LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The University of Louisville today welcomed The Thinker back to Belknap Campus after a two-month absence. The iconic Auguste Rodin sculpture had been away for the first time since it was installed at UofL in 1949 so conservators could clean it and apply a new patina.
The 108-year-old sculpture is the first Thinker that Rodin cast. It dates to Dec. 25, 1903.
Sculpture conservators Shelley Reisman Paine, owner of Shelley Paine Conservation LLC; and Andrew Lins, Neubauer family chair of conservation at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, cleaned the sculpture inside and out, removing atmospheric corrosion and other foreign matter. Because the original patina no longer remained, they gave The Thinker a new layered black-over-green patina similar to that on other Thinker statues.
“We couldn’t be happier that The Thinker is back at his post, all cleaned up and ready for another 100 years of service,” said UofL President James Ramsey, noting that the sculpture is public art that anyone can see free of charge every day of the year.
“This is a major historical monument,” said Christopher Fulton, head of UofL’s art history program. “The Thinker is probably the best known sculpture in the entire world. Its two closest competitors might be the Statue of Liberty and Michelangelo’s David.”
UofL administrators said that frequent budget cuts made the sculpture’s care nearly impossible. Last year, Ramsey asked Gov. Steve Beshear for permission to expand the scope of a federally funded project for the entrances at Third and Eastern Parkway and The Oval to include The Thinker’s conservation and to give it a new, Bedford limestone pedestal. The extension of the state-secured federal funds allowed the project to be implemented without spending university general funds.
For more information on The Thinker and its conservation, contact Fulton at 502-852-7629 or 502-292-0510. A fact sheet, video B-roll and before/after photos are at uofl.me/thnkr-m.