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Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Adam by Auguste Rodin (Art Gallery of Western Australia)

Adam by Auguste Rodin - Art Gallery of Western Australia

Adam by Auguste Rodin

Adam by Auguste Rodin represents the Adam named in the opening chapters of the Book of Genesis and in the Quran for the first man created by God. The Bible also uses the name “Adam” in a collective sense as “mankind” and individually as “a human”. Rodin’s Adam references the work of Michelangelo in art and sculpture. The right arm with the pointing finger is taken from the painted figure of Adam on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. The left-arm references the dead Christ of Michelangelo’s sculpture of the Pietà.  This sculpture suggests the beginning of life and the end of life and can be interpreted as the sum of an individual’s experience and emotional life.

This Rodin sculpture had its genesis in 1881 when Rodin received a commission for two large figures of Adam and Eve. Originally he intended the pair of sculptures to be placed on either side of a sculptured bronze portal called The Gates of Hell. This monumental sculpture piece commissioned in 1880 and which became Rodin’s life work as he continued to work on and off on this project for 37 years, until his death in 1917. This work of Adam was first cast in 1910 and bronze casts of it are now in the Art Institute of Chicago, the Musee Rodin, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a number of other leading museums.

The title and the pose of this large-scale figure of Adam attest to the influence of Michelangelo’s works, specifically the painting of Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The well-developed musculature Adam by Michelangelo, which suggests physical strength, contrasts with Rodin’s Adam pose, which points to a tormented being. Rodin’s Adam seems to emphasize his earthly bonds, by having the pointed finger towards the ground, whereas Michelangelo shows man at the moment when God confers the divine spark of life.

'Adam's Creation Sistine Chapel ceiling' by Michelangelo JBU33

Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel Ceiling

Rodin’s figures in sculpture are often nude, especially “The Thinker” as Rodin wanted his figures to represent the tradition of Michelangelo, he wanted impressive figures that embody both strength and beauty to represent intellect as well as poetry.

Auguste Rodin

Auguste Rodin is generally considered the father of modern sculpture; he possessed a unique ability to model a complex and deeply pocketed surface in clay. Many of his most notable sculptures were criticized during his lifetime. Rodin’s most original work departed from traditional themes of mythology and allegory, he modeled the human body with realism and with personal character and physicality. By 1900, he was a world-renowned artist and remained one of the few sculptors widely known outside the arts community.

Adam

Adam is the name used in the opening chapters of the Book of Genesis and the Quran for the first man created by God. The Bible uses the word ‘Adam’ many times with various meanings based on the context. It is used collectively for “mankind”, individually as a “man”, as gender-nonspecific “man and woman”, and as male. Biblical Adam was created from the earth and Genesis emphasizes the bond between them, for Adam, is estranged from the earth or land through his disobedience.

Adam

  • Title:                     Adam
  • Artist:                   Auguste Rodin
  • Year:                     Modelled in clay 1870 -1874; cast in bronze 1974
  • Place of Origin:   France
  • Material:              Bronze Casting
  • Dimensions:        H. 197 cm; W. 76 cm; D. 77 cm
  • Museum:              Art Gallery of Western Australia

François-Auguste-René Rodin

Quotes about Adam and Eve

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“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
– Genesis 1:27

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“Adam knew Eve, his wife, and she conceived.”
– Bible

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“Let us be thankful to Adam our benefactor. He cut us out of the ‘blessing’ of idleness and won for us the ‘curse’ of labor.”
– Mark Twain

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“So hand in hand they passed, the loveliest pair that ever since in love’s embraces met – Adam, the goodliest man of men since born his sons; the fairest of her daughters Eve.”
– John Milton, Paradise Lost

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“After all these years, I see that I was mistaken about Eve in the beginning; it is better to live outside the Garden with her than inside it without her.”
– Mark Twain

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“Adam and Eve, according to the fable, wore the bower before other clothes. Man wanted a home, a place of warmth, or comfort, first of physical warmth, then the warmth of the affections.”
Henry David Thoreau,

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“Whoever has lived long enough to find out what life is, knows how deep a debt of gratitude we owe to Adam, the first great benefactor of our race. He brought death into the world.”
– Mark Twain

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“All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action. ”
– Muhammad

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Reflections

  • Does this sculpture suggest the beginning of life and the end of life?
  • Is this sculpture the sum of an individual’s experience and emotional life?
  • What does this sculpture suggest about Adam’s life?

Explore the Art Gallery of Western Australia

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“I invent nothing, I rediscover.”
– Auguste Rodin

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Photo Credit: JOM

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