The Athlete (L'athlète)
Paris, France, 1840—Meudon, France, 1917
In 1901, the American athlete Samuel Stockton White III visited Paris and decided to sit as a model for the French sculptor Auguste Rodin, on the advice of a mutual friend. White was then a gymnast and award-winning bodybuilder who studied at Princeton University and Cambridge University. Over the course of three years and multiple sittings, Rodin made various studies of White in clay and plaster, eventually casting three different versions in bronze. This version, measuring about one and a half feet tall, shows the muscular White nude and seated in a relaxed pose, leaning forward with his head turned to the side. White recalled his experience in Rodin’s studio: “It was a long time before he was satisfied with the pose. He had me walk around his studio and studied me from all angles. Finally, he asked me to assume a natural pose. I remember sitting on a bench, with my arm resting on my leg as Rodin worked and worked with his infinite sense of detail.” White later became a prominent modern art collector, bequeathing his collection to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.