Rodin’s Portraits

Sculpture by Auguste Rodin (1902)

Full of the living burden of his great knowledge, he looked into the faces of those about him like one who knows the future. This gives to his portraits their extraordinary clear definiteness, but also that prophetic greatness which, in the statues of Victor Hugo and of Balzac, rises to an indescribable perfection. To create a likeness meant for him to seek eternity in some given face, that part of eternity by which the face participated in the great life of eternal things. He made none which he did not lift a little from its place into the future; as we hold an object against the sky in order to see its form with greater clarity and simplicity. This is not what we call beautifying a thing, nor is it right to speak of giving it characteristic expression. It is more than that; it is separating of the permanent from the ephemeral, the passing of a judgment, the executing of justice.