Un baiser de Judas

French sculptor Francois-Auguste-René Rodin was born on November 12, 1840. He is considered to be the sculptor who ushered in the modern era. He was the son of working-class parents and he was never accepted into the prestigious art schools. His style was Realism, which broke with the Neoclassical tradition then in vogue. He made his living for two decades doing decorative embellishments for architecture and designing for a porcelain factory. It wasn’t a great living – he was barely above the poverty line as he tried to provide for his lifelong companion, Rose Beuret, and their son. He scraped together enough money for a visit to Italy, where he was blown away by the sculptures of Donatello and Michelangelo. This trip inspired The Age of Bronze, one of his most significant and controversial works.

A great place to see his sculptures is the Musée Rodin, 79 rue Varenne, Paris. Rodin basically squatted here for several years. Two of his most famous works, The Thinker and The Kiss, were individual figures from his monumental The Gates of Hell that Rodin worked on for about 40 years. All three are on display at the museum, as is his moving The Burghers of Calais. Once it re-opens in the Spring of 2012, check out the Rodin Museum on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. Many of his sculptures seem to be made of pain and suffering instead of plaster and bronze.

Rodin met his long-term lover, Camille Claudel, when she was only 18. She was his model, then his student, and then she shared studio space with Rodin. Many of her sculptures are on display at the Musée Rodin. Their relationship was tempestuous, due in large part to his refusal to leave Rose Beuret. After he definitively broke off his relationship with Claudel, she had a mental break-down and ultimately died in an institution.

Due to an exhibit at the Exposition Universelle, Rodin began to win important commissions, such as sculptures of Victor Hugo and Balzac. The Balzac sculpture was reviled in its day and compared to a man wearing a bathrobe. Rodin’s greatest contribution is his ability to convey raw human emotion in stone and bronze. He died on November 17, 1917, shortly after finally marrying Rose Beuret.

Today’s expression, un baiser de Judas (uhn bezay duh sjudah), which means a Judas kiss. It refers to hypocritical affection, Judas being the disciple who betrayed Christ. Since one of his most famous sculptures is The Kiss and, since he played one lover off against the other, it seems to fit Rodin rather well.

Best of Auguste Rodin

About Patricia Gilbert

Patricia Gilbert is a French teacher. She's Canadian, lives in the United States, but dreams of living in France. Follow her on Instagram @Onequalitythefinest and on Twitter @1qualthefinest.
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5 Responses to Un baiser de Judas

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