Overview

The Thinker was originally conceived not in heroic isolation, but as part of Rodin's monumental Gates of Hell—a pair of bronze doors intended for a museum of decorative arts in Paris. Although the doors were never cast during the sculptor's lifetime, they nevertheless provided Rodin a rich source of ideas for individual figures and groups that he worked and reworked for the rest of his career.

The theme for Gates of Hell was taken from Dante's Inferno, and this figure, planned for the lintel on top, was initially conceived as the poet himself. His nudity, though, marked him as a universal embodiment of every poet—every creator—who draws new life from the imagination. In the late 1880s Rodin began to exhibit the figure, sometimes with the title Poet, other times as Poet/Thinker. By 1896, however, it had become simply The Thinker, a still more universal image that reveals in physical terms the mental effort and even anguish of creativity. As Rodin himself described: "What makes my Thinker think is that he thinks not only with his brain, with his knitted brow, his distended nostrils and compressed lips, but with every muscle of his arms, back, and legs, with his clenched fist and gripping toes."

Rodin's Thinker exists today in many casts and sizes. More than fifty are known in this size—which is the size of Rodin's original handmade clay model.

Inscription

incised on base at left side: A. Rodin; on lower left side of the interior of base: A. Rodin

Marks and Labels

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Provenance

Purchased 1903 from the artist by Mr. and Mrs. John W. Simpson, New York;[1] gift 1942 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1905
Loan Collection of Paintings by Claude Monet and Eleven Sculptures by Auguste Rodin, The Copley Society of Boston, Copley Hall, 1905, no. 2.
1910
[Exhibition of drawings by Auguste-Rodin, photographs of Rodin and his work by Edward Steichen, and The Thinker], Photo-Secession Gallery, New York, 1910.
1946
Rodin: Sculpture, Drawings, Prints, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1946, no. 7.
1965
Wax Sculptures by Degas, Sculptures and Drawings by Rodin, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1965-1966, no cat.
1974
Nineteenth-Century Sculpture, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1974, unnumbered checklist.
1981
Rodin Rediscovered, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1981-1982, no. 261.
2001
Modern Art and America: Alfred Stieglitz and His New York Galleries, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 2001.

Bibliography

1889
Bartlett, Truman H. "Auguste Rodin, Sculptor." American Architect and Building News (19 January-15 June 1889): 224.
1889
Geffroy, Gustave. "Le Statuaire Rodin." Les Lettres et les Arts (1 September 1889). In Vilain, Jacques. Claude Monet-Auguste Rodin: Centennaire de l'exposition de 1889. Exh. cat., Musée Rodin, Paris, 1989: 62.
1904
Adam, Marcel. "Le Penseur." Gil Blas (7 July 1904).
1904
Mourey, Gabriel. "Le Penseur de Rodin offert par souscription publique au peuple de Paris." Les Arts et la vie (May 1904): 267-270.
1927
Grappe, Georges. Catalogue du Musée Rodin. Paris, 1927: 61.
1944
Grappe, Georges. Catalogue du Musée Rodin. 5th ed. Paris, 1944: 24-25.
1953
Gantner, Joseph. Rodin und Michelangelo. Vienna, 1953: 27-28.
1963
Alhadeff, Albert. "Michelangelo and the Early Rodin." The Art Bulletin 45, no. 4 (December 1963): 363-367.
1963
Elsen, Albert E. Rodin. New York, 1963: 52-54.
1965
_Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 168.
1967
Spear, Athena Tacha. Rodin Sculpture in the Cleveland Museum of Art. Cleveland, 1967: 52-53, 96-97.
1968
_European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 148, repro.
1976
Tancock, John. The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin. Philadelphia, 1976: 111-121.
1977
de Caso, Jacques, and Patricia B. Sanders. Rodin's Sculpture: A Critical Study of the Spreckels Collection. San Francisco, 1977: 131-138.
1980
Elsen, Albert E. In Rodin's Studio. Ithaca, New York, 1980: figs. 19-22, pls. 23, 24, 165-166.
1980
_The Romantics to Rodin: French Nineteenth-Century Sculpture from North American Collections. Peter Fusco and H.W. Janson, eds. Exh. cat. LACMA; Minn. Inst. of Art; Indianapolis Mus. of Art; Mus. of Fine Arts, Boston. New York, 1980: 334-335.
1981
Vincent, Clare. "Rodin at the Metropolitan Museum of Art: A History of the Collection." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin (Spring 1981): 4-5.
1983
Schmoll, J.A. Rodin--Studien: Persönlichkeit--Werke--Wirkung--Bibliographie. Munich, 1983: 54-58, 66-67, 192-193, 278-282.
1985
Elsen, Albert E. Rodin's Thinker and the Dilemmas of Modern Public Sculpture. New Haven and London, 1985.
1985
Elsen, Albert E. The Gates of Hell by Auguste Rodin. Stanford, California, 1985: 56-57.
1986
Jamison, Rosalyn Frankel. "Rodin and Hugo: The Nineteenth-Century Theme of Genius in "The Gates" and Related Works." Ph.D. dissertation, Stanford University, 1986: 69-122.
1988
Beausire, Alain. Quand Rodin Exposait. Paris, 1988: 99, 105, 156, 185, 195, 220, 242, 265, 266, 271, 286, 302, 307, 314, 315, 349, 366, 368.
1988
Fonsmark, Anne-Birgitte. Rodin: La collection du Brasseur Carl Jacobsen à la Glyptothèque. Copenhagen, 1988: 73-78.
1989
Vilain, Jacques. Claude Monet-Auguste Rodin: Centennaire de l'exposition de 1889. Exh. cat. Musée Rodin, Paris, 1989: 174-176.
1993
Butler, Ruth. Rodin. The Shape of Genius. New Haven and London, 1993: 423-435.
1994
_Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1994: 208, repro.
1996
Kausch, Michael. Auguste Rodin: Eros und Leidenschaft. Exh. cat. Harrach Palace, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, 1996: 166-168.
1998
Porter, John R., and Yves Lacasse. Rodin à Quebec. Quebec, 1998: 78-83.
2000
Butler, Ruth, and Suzanne Glover Lindsay, with Alison Luchs, Douglas Lewis, Cynthia J. Mills, and Jeffrey Weidman. European Sculpture of the Nineteenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 2000: 321-326, color repro.
2000
_National Gallery of Art Special Issue. Connaissance des Arts. Paris, 2000:62.

Technical Summary

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