A Multi Sensory Tour of the Art Gallery of Ontario


So once again the marvellous AGO has surprised me!
I stepped in for a member’s preview of the Patti Smith photography exhibit and ended up doing a wonderful guided “ Multi-sensory tour

Designed for sight impaired folk this tour gives you a chance to touch some of the sculpture noticeably two definitive Rodin pieces and partially “sense” a clay sculpture of Count Robert de Montesquieo-Fezensac by Prince Paolo Troubetsky.

We approach Rodin’s huge 7ft cast bronze figure of Adam.

Even as a sighted person closing your eyes to feel beneath your hands ; the creation ;that was Rodin’s original depiction of Adam is powerful stuff.-he full-onn touching experience only marginally reduced by thenecessity of wearing purple plastic gloves .

This is indeed a unique experience/privilege as ordinarily and obviously you are not anle to ;”touch” anything in the museum.

So with your eyes tightly shut, listen to the guide tell the stories behind these figures and rely upon your sense of touch to experience art in a whole new dimension.

;Is ;it cold or warm? – clue – it is bronze cast.

“Walk” your hands over the musculature of his arms – the attitude of each upper limb borrowed from Michelangelo art (see below) – both smooth and rough under your fingers, this dichotomy due to the fact that Rodin was not afraid to leave evidence of the bronze caste process AND
Rodin himself was visually challenged so the fine detail his present and fashionable in the sculptures of his contemporaries is not present – he was criticised heavily for this ;trait during his lifetime – ;but there is ;detail enough to be able to trace the human form simply by using the hands

Run your hands up the neck over the stretched and contorted sinews; if you can’t see, you would most certainly be able to feel the angst, the twisted contortion of Adam’s pose.

So to those arms!
The right Arm alludes to Micelangelo’s “The Creation of Man” in the Sistine Chapel fresco and
Left arm directly lifted from the dead Christ of the Pita in the Cathedral of Florence – Michelangelo..

So now a physical exercise: try putting yourself into that exact position. It’s a bit like trying to position yourself ;into ;the twisted, ;shoulders front, feet and head in profile stance of an ancient Egyptian figure in a tomb painting – virtually impossible. ; ;Rodin managed to conevy the whole passage of life in one sculpure – the figure has been ;framed by the beginning and end of life in.a pose that suggests a “shooting” upwards from the moment of birth with the torture of life in between and then the contorted ;agony of dying;

Now you need your eyes or your hands again ;- look at/feel feet and hands – huge and out of proportion- Rodin’s nod to depicting the humanity of his figures and a bit of a trademark.

Notice the green patina – this was often achieved by urinating on the freshly cast bronze!!!!

Over to a more modest size bronze also based on Adam.
Much smaller and famously known throughout the world as “the Thinker” but this was never the meaning attached by Rodin to the sculpture. He ;was commissioned by the Directorate of Fine Arts in Paris to create a massive scene of “Dante’s Inferno” which was to be the “welcoming” structure/gate for ;a new Decoratif ;Arts Museum. ;The museum never materialised. even though Rodin had worked on and off on pieces for it until his death. The product of his life’s work can be found in the Musee Rodin in Paris.

He had several variously sized casts made of this sculpture; one was for his tomb; one is in the Detroit Institure for the Arts and one in Paris

Back in the AGO we ere also treated to vivid and detailed descriptions of other artworks in the European Gallery (where the Rodins are situated) – so that if you were sight- impaired you could build a minds-eye view if what the docent was describing.

The “tour” then took us ; on a “through the ages” quest visiting connecting artworks -mainly depictions of Christ‘s Crucifixtion in order to explore the Church’s obsession – during the Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance ages – with making the artistic allegorical connection between Christ and Adam in the artworks of the time.


Over and Ou


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