Medium is the Message: Art Since 1950
Using works created since 1950, this exhibition explores the relationship between subject, content, and the materials that informed each object’s production.
Medium is the Message: Art Since 1950 is divided into three broad categories that explore the notion of “medium” in its various contexts: a means of communication, the materials from which an art object is created, and a mediating apparatus between objects and subjects.
The Cantor Arts Center proudly possesses one of the largest groups of bronze sculptures by Auguste Rodin (France, 1840–1917) in an American museum, numbering almost 200 objects of both monumental and intimate scale.
Perhaps one of the best-known works of Auguste Rodin, The Thinker, was one of the first figures that Rodin conceived for the 1880 commission The Gates of Hell. This sculpture began as a symbolic depiction of Italian author Dante Alighieri and was originally named The Poet. Over time, Dante evolved into The Thinker, a freestanding work honoring the power of the human intellect.
The name The Thinker is credited to foundry workers who felt the sculpture bore a notable resemblance to Michelangelo's sculpture of Lorenzo de Medici called Il Penseroso. The scale and detail of this piece took nearly 40 years to complete, and is recognized today as one of the most iconic works of modern art.
Of The Thinker's evocative emotion of being lost deep in thought, Rodin explained, "What makes my Thinker think is that he thinks not only with his brain, with his knitted brow, his distended nostrils and compressed lips, but with every muscle of his arms, back, and legs, with his clenched fist and gripping toes."
The Thinker is a critical piece in the Cantor Arts Center's impressive collection of Rodin works, assembled thanks to the close working relationship and friendship between Albert Elsen (1927–1995), the Stanford University curator, professor, and Rodin scholar, and B. Gerald Cantor (1916–1996), the American financier and philanthropist.
Mr. Cantor's initial gift of 89 works by Rodin to Stanford in 1974 became the largest ever gift of sculptures to a university art museum. His commitment to sharing art with the public and making it available for teaching purposes remains today.