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Monday, December 5, 2011

This mysterious little work, famous for its stark imagery and its use of “enjambment”

The Intellectual Devotional
Visual Arts
Rodin’s Thinker, in Context
Some of the most famous works of art are actually excerpts from larger enterprises. One well-known example is William Carlos Williams’ poem “The Red Wheelbarrow.” The poem reads, in its entirety:

so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
This mysterious little work, famous for its stark imagery and its use of “enjambment” (line breaks that don’t correspond to grammatical breaks), is part Carlos’ 1923 book Spring and All, a mixed collection of poetry and prose. He never published it as a stand-alone poem.
Another famous example is Auguste Rodin’s sculpture The Thinker. It is one of the most reproduced and recognizable works of art ever created, yet it too was a small part of a larger whole. In 1880, Rodin was awarded the commission to create the gate to Paris’ Museum of Decorative Arts. Rodin chose to depict “The Gates of Hell.” The work was never completed, but still contains over 180 figures, most of them writhing and disfigured bodies. Directly above the doors, however, was the image of a serene, powerful man, seated and lost in though. This piece of the larger work was called The Poet, and it was meant to represent the Italian poet Dante Alighieri, who had conceived of hell in the most spectacular way possible in his twelfth-century poem The Inferno. Eventually, Rodin presented The Poet as an independent work. He renamed it The Thinker.

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