Sunday, 4 December 2016

'Rodin and Dance' at the Courtauld Gallery

This afternoon we risked the pre-Christmas Sunday crowds to see the current exhibition at the Courtauld, 'Rodin and Dance: The Essence of Movement'. It's a joint exhibition with the Rodin Museum in Paris and is the first time Rodin's small models of dancers have been assembled since his death.

The exhibition is small, the usual two rooms at the Courtauld, but is worth seeing particularly since you can then wander round the excellent standing collection from the 1200s to the mid 1900s or thereabouts. Starting with the exhibition on the second floor you work your way back in time as you descend, from 20th century paintings on the top floor down through the centuries to the medieval and early Renaissance works on the ground floor. It's quite an exciting journey given the vast range of works on display.

On entering the exhibition, by the time I saw the third drawing (the Cambodian dancer to the right) I wished this exhibition had been on over the summer before I did my short course in drawing movement at the City Lit - on reaching this third drawing I felt I had already learned so much about how to draw movement. From this drawing in pencil and watercolour you can clearly see the dancer is dancing but the background also indicates movement. It's not just the dancer that is moving, it's the whole sketch moving and gyrating in time to some unheard music.

Just seeing this sketch gave me an insight into drawing movement that made me want to start my summer course again with those huge sheets of paper and charcoal and ink. This dancer is drawn on paper about A4 size but is incredibly powerful when you look on it in it's richness, far richer and more vibrant than this image.

There were a series of drawing of a nude woman in various poses, some more explicit than others, of the acrobat Aldo Moreno in extreme and exaggerated poses. There were a few drawings of men, including of Nijinsky who posed for Rodin when the Ballet Russe was in Paris, but the majority of drawings - and the small statues - were of women.

I particularly liked the series of drawings, some more and less finished and rough - of the woman holding her leg behind her. Some drawings expressed this in a few rough lines and others had blurred lines to emphasis shape and contour, give the figure more volume. They are all terribly expressive and a couple looked as if he'd caught the model as she let go of her foot, almost about to topple to the floor on losing her balance. I'm probably reading oo much into these drawings but I was very impressed with the drawings and wished there were more.

As well as the drawings there are some bronzes of dancers and the glass cabinet full of the small statues of dancers. It's a small exhibition but is fascinating. The exhibition is open until 22 January so there's still plenty of time to see it.

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