There are many thinkers in the world. Auguste Rodin’s is actually a poet. The story goes that Rodin had to propose to the thinker Dante Alighieri. The statue was therefore initially called ‘The Poet’.
A single detail, the right hand under the chin, the left arm down in front, and then any resemblance to Rodin’s thinker ends with this statue of Dante:
Ugo Zannoni (1836 – 1919) – Dante Alighieri statue, 1865.
Bronze founders saw more resemblance to the tomb monument Michelangelo made by Lorenzo de Medici. That picture was called ‘Il Pensieroso’ (the thinker).
Michelangelo (1475 – 1564) – statue above the tomb of Lorenzo II de Medici, 1524 – 1531.
Long before Rodin, the hand under the chin or against the side of the head was the stereotype for thinking. Or rather: brooding. Here, for example, we see the apostle John thinking: “My God, what a situation…”
The pensive apostle is part of a terracotta sculpture group of mourners around Jesus who died on the cross. The scene is in the Church of Santa Maria della Vita in Bologna (Italy). Notice the very expressive Mary Magdalene on the far right.
Niccolò dell’Arca (1435 – 1494) – The Lamentation of Christ, 1450.
With thinkers, our thoughts go primarily to philosophers and scientists.
Leonidas Drosis (1834 – 1882) – Statue of Socrates, 1870.
Thinking, considering? With this image, we should think more about pondering or dreaming.
Aristide Maillol (1861-1944) – La Mediterranée, 1902 – 1905.
She can be seen up close in Antwerp’s Middelheim sculpture park. Museum Boijmans has a copy. During an exhibition (2012–2013) at the Kunsthal Rotterdam, several art historians expressed their doubts about the authenticity of Maillol’s bronze sculptures. Some statues are said to have been cast after Maillol’s death, while stamps suggested they were made during his lifetime. Something to think about.
Always good when art encourages reflection. For example, if you explain art to a dead hare. It was a masterpiece by Joseph Beuys. Barry Flannagan preferred to see a different role for the hare: fusing a character borrowed from comics and cartoons with art historical elements.
Barry Flanagan (1941 – 2009) – Thinker on a rock, 1997. Also exhibited in Utrecht.
And thus we come naturally to everything that stems from Rodin’s thinker. The graphic designer Jaap Drupsteen incorporated a thinker into one of the managers he made for VPRO in the period 1970 – 1979.
In a leader of the famous program ‘Het Gat van Nederland’, Drupsteen transformed the thinker into Carel Willink’s pillar saint, who threatens to perish in flames like an Icarus, but manages to escape.
In one of the VPRO final leaders (shown when the evening broadcast ended), Drupsteen performed a tired thinker.
You saw the thinker hanging down by the arm dejected. Something similar can also be seen on the facade of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. The Passion (Jesus’ passion) is depicted on the southwest facade. One of the scenes (Ecce homo) is where Jesus is led before Pontius Pilate.
Desperate at all the unrest among the people, Pilate let the people choose which prisoner to release: Jesus or the murderer Barabbas. The people chose the latter.
Josep Maria Subirachs (1927 – 2014) – Ecce homo, 1987 – 2009.
The despairing Pilate
Georg Baselitz made a self-portrait as a thinker. Pictured with the white cap he used to wear when he worked. And each work ‘starts from scratch’, according to Baselitz.
Georg Baselitz (1938-present) – Volk Ding Zero (Folk Thing Zero), 2009.
Very little is known about Hans-Jörg Limbach. There is a special thinker of his in Stuttgart.
Hans-Jörg Limbach (1928 – 1990) – Thinking partner, 1980
Many of the thinkers stemming from Rodin’s work are seated. It may be a characteristic pose for thinkers, but it is by no means always the reality. There are people whose thinking is best when they are in motion. Thinking, pondering, pondering while walking or taking a walk.
During a five-day visit to Lithuania, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir were photographed by Antanas Sutkus. A photograph of Sartre walking through the dunes became the inspiration for a statue of the philosopher, made by Klaudijus Pudymas.
Klaudijus Pudymas (1955 – ) – Preis vėją (Against the wind), 2018
A similar statue is in Paris at the Bibliothèque Nationale. Created by Roseline Granet.
Finally, take a look at the website Broken Thinker, a research project by Arnoud Holleman and Gert Jan Kocken. The reason was the theft and destruction of De Denker in the Singer Museum in Laren. After the statue was found, it was doubted for a while whether it should be restored. It eventually happened (among other things using 3D techniques). In The Broken Thinker, the destruction and restoration is the starting point for finding out where the broken thinker stands in the long history of appropriation and distortion of Rodin’s thinker.
Thinkers all over the world have often been damaged. In Cleveland, Ohio, America, a thinker fell victim to a bomb attack. The Cleveland Museum decided not to restore and exhibit the damaged thinker.
Pictured above this article is the thinker with severely damaged legs.