At the Courtauld

Anne Wagner

A century ago Roger Fry tried to sum up Rodin’s approach to the human figure. What mattered most to Rodin, Fry decided, was the ‘unit’, not unity: ‘His conception of a figure is always so exceptional, so extreme, that every part of the figure is instinct with the central idea, every detail of hand or foot is an epitome of the whole, and the final composition of these parts is often a matter of doubt.’ The exhibition Rodin and Dance (at the Courtauld until 22 January) makes it clear that as Rodin drew and modelled the body, the final composition was usually the last thing on his mind – in this Fry was right. As for the unit, the unique particular of the body in action, it could only be arrived at with difficulty, via movement, energy, extension, pattern, process, outline and shape.

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