Ruth Butler is a professor and chair of the art department at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. She has written extensively on Auguste Rodin in several publications. It took more than a decade of research for her to produce RODIN: THE SHAPE OF GENIUS. Butler made use of unpublished letters and documents, which has allowed the author to make major reinterpretations of the sculptor’s life. Some of the most important reinterpretations involve Rodin’s relationship with his family and with the women to whom he was attached romantically. Born in 1840, Rodin grew up to be extremely close to his older sister, Maria. Butler makes the point that he idealized Maria, and was most likely sexually attracted to her. Rodin was emotionally shattered by her death in 1862. It is conceivable, therefore, that he related to other women with whom he became involved as substitutes for Maria. Butler does not toss out psychological explanations such as this without first laying the foundation for such a debatable theory.
It has been long argued by Rodin scholars that he was a sexist. Butler takes issue with that conclusion and presents a detailed analysis of a man who was ultimately lonely and seething with anger for which there was seemingly no outlet. Through all the psychological and emotional confusion, Rodin was able to produce a body of work that testifies to his genius as a sculptor. Butler has included more than two hundred photographs that help to convey the sheer power of Rodin’s creations. RODIN: THE SHAPE OF GENIUS must stand as the preeminent work on the sculptor.