homage to rodin - the gates of hell


Best known for his lovely, passionate even erotic nudes, there is also a very dark side to Rodin's work. Evidently, he was in the habit of dismembering many of his statues - leaving some figures without limbs or heads. And there are "The Burghers of Calais", six men with ropes around their necks, ready to be hanged.

The most problematic of Rodin's work, however, may be "The Gates of Hell". He labored over it for 37 years, making model after model, sketch after sketch, forever changing, never really satisfied or finishing it. Rodin's inspiration and model for his vision of Hell was the "Last Judgment" by Michelangelo. But foremost, Rodin was guided by the Biblical description of Hell as well as Dante's "Inferno" in "The Devine Comedy". Rodin was a most devoted religious man; Hell was what his faith pictured and taught him.

Ultimately, Rodin abandoned his major work he had labored on for most of his life. But, somehow, it did not work - the horror, the terror, the agony of real Hell just was not there. Evidently, Rodin was guided and influenced in this particular project by role models which proved inadequate and unsuitable for what he searched for as well as his own temperament? Perhaps also, he would not, or could not, free himself from the constrains of his time.

In this, our "enlightened" Modern Age of science and reason, doubt may now question everything, especially blind faith. We create our own environment, for better or worse, including our own Hell right here on earth. "War is Hell" has become a convenient metaphor. A soldier in WWII, a witness to the Holocaust, I know that no description can fully convey the monstrosities we are capable of and perpetrate. And it is not only in war that we create our Hell, but also in our "dog eat dog, cut throat" competition, our personal and family violence, in the filth ridden slums too many are condemned to live. The pain and misery we inflict on each other appears endless. Yes, Hell exists right here on earth and we are its creators.