The year 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of French sculptor Auguste Rodin’s death. The centenary is being celebrated with a lot of interesting exhibitions. Beyond I will offer you a guide covering two of the most important venues in his birth and workplace Paris – his museum and the show at Grand Palais.
Musée Rodin: 79 Rue de Varenne (Métro: M13 Varenne), 75007 Paris
History & architecture: First opened to the public in August 1919, the Musée Rodin was housed in a mansion, formerly called the Hôtel Peyrenc de Moras. Now known as the Hôtel Biron, it was built in the Rue de Varenne between 1727 and 1732 for a wealthy financier belonging to the “Ancién Régime”. The project by the king’s architect Jean Aubert is a shining example of the Rococo architecture that was common at this time. Constructed on the outer limits of Paris, it was both a town house and a country residence.
The estate was put up for sale and while awaiting a buyer, tenants were allowed to occupy the Hôtel Biron from 1905. Among them were several artists, the writer Jean Cocteau, the painter Henri Matisse, the dancer Isadora Duncan and the sculptress Clara Westhoff , future wife of the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, who first told Auguste Rodin about the estate. In 1908, the sculptor rented four south-facing, ground-floor rooms opening onto the terrace, to use as his studios. The garden probably made a strong impression on Rodin, encouraging him to place some of his works and part of his collection of antiques in the greenery. From 1911 onwards, he occupied the entire building.
One year later the property was officially sold to the State and Rodin did everything to save the mansion:
“I give the State all my works in plaster, marble, bronze and stone, and my drawings, as well as the collection of antiquities (…). And I ask the State to keep all these collections in the Hôtel Biron, which will be the Musée Rodin, reserving the right to reside there all my life.”
Collection & exhibitons: The museum owns nearly 400 works from Rodin among its galleries and surrounding gardens. It counts as the largest collection of the artist’s work. It mainly includes sculptures. Additionaly the visitors can watch and study drawings, paintings, prints, ceramics and photographies (from Rodin’s collection).
The most famous Rodin sculpture, “The Thinker” (1880), is showcased in the gardens opposite “The Gates of Hell” (1880–1917), a work that consumed him over the last three decades of his life. Rodin died before completing this sculpture, which embodies scenes from Dante’s Inferno. Other statues in the garden include “Balzac” and “The Burghers of Calais”. Rodin created many busts of friends and famous figures, including the French writer Victor Hugo, the Austrian composer Gustav Mahler and many more. The marble statue “The Kiss” (1886), once considered inappropriate for public viewing, is a centrepiece of the museum today.
Grand Palais: 3 Avenue du Général Eisenhower (Métro: M1, M13 Champs Elysées-Clemenceau), 75008 Paris
— THIS EXHIBITION ONLY RUNS UNTIL JULY 31st! —
The much reviewed and discussed exhibition at Grand Palais reveals Rodin’s creative universe, his relationship with his audience and his influence of other sculptors and artists in general. Featuring over 200 of Rodin’s works, it also includes sculptures and drawings by Bourdelle, Brancusi, Picasso, Matisse, Giacometti, Beuys, Baselitz and Gormley, putting a new light on the master of sculpture.
Advice: Buy your ticket online, so you don’t have to wait in line for two hours.
Enjoy my impressions and get your own by visiting them if you’re staying in Paris!
— Grand Palais —
All photos by Judith Bradlwarter ©