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Issue Date: August 2009

The Thinker

Seth Shapiro
A cast of artist Auguste Rodin’s famous meditating man sat in quiet contemplation for 53 years prior to March 24, 1970. That’s when someone set off explosives equivalent to three sticks of dynamite beneath the sculpture, shredding its feet and legs into twisted metal and toppling it from its pedestal outside the Cleveland Museum of Art’s 1916 building. The city was aghast, and police never caught the culprit. But the defacing of the famous piece — which was donated to the museum in 1917 by Clevelander Ralph King, who had purchased it from Rodin himself — touched off the sympathies of art lovers throughout the country. Art dealer Alexandre Rosenberg even loaned the museum a 27-inch copy of The Thinker from his personal collection. But The Thinker survived and was returned to its place in 1974, unrepaired. “Not only is there the obvious damage to the lower section, there is also warping of the other parts and a breaking apart of seams,” museum executive director Sherman Lee said at the time. “If we did repair it, what we would in effect have is a new cast. Despite its damage, we feel it is a significant and moving work of art.”

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