As the reporter does not speak French, the interview is conducted in English, and some time into the interview, the interviewer asks Rodin a general question concerning Rodin’s view on the role of sculpture within these modern times of art.
Rodin, who is still working on the sitting male figure, supposedly immediately answers that “sculpture is the image of the finger” The reporter however apparently misinterprets Rodin’s broken English, ultimately leading to that the British newspaper the following day brings a big feature on Rodin with the headline: French sculptor Auguste Rodin is working on a new masterpiece: The Thinker. Subsequently however, and probably due to the much attention the article attracts, Rodin not only decides to embrace this retitling, but also separates the sculpture from its initial composition
of surrounding figures, hence treating it as an independent work, which he enlarges into a monumental size cast, slightly larger than human size.
What’s interesting is that this minor misinterpretation and the following fairly trivial marketing decisions around formatting, has had major consequences in our understanding of Rodin as one of the great modernist sculptors: First of all, due to fact that this icon, what could be called the incarnation of thinking, was originally never intended to depict such an ambitious and abstract phenomenon. This signification landed, so to speak, quite accidentally onto this crouching lump of mussels.
Secondly, the raw and unfinished rendering of the sculpture, which is often canonized as one of the founding points within modernist expressionism, is simply due to the fact thatRodin’sfingerswhen working on the original, just wasn’t able to sculpt in such great detail when working within a relatively small scale.