Rodin first created "Le Penseur" in 1880 as part of a larger sculpted grouping called "The Gates of Hell." The work was based on Dante's The Divine Comedy. It wasn't until 1904 that the first large stand-alone casting was made—and the broad public got its first exposure to a work which perfectly suited the times. Psychology increasingly was viewed as a legitimate science and the public was intrigued with the human mind and the theories of Sigmund Freud. "The Thinker" became an icon of the Turn-of-the-Century zeitgeist.
The bookends shown above were made in the 1920's—when "The Thinker" was still a relatively recent novelty. First, an artful and accurate model—which captured the spirit and energy of Rodin's original—had to be sculpted. From this model, moulds for casting were produced. Then, plaster-composite castings were produced—and these were clad with bronze through the process of electroplating. The pieces could be patinated or otherwise finished exactly as solid bronzes would be. Thus, this bronze-cladding method was a way of creating what might be called "poor man's bronzes." Though they were far less expensive than traditional, solid bronzes, they did exhibit a very high degree of style and craftsmanship.
Please click on the photo above to learn more about them.
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