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Objects in AirArtworks and Their Outside around 1900$
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Margareta Ingrid Christian

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780226764771

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2022

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226764801.001.0001

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Saturated Forms

Saturated Forms

Rilke’s and Rodin’s Sculpture of Environment

(p.71) Chapter 3 Saturated Forms
Objects in Air

Margareta Ingrid Christian

University of Chicago Press

This chapter, focusing on Rainer Maria Rilke’s writings on Rodin and his poem Archaic Torso of Apollo, examines how Rilke harnesses an idea of environment for art objects and how this idea is situated at the threshold of aesthetic and biological theories of milieu. Rilke, who studied art history and registered for lectures on Darwin’s theory of evolution, reconfigures the artwork’s dependence on its milieu into the artwork’s vitalist creation of its own surroundings, namely, into sculpture’s spatial radiance, its atmosphere. Rilke’s aesthetic environment resonates not only with Uexküll’s later concept of Umwelt, it also preempts two major currents of German aesthetic thought in the twentieth century: it articulates the dynamics of the aura and it resonates with Heidegger’s later insistence that the artwork opens up a world even as it remains within itself. In contradistinction to an art-historical tradition that insists on the incompatibility between a form’s autonomy and its spatial immersion, as in Riegl and Worringer, Rilke presents the space around an artwork as the measure of its self-enclosure. The chapter also shows how Rilke extends sculptures’ spaciomaterial self-transcendence into a spaciotemporal one and it presents a notion of aesthetic metabolism that subtends Rilke’s theory of art.

Keywords:   Rainer Maria Rilke, Rodin, sculpture, atmosphere, Archaic Torso of Apollo, Umwelt, Heidegger, Uexküll, art theory, environment

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