The Rodin Museum is located in Paris’ 18th-century mansion, Hotel Biron. The mansion itself is beautiful and contains some lovely pieces. Displayed throughout the rooms are clay sketches, plaster casts, and bronze and marble sculptures. What a wonderful place to get to explore the artist’s work and to see special exhibits.
The sculpture garden has always been one of our favorite spots with bronze masterpieces including The Thinker, Balzac, the Burghers of Calais, and the extraordinary Gates of Hell.
An Overview of Rodin’s Training
On one trip the museum contained an exhibition that began with an overview of the artist’s training—including his failing of the entrance exam to Ecoles des Beaux-Arts. It discussed how his first views of Michelangelo’s work gave him an entirely new point of view. It prompted him to create The Age of Bronze. The work was so anatomically correct that he was falsely charged with making a cast of an actual human, rather than crafting a sculpture from start.
The chapel takes an interesting approach to display individual works. Through a combination of photos, clay and plaster models, and marble pieces, it showed how many of Rodin’s most iconic pieces evolved. It takes you from concept, through multiple stages, and in some cases, through totally different concepts to become the finished works that we recognize today. It takes us through this process with pieces, such as tributes to Victor Hugo and Honore de Balzac, which were initially viewed as scandalous. Some of the pieces were rejected by those who commissioned a work that has since become iconic representations of these individuals.
Burghers of Calais
His representations experienced a similar rejection when he delivered models for the incredibly powerful Burghers of Calais. He was commissioned to create a monument of the six men who sacrificed their lives to save their townspeople at the end of the 100 Year War.
His work was initially rejected for providing too personal and individualist representations of the heroes. We were especially pleased that the museum chose the image of our personal favorite of these men (the heroic, defiant Jean d’Aire) to demonstrate the progress of this poignant piece. And all of these portrayals of the creative process became particularly compelling when you leave the chapel and enter the garden to see finished versions of these and many of the artist’s other works.
The Gates of Hell
The very process of going through this stage—and particularly when you get to Rodin’s absolute masterwork—The Gates of Hell—do you see the creative process in action. You see the synthesizing approaches that he developed in creating other works. In many instances, he recombines the same figures that he initially produced as standalone works, into totally new creations. They then become far more powerful and provide much greater insight than could ever be possible from individual works.
On another visit, the museum had a special exhibition that included an absolutely beautiful bust named “Diane”. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed in this exhibition, but you can see what we mean here.
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