Rodin, Bourdelle, Maillol, and the Cultural Politics of Classicism and Colonialism at the Turn of the Twentieth Century Presentation uri icon



  • Auguste Rodin’s 1906 drawings of the Royal Cambodian dancers include classicizing elements like figures of winged victory, laurel wreaths and togas. Are the figures Cambodian, European, or both—simultaneously? Rodin’s interest in Cambodia was part of a trend towards archaism by classicizing artists which included Emile Bourdelle and Aristide Maillol. This paper explores the cultural politics of this racially ambiguous archaism in relation to colonial discourse. In mixing the European and Asian, Rodin appropriated Symbolist ideas in order to strategically present himself as avant-garde. Symbolists were inspired by Theosophy and its utopian and anti-colonial efforts to unite East and West. Yet for Rodin, Bourdelle, and Maillol, this cultural mixing was part of their project to revitalize France’s classical heritage. As a result, Rodin and his circle made classical art that incorporated the bodies of the colonized “other” in ways that both corresponded to and dissented from colonial discourse

date/time interval

  • February 23, 2012 - February 25, 2012