Monday, November 12, 2012

They Moved The Thinker

Google’s search page reminded me of Rodin’s The Thinker again, it being the 172nd birthday of August Rodin today. This in turn moved me to find a photograph of the statue I’d first encountered at the north entrance of Kansas City’s then Nelson Gallery shortly after we had immigrated to the United States. We’d rented a house overlooking Gillham Park. Just a few blocks from south and east of there was the Gallery, as we called it, within easy walking-distance for recent Europeans. And there, at the back entrance, sat The Thinker. That was 1951. The Thinker sat there, from our point of view, for 56 long years, facing outward from the massive structure behind it and looking into the gloom of a dark wood, you might say. Okay. The wood wasn’t in any sense deep, but it was certainly dark. The figure represents Dante at the Gates of Hell:

Midway this way of life we’re bound upon
I woke to find myself in a dark wood,
Where the right road was wholly lost and gone.
     [Inferno, Canto I, Dorothy Sayers translation]

Well, I found out today that, in 2007—in order to make room for another rather modernistic addition to the currently named William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art—The Thinker got moved to the other side, facing south. That, in my opinion, was a bit of a mistake. The Thinker is now looking at a vast expanse of glorious green—and in the very, very far distance is Midwest Research Institute, where once I worked. Life at MRI had its ups and downs, but none of the downs even came close to Hell. Therefore the statue now seems out of place on that lawn. But down a ways from there, to the delight of all art lovers, is a gigantic badminton shuttlecock. You can see it on this blog here.


  1. Ah.. the Nelson Gallery... what nice memories, though I think I sometimes get images of Loose Park and the Nelson Gallery exterior mixed up in my mind. Both are lovely.

    Anyway, I guess the museum folks felt like The Thinker was too hidden in the "back yard," and neglected to think about his view.

    1. Your comment, Monique, is an indirect way of saying what a really nice place Kansas City really is. Ooodles of parks, and in all directions. Back in Kenwood days, to the north, to the south--and for huge distances. And then the Plaza, the Gallery, and with U of MO KC right next door to MRI...


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