The Thinker statue is a bronze figure, which was sculpted by Auguste Rodin. This statue can be usually seen sitting on a stone base. The image of this statue is mostly used for representing philosophy. This bronze figure with a height of 186 cm has almost 28 full sized castings. This figure has many other versions too especially the ones made of plaster. The Thinker statue is the most popular sculpture among all Rodin Museum Sculptures.
The First Cast of The Thinker
In 1984, Professor Albert E. Elsen, who is a Rodin specialist, came to study the works of Rodin displayed in the National Gallery of Victoria. He was really caught by surprise in seeing the version of The Thinker displayed there. He found this early cast to be of splendid quality with many unexpected details like Florentine cap worn by The Thinker, which cannot be found in any other replica of this work.
He conveyed his doubts to the keeper of the collection since the NGV sculpture did not match the standard famous sculpture by Rodin. Nevertheless, the professor became convinced that the NGV work was strikingly the first cast of The Thinker. It was put into effect in 1884 for the collector Constantine Alexander Ionides. This statue also explains the situation of Rodin when he was at the peak of his fame in the 1880s.
Constantine Alexander Ionides
Ionides was born in a Greek family of merchants. In 1815, Ionides went to the United Kingdom from Istanbul. By the 1840’s, his father who expanded their family business became interested in artistic and intellectual works. In 1864, the youthful Constantine proved to be a member of the London Stock Exchange. As his fortune increased, he started collecting important artworks that included the works of Alphonse Legros, James McNeill Whistler, and Henri Fantin-Latour. Ionides had many French artists for his acquaintance who left France as due to Franco-Prussian War of 1870.
Ionides meets Rodin
Ionides first met Rodin in June 1881 when went to Paris along with his friend Legros. By the summer of 1881, Rodin came to visit his friend Legros in London. He introduced Rodin to William Ernest Henley who came out to be a great supporter of Rodin. In 1882, Henley wrote about Rodin that he was “perhaps the greatest of living sculptors”. Henley was also very particular of keeping himself up to date with the works of Rodin and most importantly the advancement the “The Gates of Hell”.
By the August of 1880, Rodin was assigned for designing a door for the decorative arts museum which the French state was planning to put forward. The sculptor was not famous at that time. In 1881, Rodin started to work out the general elements and compositions of the commission.
The Henley’s Magazine of Art featured it as ‘a super-human “Dante”; a lovely and affecting “Paolo and Francesca”; and a terrible “Ugolino”. There is nothing like them in modern sculpture.
The Thinker was the “Dante” figure that was placed in the kernel of the tympanum, “Paolo and Francesca” are widely known as The Kiss, and Ugolino and his children made their position by the foot of the leaves of the door.
Ionides who was struck by the artwork of Rodin told Legros that he would like to have a bronze proof of the work. Ionides was mesmerized by The Kiss, but he did not commit to making a cast of it. However, within a few months, Ionides was prepared to make a cast of The Thinker.
In April 1884, Ionides wrote to Rodin that he was thinking about placing The Thinker on a round table in the reception. This was the first time the title “Thinker” was ever used to denote the sculpture. The Thinker was delivered to Ionides in December and he made the full payment of the statue then and there. Ionides did not publically exhibit the first cast of The Thinker anywhere except by a photographic form in the press.
Lost Wax Casting
When the interior of the NGV’s The Thinker was carefully examined, it was found that it was cast using lost wax process. The interesting fact about this is that the majority of Rodin’s bronze casts were cast using the sand casting technique. This means that the talented sculptor was experimenting with the lost wax technique occasionally at that time.
Rodin was also planning of making a full cast of “The Gates of Hell” at that period. Rodin wanted to do this in the lost wax method in order to preserve all the details of his work. By the summer of 1883, Gonon finished the Ugolino group cast assigned to him by Rodin for the collector Henri Lerolle.