Rodin, the Monument to Victor Hugo and The Thinker

Edward Steichen (1879 -1973)


Bichromated-gelatin print

H. 26 cm ; W. 32.2 cm



In 1901, Steichen’s dream came true when he was allowed to make several portraits of Rodin in his studio. He would have liked to photograph the sculptor posing beside two of his major works, Monument to Victor Hugo and The Thinker , all on the same plate. But lack of space made this impossible. The following year, he therefore showed Rodin a photomontage composed of two different images.The sculptor was very impressed by the result: a profile view of him opposite The Thinker  and Victor Hugo .


He laughed at his biographer Judith Clavel’s turn of phrase, “Rodin, between God and the devil”. The photograph was published twice in 1905-06, in the periodical Camera Work, mouthpiece of the American Pictorialist photography movement.The concept behind the picture was highly innovative for the period in which it was taken, since it defied the idea of “realistic illusion”, based on the veracity and accuracy of the content, the underlying canon of 19th-century photography. The Pictorialist image here no longer resembled a conventional photograph and this appealed to Rodin, for montages and assemblages were part of his own working method: “I sketch an arm, a leg, the head. And I stop there… Little by little, the body to which that leg, that arm, that head could be adapted outlines itself in my mind.” (Rodin, 1910).

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