in.)
COLLECTION: National Gallery of Art, Washington DC. Gift of Iris and B. Gerald Cantor, in Honor of the 50th anniversary of the National Gallery of Art
ACCESSION NUMBER: 1991.183.1