The Thinker. . . and the Start of School! Art & Life (Rodin)

Cher’s Famous Art

22 August 2020

07 September 2021

”The Thinker”

Auguste Rodin, c. 1904. French Impressionist

As we approach another school year, Rodin’s infamous sculpture, The Thinker, comes to mind to symbolize thinking: what one should be doing in school!

But… did you know that there is more than one The Thinker?

More than One Thinker?

There are numerous originals and replicas around the world, in various sizes and materials; some worth millions of dollars! There are bronze casts as well as exhibition and original plasters (another topic; another day!).  The Thinker is often parodied, and used in ads and media such as seen in various TV shows (i.e. Dobie Gillis, 60’s) and advertising (i.e. Jessie Ventura, 90’s)–see below. Since The Thinker is supposed to represent the “creative mind at work—seated but not at rest” and symbolize wisdom and knowledge—it is a far stretch to place either Dobie Gillis or Jesse Ventura in this category! 

Rodin Museum, Paris

Rodin Museum, Paris

The 6’ tall bronze monumental sculpture (+ height of the stand) in the garden of the Rodin Museum, Paris is the most famous (and worth most money). It is the one seen in the movie “Midnight in Paris” with Owen Wilson (2011, Woody Allen film). NOTE: This is a great film to watch if you love Paris—and the literary arts!

The Thinker, bronze statue in the garden of Rodin’s Museum, Paris, France. P.C. Cher B May 2018

Large Thinkers…

The Thinker, bronze sculpture on pedestal at the Rodin Museum, Paris, France.

P.C. Cher B May 2018.

Small Thinkers…

Smaller versions of The Thinker (bronze and plaster) are most often seen in museums around the world. I was really excited when the first one I ever saw was in the National Museum in Oslo, Norway. I was an unexpected surprise I will never forget!

Small bronze version of The Thinker in a museum (which one?? Not sure!). P.C. Cher B.

Rodin’s Gates of Hell

Bronze Thinkers…

Close up of The Thinker on a bronze Gates of Hell

Rodin’s “Gates of Hell” is the other most famous version of “The Thinker” where a 19” Thinker sits atop a giant door and looks down at writhing bodies being sucked into hell. I’ve seen two versions of this door: bronze door at the Rodin Museum garden; plaster cast at the Musee d’ Orsay, both in Paris, France. They are massive, impressive—and well worth seeing in person to fully appreciate.

P.C. Cher B May 2018

Plaster Cast Thinkers…

Plaster cast model at the Musee d’ Orsay

P.C. Cher B May 2018

The Thinker on TV Shows. . .

The Thinker is often parodied, and used in ads and media. For those watching TV in 1960, you might remember the show “Dobie Gillis” where the actor takes a “thinker pose” in front of The Thinker statue at Columbia University, NYC (a bit of irony since the show was decidedly anti-intellectual!).

Opening scene of “Dobie Gillie” starring Dwayne Hickman with The Thinker bronze sculpture (Columbia University).

Google Images

The Thinker at Columbia University, NYC

Students with YEAH Educational Tour to New York City visit Columbia University’s Thinker!

TRAVEL TIP: Because there are so many copies of this famous sculpture–check out the website of a museum you plan to visit (anywhere in the world!) to see if you might be able to see one there! And if you are visiting New York City, hop the train to the campus of Columbia University and see a large one that you can TOUCH–and take photos with–without a diligent museum guard chastising you!

The Thinker on TV Political Ads

For those watching TV political ads in 1998, who can forget the former wrestler/body builder, Jesse Ventura, who was running for (and won!) governor of Minnesota. In one ad, he played on the theme “Jesse: the Body; Jesse the Mind”; the political ad showed Ventura (or model?) in the pose of The Thinker. (It can be seen on YouTube—check it out!)

So now, when you see The Thinker in a museum, an ad, or some random place anywhere in the world—you can feel a bit more culturally literate on this iconic sculpture!   And have a great year of learning—and thinking!—in whatever capacity in which you find yourself!

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