The Burghers of Calais (1884-86) by Auguste Rodin

The Burghers of Calais - Auguste Rodin - 1889

Artwork Information

TitleThe Burghers of Calais
ArtistAuguste Rodin
Dimensions82 1/2 x 95 x 78 in.
Art MovementImpressionism
Current LocationRodin Museum, Philadelphia
Location Created France

About The Burghers of Calais

“The Burghers of Calais,” a profound work of art sculpted by Auguste Rodin in 1889, is cast in bronze and stands as an embodiment of the Impressionist movement. The artwork, measuring 82 1/2 x 95 x 78 inches, is a sculpture presently housed at the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia, though it was originally created in France. This piece articulates a powerful historical narrative through its tangible form.

The artwork encapsulates a group of six men, known as the Burghers, who are depicted in a moment of profound anguish and contemplation. These figures represent the leaders of Calais who, according to the historical episode from the Hundred Years’ War, offered themselves as hostages to the besieging King Edward III of England in exchange for the salvation of their city. Each figure is captured with individual expressions and postures that convey a deep sense of sacrifice, despair, and resignation, reflecting the intense psychological and emotional states of the subjects.

Rodin’s masterful use of Impressionist techniques enables the viewer to perceive the feeling of movement and raw emotion encapsulated in the statue’s textured surfaces and contorted forms. The pronounced gestures and the interaction of the figures with their environment evoke a palpable sense of tension and heroism. The work’s placement outdoors, possibly in a different setting than its original museum location, augments its interaction with light and shadow, further accentuating the dramatic impact of Rodin’s composition.

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