Portal of the Abbey Church of Saint-Pierre d'Auxerre

Auguste Rodin (1840 -1917)


Pen and ink, brown ink wash on squared paper

H. 18.2 cm ; W. 14.4 cm

D.5916 to 5918

Rodin’s passion for architecture, for France’s Gothic churches in particular, and the emotion he felt when standing before these monuments from the past, before these “vibrant old stones”, often mutilated and blackened, haunted him for over 40 years and regularly led him out onto the roads of Touraine and Anjou, or into the Indre valley and Burgundy… His first grand tour of the cathedrals of France was in 1877. He jotted down countless notes and drawings in small sketchbooks, which, in 1914, gave rise to the publication of the only book Rodin ever wrote, illustrated with 100 reproductions of his drawings, Les Cathédrales de France (Paris, Armand Colin, 1914).


This page, similar in style to his “black drawings” through his use of ink and dark washes and contrasting effects of light and shade, attests to the number of modest, small-scale sketches Rodin accumulated and to the fondness for detail that was evident in most of his architectural drawings – cornices, volutes, capitals, mouldings and doors retained his attention more than a building or its façades in their entirety. On this sheet, for example, the lower architectural detail possibly represents the western portal of the abbey church of Saint-Pierre d’Auxerre, while the upper drawing shows a detail from one of the side doors. Rodin’s interest in this classic 17th-century church reveals how the sculptor’s love of past architecture went far beyond the Gothic period.

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