David Zwirner Books
4 1/4 × 7 in | 10.8 × 17.8 cm
Master sculptor Auguste Rodin’s illuminating writings on cathedrals in France are especially relevant and significant following the recent fire at Notre Dame.
In this volume, the writer and Rodin scholar Rachel Corbett selects excerpts from the famous sculptor’s book Cathedrals of France, first published in 1914, just before the outbreak of World War I. Cathedrals were central to the way Rodin thought about his art: he saw them as visual metaphors for the human figure, among the finest examples of craftsmanship known to modern man, and as a model for how to live and work—slowly, brick by brick.
Here, Corbett takes the fire at Notre Dame and the concerns over its restoration as an entry point in an exploration of Rodin’s cathedrals. Rodin adamantly opposed restoration, as he felt it often did more damage than the original injury. (Many of the cathedrals that Rodin looks at in his texts were, in fact, bombed during the war.) But while he rails against various restoration efforts as evidence that “we are letting our cathedrals die,” the book, with its tenderly rendered sketches and written portraits, is itself an attempt to preserve these cathedrals. The selection of texts in this volume is a reminder—as is the tragedy of Notre Dame—of why we ought to appreciate these feats of architecture, whether or not they are still standing today.
Auguste Rodin (1840–1917) is known for an innovative sculptural in which the traces of his working process are conserved in the works’ final form. His career began in Brussels and later shifted to Paris, where he undertook public commissions that dovetailed with academic trends affirming clarity in sculptural language. These afforded him the support to pursue bolder aesthetic experimentation in private. Rodin’s attention to partial figures and fragmentation and his privileging of emotive pathos over allegory are hallmarks of his groundbreaking and influential .
Rachel Corbett is the author of You Must Change Your Life: The Story of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin, which won the 2016 Marfield Prize, the National Award for Arts Writing. Her essays and journalism have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, New York magazine, and other publications. She wrote the introduction to Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Painter (2017), published by David Zwirner Books.