Think you know about UofL's Thinker? Think again.


He’s a masterpiece among us — the real deal.

The Thinker statue that sits in front of Grawemeyer Hall is the first large-scale bronze cast of The Thinker. French sculptor Auguste Rodin personally supervised the casting in Paris. It came out of the mold Dec. 25, 1903, and was completed in early 1904. The Thinker design has been cast many times. Eight were made before Rodin’s death in 1917.

As the first large-scale Thinker ever cast, UofL’s Thinker claims priority as the most original.

He has been around.

Rodin sent The Thinker to the 1904 World’s Fair. It was owned privately in Baltimore and later was displayed in the Walters Art Museum there. When Baltimore purchased another Thinker, the museum sold the sculpture to the estate of lawyer and art lover Arthur Hopkins, which bought it for the city of Louisville. The city decided to put The Thinker at UofL.

The Thinker has sat in front of Grawemeyer Hall since 1949.

He used to be green.

Chemical reactions of acids in rainwater with copper compounds in the bronze had turned our Thinker green. Between December 2011 and February 2012, conservators cleaned the corrosion and gave him a black-over-green patina similar to that on other versions of The Thinker.

The Thinker goes way back.

The origins of The Thinker date to 1880. Rodin originally conceived of The Thinker as a statue to be installed at the top of a pair of monumental doors he’d been commissioned to design for a museum of decorative arts. He envisioned the figure as “The Inferno” poet Dante looking down on hell. Rodin called the entire piece The Gates of Hell.

Rodin refined the design over the next 20 years, although it never served its original purpose.

He’s recognized everywhere.

Many art historians consider The Thinker to be the most famous sculpture in the world. Its image has been used in media campaigns and it even played an important role in the early days of television when it was incorporated in a popular TV show called “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,” set on a college campus.

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