“All of Paris has been flocking there for days.” Thus Gil Blas announced the exhibition of 144 erotic drawings by Rodin that opened on 19 October 1908 at the Devambez Gallery. The scandalous sketches and quickly executed watercolours hung in the gallery’s salons were like captured moments, “readings of movements at first sight”, where, as Louis Vauxcelles put it, the female body rose to the challenge of “seizing life in flight”.
Thanks to this exhibition, which was very bold for its time, Devambez was the first to present the secret perfection and hidden balance of these unfinished drawings, where each incomplete pencil stroke spoke of the emotion of being alive.
Rainer Maria Rilke referred to the lyricism of the master’s drawings, writing after a visit to the exhibition: “How logical everything is in your work! […] And how infinitely precise all these human beings become in an instant of eternity, standing in a celestial equilibrium between music and geometry where there was still (for the spaces are immense) chaos to be brought into rhythm”.
At the centre of the exhibition was a new sculpture, Eve and the Serpent: a single block of marble where movement combines with the motionless driving force of life in its ever-changing metamorphoses.
Exposition de dessins d’Auguste Rodin, exhibition catalogue, galerie Devambez, Paris, 19 October – 5 November 1908, Devambez, Paris, 1908