Cambodian Dancers by Auguste Rodin

“If they are beautiful, it is because they have a natural way of producing the right movements…”

Graceful hands, flowing tunics, and eloquent, elegant movements of Cambodian dancers had an incredible impact on a French sculptor Auguste Rodin. The extraordinary encounter took place in 1906, when the Cambodian royal ballet performances took place in celebration of King’s Sisowath of Cambodia visit to France. Rodin was struck by the purity and grace of the Khmer dance and followed the troop from Paris to Marseilles. This experience came as a complete shock to the artist, who followed the dancers on their tour without taking any of his drawing materials. In Marseilles Rodin stocked up on butcher paper to draw on and in just one week executed about one hundred and fifty drawings.

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There is nothing surprising in the fact that Rodin’s dancers are deprived of specific personality traits, to that extent the artist was mainly interested in representing the plasticity and the fluidity of movements. The drawings have an unfinished quality: Rodin just slightly amended the initial pencil drawings by adding wide swaths of color (watercolors and gouache) only to convey the dark skin tone and vivid colors of the dancers’ costumes. Pay close attention to very specific gestures the dancers make with their fingers — it is obvious that the artist was especially fascinated with the arms and hands of the female dancers.

Although Auguste Rodin is largely recognized for his modern sculptures of lifelike figures, the studies of movements of his Cambodian Dancers are considered among the highlights of Rodin’s career.

Images of the dancers ©Musée Rodin, Paris. This article ©galleryIntell