Symbolism and the British
Auguste Rodin, The Earth and the Moon, 1898–99. Marble, 122.5 x 72.5 x 65 cm. By the beginning of the twentieth century Rodin had become, in the words of the portraitist and young friend of French artists, William Rothenstein, ‘a European figure; going from capital to capital, receiving homage, sitting at banquets and, what was still more agreeable selling his work to the great museums.’ Arthur Symons, a poet and writer, was one of the leading spirits in the introduction of Symbolism into Britain, treating poetry, like that of Stéphane Mallarmé, and sculpture as mediums capable of ‘suggesting’ rather than merely representing. Many of Rodin’s titles were inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphoses, but they, and the annotations added to the hundreds of late figure drawings, were not intended to limit their interpretation. Rodin thought that they would give the spectator ‘the impulse to wander as his whim takes him. This, according to me, is art’s function.’ Most of the British collectors of Rodin’s works had made their own fortunes in business – like James Smith of Liverpool, a wine merchant, and Edmund Davis, rich from the South African metal industry. However, northern cities, especially Manchester and Glasgow, also sought works such as Illusions Fallen to Earth and Eve for municipal collections.