The headline doesn’t reveal that the question has been posed to just two people for this article: the French sculptor Auguste Rodin (whose sculpture The Thinker is still famous today) and the American sculptor Gutzon Borglum (whose much larger work at Mount Rushmore wouldn’t begin for another 15 years). They discuss modern, historical, and ethnic beauty from an artist’s perspective, including how a woman’s beauty changes as she gets older.
Here is part of what Rodin had to say:
“I would not say that a woman is like a landscape that the sun’s inclination changes ceaselessly; but the comparison is correct. Real youth with our models lasts scarcely more than six months. When the girl becomes a woman it is another sort of beauty, still admirable but nevertheless less pure.”
And part of Borglum’s retort:
“I do not see exactly what Rodin means,” he said, “when he talks about the beauty of the woman being less pure than that of the girl. Of course he cannot mean that a mother is any less pure than a young girl, and if he is talking about it from an aesthetic point of view the question arises, ‘What is beauty, anyway?’
“Nobody can pass on that. it is exactly as he says — in the eyes of the beholder. You see a landscape. I ask you if you like it. You say ‘Not much, it is too dull and gray.’ Then I paint it and you rave over it. The beauty was always there, but it needed my interpretation to make you see it. That is what being an artist means, seeing things that the general run of people cannot see, and interpreting for them. So it is out of the question for any of us to say that a woman is more beautiful at one time than at another. It all depends on the interpretation.”
IS THE MODERN WOMAN MORE BEAUTIFUL THAN THE GIRL OF AGES AGO (PDF)
From May 29, 1910