My fascination with a sculpture The Thinker 1904 by French artist François Auguste René Rodin 1840–1916


François Auguste René Rodin (1840 – 1917) was a French sculptor considered to be the founder of modern sculpture. He studied traditionally by taking a craftsman-like approach to his practice. Rodin possessed an unparalleled ability to model complex, turbulent figures in deeply pocketed reliefs in the surface of clay. He is best known for The Thinker, Monument to Balzac, The Kiss, The Burghers of Calais, and the epic Gates of Hell.

Many of Rodin's most notable sculptures were heavily criticised at the time clashing with historic figurative sculpture traditions in which works were decorative, formulaic, or highly thematic. Rodin's most original works departed from traditional themes of mythology and allegory. Instead he modelled the human body with naturalism, which displayed individual character and physicality. Although Rodin was sensitive to the controversy surrounding his work, he refused to change his style, and his continued output brought increasing favour from the government, artistic and intellectual community.

One piece had always captured my attention, that of ''The Thinker' on a stone pedestal. The work depicts a nude male figure of heroic size sitting on a rock. He is seen leaning over, his right elbow placed on his left thigh, holding the weight of his chin on the back of his right hand. The pose is one of deep thought and contemplation, and the statue is often used as an image to represent philosophy.

a contemporary artist reworks the Thinker by Auguste Rodin seen here in Museum garden Paris 1904

Rodin conceived the figure as part of his work The Gates of Hell commissioned in 1880, but the first of the familiar monumental bronze castings was made in 1904, and is now exhibited at the Musée Rodin, in Paris.

There are 27 known full-sized castings, in which the figure is approximately 185 cm (73 inches) high, though not all were made during Rodin's lifetime and under his supervision. There are various other versions, several in plaster, and studies and posthumous castings exist in a range of sizes.

Back in 2017, I began a collection of brand segregated plastic and aluminium waste from beach cleanup projects and land fill collections with the mind to re-purposing the materials into a better 'end of life' use. The first of which was a rebranded Coca Cola bottle with the text reworked to read 'Drink Less', this was cast in aluminium exclusively from recycled Coca Cola drinks cans. Which led me to Rodin's 'The Thinker'.

For me this is an interesting piece to consider; what would the artist Auguste Rodin or indeed his model posing in 'The Thinker' be contemplating if it were made today, and not in its original form dating from 1902. With that in mind late 2021 I returned to 'Makers Place', the first Carbon Neutral Recycling facility I helped open in the Maldives, turning the regions drinks industry waste into art; it was during this visit I conceived this piece.

After scanning an original full scale work with a mobile 3d laser scanner, I worked towards recreating the work with a revised and contemporary aesthetic. I would imagine if Rodin saw the vast amounts of valuable and carelessly discarded materials dumped into our landscapes, rivers and oceans. Especially considering the work is referred to as a view of a philosopher in contemplation, it would be a poignant thread for anyone to consider; past and present.


Auguste Rodin the Re-Thinker
'The Re-Thinker'   weight +/- 9,280 grammes - h 23cms x w 17 cms  edition of VII 


For this complex work I had to explore new casting processes to bring the piece to life. Experimenting with pure aluminium, copper & zinc land fill waste and testing the differing patinas they offered. One will be cast in pure bronze of course but also a Nordic Gold mix (89% copper, 5% aluminium, 5% zinc and 1% tin) to see how I like differing patinas on the final piece. In the end it was a marine grade bronze mix that provided the final work, its special qualities make for a vibrant bronze finish with a deep green patina.

the thinker
'The Re-Thinker'   weight +/- 9,280 grammes - h 23cms x w 17 cms  edition of VII

Below are some of the design models that were tested before casting. You can see this and other related works in the sculpture gallery.

contemporary auguste rodin the thinker

contemporary auguste rodin the thinker

contemporary auguste rodin the thinker

contemporary auguste rodin the thinker

contemporary auguste rodin the thinker

what would Rodin's The Thinker be contemplating in a modern world reinterpreting the great masters

using brand specific drinks industry waste contemporary views of the great masters

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