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Rodin and Otterness: Revealing Form through closed sculpture

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  1. The Giant in Otterness's sculpture.
  2. At the bottom the Thinker's feet are dug firmly into his stoop.
  3. Examination of the sides completes an inspection of ?The Thinker.?
  4. An examination of ?The Thinker? from every side will reveal new and exciting details.

If one were to elongate the neck, legs and arms of August Rodin's ?Thinker,? the result would look something like Tom Otterness's ?The Crying Giant.? But it is precisely this aspect of the sculpture that makes the ?Crying Giant? a less effective closed sculpture. The limbs and large body areas are not used to block off the other views, leaving the work's form more open and easier to guess at. Whether the artist chose the symmetrical posture of his work first or the elongated limbs first, the piece as a whole does not reward a close inspection by the viewer from many angles because the sculpture's structure can be grasped from a distance. Rodin however, textures the Thinker with twisted muscles, curved toes and other small details to give a realistic sense of a human body's effort to balance itself. The muscular body uses its thick limbs and broad torso to close off each view from the other. Rodin's ?The Thinker? is a more effective closed sculpture because it uses large structural elements as well as fine details to create a variegated experience that reveals new details from each viewing angle, but the ?Crying Giant? sacrifices this experience for a geometric simplicity which makes the closed posture of its subject less effective and enjoyable.

[...] The view from the Thinker's right is different because the curved back and the extended elbow form a triangular shape of surprising sturdiness, but again the crossed arm blocks a view of the chest and the triangle's stability provides yet another puzzle for viewers who have not yet seen the sculpture from all angles. The side views of the Thinker continue to close off the structure while revealing new textural details about the way it is holding its position. An examination of Thinker? from every side will reveal new and exciting details. [...]


[...] From the back of the Thinker, the left shoulder is arched high above the other, but rather than revealing what is going on at front it only magnifies the sense of a strong and proportioned body: one that retains its balance even after being twisted this way or that. The Giant could not make use of such subtleties because its sphere body has no shoulder to raise. A view from the back of Thinker? effectively blocks off the front, but gives clues to it, such as the hunched shoulder, and shows the realistic adjustments made by the body to accommodate its unusual posture. [...]

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