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Unraveling The Thinker | Your Guide to Viewing Rodin’s Iconic Sculpture at Musée Rodin

If you’re planning a visit to Musee Rodin, there’s one sculpture that’s sure to leave a lasting impression: The Thinker. Originally conceived as the crowning element for The Gates of Hell, the sculpture was eventually exhibited solo. Depicting a solitary figure lost in thought, The Thinker has come to symbolize the contemplative nature of human existence.

Read on to know more about the history and significance of The Thinker, tracing its evolution from its humble beginnings to a global icon.

Timeline of Auguste Rodin's The Thinker

  • 1880s: Auguste Rodin begins working on The Gates of Hell, a monumental sculpture project commissioned by the French government.
  • 1880s-1890s: Rodin creates numerous individual sculptures that would later become famous in their own right, including The Thinker.
  • 1902: The first large-scale bronze cast of The Thinker is produced.
  • 1904: The sculpture is displayed at the St. Louis World's Fair, where it garners widespread attention and acclaim.
  • 1917: Rodin donates the original plaster version of The Thinker to the Musée Rodin in Paris, which had recently been established.
  • 1922: Rodin dies, leaving behind a legacy as one of the most important sculptors of his time.
  • 1930s: The Musée Rodin begins producing additional bronze casts of The Thinker to meet the high demand for replicas.
  • 1962: A cast of The Thinker is installed outside the main entrance of the Detroit Institute of Arts, where it becomes a beloved symbol of the museum.
  • 2019: The Musée Rodin undergoes a major renovation, with The Thinker being moved to a new location within the museum during the construction.


Where is The Thinker Located?

Auguste Rodin Sculpture | The Thinker

Can I See The Thinker?

Yes, The Thinker is on display at the Musée Rodin in Paris. Purchase your ticket in advance and online to avoid long lines, and experience the masterpiece in all its glory.

Guided tours are available to learn about the history of the sculpture and Auguste Rodin's life and works. Don't miss your chance to see one of the most famous sculptures in the world!

How to View The Thinker at Musée Rodin?

Who Created the Sculpture of The Thinker?

Auguste Rodin's The Thinker

Born to a police clerk in a working-class neighborhood, Auguste Rodin had humble beginnings. With an interest in art from a young age, Rodin pursued drawing and modeling at age 13. Failing to get into École des Beaux-Arts, Rodin turned to work towards sculptor Carrier-Belleuse. After many travels, particularly to Italy, Rodin finally went on to carve a space for his personal style in the world of art.

Following several years of successful and even scandalous contributions to the era of modern sculpture, including The Thinker, The Kiss, and The Gates of Hell, Auguste Rodin donated all his works to the French Government on the condition that his residence at the Hotel Biron is turned into a museum. Rodin died on November 17, 1917, in Meudon, France, and is today recognized as one of the most influential French sculptors of his time.

The History of The Thinker

The Thinker Sculpture

Auguste Rodin's Inspiration

The Thinker was originally intended to represent the Italian poet, Dante Alighieri, who wrote the epic poem The Divine Comedy

The Original Name of The Thinker When Rodin first exhibited the statue in 1888, he called it The Poet, reflecting the inspiration from Dante. The form of the statue was said to be reflective of Dante's conflict between damnation and freedom. 

The Thinker

The Design of The Thinker

The statue was created using the technique of assemblage, in which Rodin combined various body parts from other models to create a single, harmonious composition. The statue is 6 feet tall and depicts a muscular male figure in a seated position, with his chin resting on his hand and his elbow on his knee as if determined to transcend his suffering through contemplation.

The Thinker

The Controversial Exhibition of The Thinker

The Thinker was first displayed in Paris in 1904, at the Salon des Indépendants, where it caused a sensation. Some critics were scandalized by the statue's nudity, while others praised its powerful, emotional expression. Rodin's works were often subject to puritanical criticism and often called out for being too lewd and unconventional. 

The Thinker

The Legacy of The Thinker

The sculpture has traveled the world and has been a part of several exhibitions. More importantly, the bronze figure has also been adopted as a symbol of protest, especially during the student protests in Paris in 1968. The Thinker has been featured in the opening credits of the popular television show The Simpsons, and is referenced in Ernest Hemingway's novel The Sun Also Rises along with several other forms of media and even in the world of advertisement

Description of The Thinker

The Thinker by Auguste Rodin

The Thinker is a bronze statue depicting a nude male figure sitting on a rock with his chin resting on one hand, lost in deep thought. The sculpture is life-sized, measuring 73 inches in height and weighing 500 kg. The figure is muscular and athletic, with a powerful build that exudes strength and intellect.

The statue's facial expression is one of intense concentration, with furrowed brows and a stern gaze that suggests deep contemplation. The original model is set to not just ponder upon human existence but true to its inspiration look down upon the circles of hell while focusing on his work. Rodin, expertly crafted the figure to create a sense of tension and movement, with the figure appearing as if he could rise from his seat at any moment.

The texture of the figure's skin, the folds of his garment, and the details of his hair and beard are all meticulously rendered, giving the sculpture an almost lifelike quality.

The Thinker & Its Interpretations

The Thinker by Auguste Rodin

The Thinker's Contemplation

The Thinker is often interpreted as a representation of human thought and contemplation. The statue depicts a man sitting with his chin resting on his hand, lost in thought. The figure is shown deep in concentration, and this has been seen as a representation of the process of artistic creation, as well as philosophical and intellectual contemplation.

The Thinker by Auguste Rodin

Humanity's Existential Angst

The statue has also been seen as a representation of human existential angst. The statue's brooding and melancholic appearance has been interpreted as a reflection of the human condition, particularly the experience of alienation and isolation in the modern world. The figure's nakedness and vulnerability further emphasize this sense of existential anguish and struggle. Additionally, it also sheds light on moral dilemmas and the role of humanity.


The Thinker by Auguste Rodin

Individual vs Society

The Thinker has also been interpreted as a representation of the individual's struggle against the collective forces of society. The figure is shown sitting alone, isolated from the world around him, and this has been seen as a reflection of the individual's struggle to assert their own identity and individuality in the face of the conformity and pressures of society.

Interesting Facts About The Thinker

The Thinker by Auguste Rodin
  • The Thinker was originally called The Poet and was intended to be a part of a larger sculptural group depicting Dante's Divine Comedy.
  • The Thinker was completed in 1880 and was exhibited in Paris in 1888.
  • Rodin created multiple versions of The Thinker, including a smaller version that could be placed on a desk.
  • The sculpture is often seen as a symbol of human thought and creativity.
  • The pose of The Thinker is inspired by the Italian poet Dante, who is often depicted resting his chin on his hand while deep in thought.
  • The original plaster cast of The Thinker can be seen in the Musée Rodin in Paris.
  • The Thinker has been featured in numerous works of art and popular culture, including a parody sculpture in the form of Homer Simpson.

Frequently Asked Questions About Auguste Rodin's The Thinker

Q. What is the material used to create The Thinker?

A. The original sculpture of The Thinker was created using bronze.

Q. Why is The Thinker often associated with philosophy?

A. The Thinker is often associated with philosophy because of its pose and expression. The figure's head is resting on his hand, which is a common gesture of deep thought and contemplation.

Q. Is The Thinker a self-portrait of Rodin?

A. No, The Thinker is not a self-portrait of Rodin. However, it is believed that the figure was inspired by Dante Alighieri, the Italian poet and philosopher, who is known for his work, The Divine Comedy.

Q. How many casts of The Thinker exist today?

A. There are around 28 casts of The Thinker in different sizes and materials around the world.

Q. What is the meaning behind the posture of The Thinker?

A. The posture of The Thinker is meant to convey the intensity and concentration of the process of thinking. The figure's head is resting on his hand, with his elbow resting on his knee as if he is lost in thought, contemplating a weighty issue.

Q. Where is the original cast of The Thinker located?

A. The original cast of The Thinker is located in the Musée Rodin in Paris.

Q. What is the significance of the name The Thinker?

A. The name "The Thinker" reflects the theme of the sculpture, which is deep contemplation and thought. The figure is depicted as a man lost in thought, pondering the mysteries of life and the universe.

Q. How has The Thinker influenced art and culture?

A. The Thinker has become an iconic image in the world of art and culture, and it has inspired countless artists and thinkers around the world. The sculpture's focus on deep thought and contemplation has made it a symbol of philosophy and intellectualism, and it has influenced countless other works of art and literature.