Auguste Rodin (1840–1917), a sculptor I have long admired, can be a difficult artist to come to grips with. His major monument, the Gates of Hell, remained unfinished at his death. With some artists, “unfinished” is not an issue. Cézanne’s Garden at Les Lauves in Washington’s Phillips Collection works so successfully as a landscape view, despite consisting of only a few touches of paint within a large area of blank canvas, that it seems immaterial whether or not the artist himself felt he had completed his task. But with the Gates, the fact that one cannot draw the line between work-in-progress and fully realized vision is disconcerting to our overall sense of Rodin’s accomplishment. Gates is magnificent, but is it all there? It’s rather as if Michelangelo had died leaving no painting or architecture, with only his abortive tomb of Pope Julius II along with his...

 

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