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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Sculpture, Room 21, The Dorothy and Michael Hintze Galleries

Despair

Statuette
ca. 1890- ca. 1892 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

In about 1890 Rodin made four or five sculptures on the theme of despair in connection with The Gates of Hell (the bronze portal and doors for the new Museum of Decorative Arts, Paris, which Rodin was asked to design in 1880) and this version appears on the right-hand door panel. It is possible that Despair and The Young Mother are direct casts from the original clay sketches. This would make them closer to Rodin's own hand than the majority of his works.
Rodin gave this plaster to Claude Phillips, the first curator of the Wallace Collection, in recognition of his support and friendship, and to acknowledge a common understanding of art and its purpose. In much the same way, he gave other sculptures to the writers Robert Louis Stevenson and Arthur Symons. The background to this gift was that many of Rodin's investigations of highly charged emotional states encompassed the erotic, but this could not be widely written about in the prevailing moral climate. Phillips, however, defended artists' special right to engage with such matters. As well as an art critic, he was a trained lawyer and so well-placed to understand the legislation then being considered to protect public decency. In 1888 he wrote an important article for The Art Magazine in which he said artists should not be accused of 'want of decency' but defended on account of their seriousness and exceptional gifts.
There are a number of works related to this one, showing its popularity despite this unusual depiction of despair which broke away from a more traditional image of a despairing figure with face in both hands and a prostate pose.


object details
Category
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Plaster
Brief Description
Statuette, Despair, by Auguste Rodin, French, plaster, ca. 1890
Dimensions
  • Height: 28cm
  • Weight: 2.56kg
Marks and Inscriptions
Amitié et hommage à M Phillips/A Rodin (Inscribed on the front of the base)
Gallery Label
Rodin's investigation of extreme emotional states naturally included the erotic, but in the prevailing moral climate this was not easy. Claude Phillips, curator of the Wallace Collection, defended artists' special right to address such matters because of their exceptional gifts and their seriousness. They could not, he said, be accused of 'want of decency'. In gratitude, Rodin gave him this sculpture.(March 2007)
Credit line
Bequeathed by Sir Claude Phillips
Object history
Bequeathed by Sir Claude Phillips
Summary
In about 1890 Rodin made four or five sculptures on the theme of despair in connection with The Gates of Hell (the bronze portal and doors for the new Museum of Decorative Arts, Paris, which Rodin was asked to design in 1880) and this version appears on the right-hand door panel. It is possible that Despair and The Young Mother are direct casts from the original clay sketches. This would make them closer to Rodin's own hand than the majority of his works.

Rodin gave this plaster to Claude Phillips, the first curator of the Wallace Collection, in recognition of his support and friendship, and to acknowledge a common understanding of art and its purpose. In much the same way, he gave other sculptures to the writers Robert Louis Stevenson and Arthur Symons. The background to this gift was that many of Rodin's investigations of highly charged emotional states encompassed the erotic, but this could not be widely written about in the prevailing moral climate. Phillips, however, defended artists' special right to engage with such matters. As well as an art critic, he was a trained lawyer and so well-placed to understand the legislation then being considered to protect public decency. In 1888 he wrote an important article for The Art Magazine in which he said artists should not be accused of 'want of decency' but defended on account of their seriousness and exceptional gifts.

There are a number of works related to this one, showing its popularity despite this unusual depiction of despair which broke away from a more traditional image of a despairing figure with face in both hands and a prostate pose.
Bibliographic References
  • Hawkins, Jennifer, Rodin Sculptures, Victoria and Albert Museum, HMSO, London, 1975, pp.21-22, ills. 12 and 13
  • Rilke, Rainer Maria. Rodin. pl. 32.
  • Lawton, Frederick. The life and works of Auguste Rodin. London, 1906. pp. 112, 115.
  • Hawkins, Jennifer. Rodin Sculptures. London, 1975.
  • Alley, Ronald. The foreign paintings, drawings, and sculpture. London, 1959. pp. 226-227.
  • Mitchell, Claudine. The Zola of sculpture?: a Franco-British dialogue. In: Michell, Claudine ed. Rodin: The Zola of Sculpture. Henry Moore Institute, 2003. p. 30. ill. 1. 4.
  • Lampert, Catherine, Rodin, London, Royal Academy of Arts, 2006
  • Lampert, Catherine, Rodin, Sculpture and Drawings, Hayward Gallery, Arts Council of Great Britain, 1986
  • Bindman, David, Dante Rediscovered: from Blake to Rodin, Grasmere, Wordsworth Trust, 2007
Collection
Accession Number
A.24-1924

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record createdJune 5, 2007
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