“I consider that the body is the only true clothing for the soul, that allows its radiance to shine out.”
Conceived in 1884, Eternal Spring is one of the French sculptor’s best-loved subjects, and is regarded as one of the masterpieces of his mature career. Rodin originally intended for the work to feature in the Gates of Hell, the monumental sculptural group depicting a scene from Dante’s Inferno, commissioned in 1880. He would work on Gates of Hell for nearly 40 years, until his death in 1917.
Eventually, though, the artist decided to execute Eternal Spring as a stand-alone piece — deeming it too upbeat for the dark vision he intended for Gates of Hell — and added the rocks in the background.
Rodin began work on Eternal Spring not long after he met Camille Claudel, the sculptor with whom he would embark on a tumultuous relationship. Rodin was married to Rose Beuret at the time, but fell in love with Claudel almost as soon as she joined his studio in 1882.
‘To some extent, there’s an autobiographical dimension to Eternal Spring — this passionate, forbidden love. In the sculpture, two figures are ardently embracing, while at the same time a kind of tension holds them back. But the figures are actually fused together, almost melting into each other.