Auguste Rodin is a sculptor whose work I’ve long admired, so it was moving for me to witness his sculpture, “The Burghers of Calais” while Michelle and I visited the city. I’ve always wanted to see this edition of the sculpture, so making it a reality was special.
I’ve seen the black patinaed edition at his studio/garden/home museum in Paris, France and some of the maquettes for the sculpture at an exhibit at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Canada. But, the green patinaed edition in front of the Calais Town Hall allows for the complex sculpture’s details to be enjoyed more fully.
The sun was shining on the morning of our visit, yet the cool of winter still hung on the brisk sea wind. The clear light accentuated the shadows of the figures and their anguish seemed palatable, the story expressed poignantly by hands and faces. I’ve always loved how Rodin sculpted his figure’s musculature, and left evidence of his fingers and tool marks. The green hues of the sculpture were complimented by the red brick of the Town Hall and the blue of the sky.
From a distance, the sculpture stands on a small grassy knoll and seems out of scale in front of the massive Town Hall. But the figures’ scale increases and their emotions intensify as one approaches closer. I found it refreshing that the viewer can still get close and touch and even stand among the sculpture figures, unlike the Paris edition that has a blatant “Do Not Touch” sign next to it. Michelle and I were able to enjoy the sculpture alone as no other visitors were present. It also struck me that the sculpture is pleasantly free of vulgar tagging, showing the respect this public art sculpture commands.
A few weeks later, while visiting the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in England, we discovered Matthew Day Jackson’s bronze sculpture, “Magnificent Desolation,” inspired by “The Burghurs of Calais.” Jackson’s piece took Rodin’s figures, digitized and reduced their surface resolution until barely recognizable, then placed them on a detailed map of the surface of the Moon where the Apollo 11 crew landed in 1969. Did not affect me as much as Rodin’s piece, as exemplified by my “Whaaaaa…?” expression.