Art History: La Belle Heaulmière by Rodin



“A great artist—a master—and that is what Auguste Rodin was—can look at an old woman, portray her exactly as she is . . . and force the viewer to see the pretty girl she used to be . . . and more than that, he can make anyone with the sensitivity of an armadillo, or even you, see that this lovely young girl is still alive, not old and ugly at all, but simply prisoned inside her ruined body. He can make you feel the quiet, endless tragedy that there was never a girl born who ever grew older than eighteen in her heart . . . no matter what the merciless hours have done to her.”

Robert Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land”



I took alot of art history in college. Along the way there were some specific pieces and artists that captured my imagination and awe. I want to start sharing some of those with you. While I try to make sure these posts don’t contain misinformation they are in no way definitive. When considering this post idea I wrote down some pieces that I might focus on and found that I actually know very little about the art or artists so I might even learn a little from this.

Rodin grew up in a working-class district of Paris and trained as a Neoclassicist. He started sculpting in a more traditional style but his work became more psychological over time. He was influenced by Michelangelo and he was preoccupied with the literary works of Dante and Baudelaire. He focused on those who were damned by the sins of the flesh. His sculptures of men captured a deep inner psychology while his artwork of women often lacked such depth. They often took less risks and lacked the spark that made his work so lasting. This doesn’t apply to all his female subjects, which is obvious in The Old Courtesan.



The Old Courtesan (1885, cast 1910) was part of The Gates of Hell commission. It was directly influenced by Dante. The withered old woman evokes the moral connection between sin and the ravages of time. Rodin said, “Character is the intense truth of any natural [sight], beautiful or ugly.



Stranger in a Strange Land Novel by Robert A. Heinlein