Auguste Rodin, The Age of Bronze, 1875-77. Naturalistic, Abstract or Symbolic? The sculpture is 6 feet tall including the base; therefore it is life-sized. What elements of the sculpture of this man’s body could be considered disegno esterno? The shape and size of the head, the arms and their muscles, the location of the hips and shifting of weight from one foot onto the other all seem quite true to an actual man. In reality, Rodin had a Belgian sailor pose in the studio so that the sculpture could be “correct.” Is there anything abstract? Anything simplified? Are there any areas where Rodin, rather than detailing the surface elected for something simpler or more geometric? The face does not seem very detailed, especially around the eyes. While there are many bumps over the torso meant to suggest muscles, they seem lumpy and not hard-edged or cut enough to be true muscular forms. Is the sculpture symbolic? Of what? Do you think this represents more than a man posed for the artist? Obviously, from this paragraph, it is clear that there are no true answers. Art appreciation is not a science; it is not objective - right or wrong, black or white. It is subjective; as long as the viewer can intelligently apply the vocabulary and concepts to the work of art, the interpretation is valid.



Romare Bearden’s She-Ba, 1970, evidences the painter’s preference for abstract shapes over naturalistic details. The head has been reduced into a flat oval. The arms are rectangles; the feet are triangles. There is no attempt to represent the roundness of the limbs or the details of muscles or flesh within those body parts. Where are the cheekbones, details of eyes, or patterns for the hair? Her dress is an odd shape, again not providing information as to her body shape. Clearly, Bearden did not use disegno esterno or naturalism in this image. It is simply composed of shapes. The question becomes, why? Bearden felt that the most important aspect of this woman did not lie in her physical details, but in her character or personality. As a “priestess” she may embody a magical power that is supernatural. Therefore, a naturalistic representation would not have captured the multiplicity or complexity of who and what she is. He needed to find a visual vocabulary that would infer a symbolic or metaphysical tone. Abstraction was his choice.