Today’s favorite photograph is Edward Steichen’s (1879-1973) “Rodin–Le Penseur, 1906.” The image, as shown, is a photogravure. It shows the French Sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) pensive in his studio with some of his work looming over him. Of course, the emphasis is on what is arguably his greatest, or at least his most famous work, “The Thinker,” and Rodin mimics the pose.
Compare this photograph to the first image that we posted in this series of Favorite Photographs, Roman Vishniac’s, 1938 photograph, “The only flowers of her youth.” In that case, the extreme power of the image only is revealed if you know the context of the photograph. Consider “Rodin – Le Penseur,” even if you do not know who Rodin was, you immediately get both the sense that he is a contemplative cerebral man, that his world is dark and tumultuous, and that he has some association with sculpture and art. The image tells the entire story. It speaks for itself – and only the very select few photographs attain that level of self explanation. In so doing, Steichen’s “Le Penseur” is truly a masterpiece of portraiture.