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Located in the 18th century Hotel Biron is the impressive collection of Auguste Rodin at the Musee R

“Rodin Museum, in French Musée Rodin, museum in Paris, France, showcasing the sculptures, drawings, and other works of the French artist Auguste Rodin and based in the Hôtel Biron.

The Hôtel Biron, covering 3 hectares (7.4 acres) of land in Paris, was completed in 1730 by Jean Aubert. Rodin moved into the Hôtel Biron in 1908 and continued his work there until his death. As Rodin fell seriously ill in 1916, the French government called for the establishment of a museum to house his work. Three years later the Hôtel Biron officially opened as the primary museum displaying Rodin’s artistic accomplishments.

The museum includes nearly 400 pieces of art by Rodin among its galleries and surrounding gardens. Perhaps the most famous of Rodin’s sculptures, The Thinker (1880), is showcased in the gardens opposite The Gates of Hell, 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 found 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 the English socialite-turned-writer Vita Sackville-West. Many of these creations are found in the museum. The Bronze Age (1876), one of his early statues, was inspired by a trip to Italy, where Rodin studied the sculptures of the Italian Renaissance artist Michelangelo. The marble statue The Kiss (1886), once considered inappropriate for public viewing, is today a centerpiece of the museum.

Rodin collected the works of other notable artists of his time, including Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and these works are housed in the museum. The museum also includes a room devoted to the works of the French sculptor Camille Claudel, who was Rodin’s student and mistress.”

“Rodin was an extraordinary creative artist and a prolific worker. After attending the “Petite École”, he worked in the studio of the ornamentalist Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse, first in Paris, then in Brussels, where his skill in handling decorative subjects fashionable in the 18th century became apparent. His discovery of Michelangelo, during a visit to Italy in 1875-76,was a decisive moment in his career. Rodin would, in turn, break new ground in sculpture, paving the way for 20th-century art, by introducing methods and techniques that were central to his own artistic aesthetics.

Rodin was a prolific draughtsman, producing some 10,000 drawings, over 7,000 of which are now in the Musée Rodin, Paris. His drawings were seldom used as studies or projects for a sculpture or monument. The draughtsman’s oeuvre developed in tandem with the sculptor’s. Although the works on paper can only be shown periodically, owing to their fragility, the role they played in Rodin’s art was by no means minor. As the sculptor himself said at the end of his life, “It’s very simple. My drawings are the key to my work,” (Benjamin, 1910)

Rodin’s friendships and tastes led to him surrounding himself with works by the Naturalists (Théodule Ribot, Alfred Roll, Jules Bastien-Lepage, Fritz Thaulow…) and Symbolists (Eugène Carrière, Charles Cottet...). While the Neo-Impressionists, the Nabis and the Fauves are not represented in his collection, the sculptor did, however, purchase three Van Goghs (including Père Tanguy, late 1887), Renoir’s Nude in the Sunlight, and Monet’s Belle-Île, which are true masterpieces. Through a series of exchanges made with his friend of almost 20 years, Rodin also owned eight paintings by Eugène Carrière, who shared the sculptor’s fondness for unfinished works.

In the early 1890s, when living in Meudon, Rodin began to collect ancient works of art from Egypt, Greece and Rome, then later from the Far East. Fragments of Venuses, Greek vases and Egyptian figurines in bronze invaded the spaces in which he worked and lived, replacing the rare casts after Antique statues, traditionally present in a sculptor’s studio. As Rodin’s fame grew, the many commissions he received enabled him to purchase over 6,000 works of art between 1893 and 1917.”

The Thinker

Auguste Rodin (1840 -1917)

1903 Bronze H. 180 cm ; W. 98 cm ; D. 145 cm

Cast made by Fonderie Alexis Rudier in 1904. Transfered to the musée Rodin in 1922.

“When conceived in 1880 in its original size (approx. 70 cm) as the crowning element of The Gates of Hell , seated on the tympanum, The Thinker was entitled The Poet. He represented Dante, author of the Divine Comedy which had inspired The Gates, leaning forward to observe the circles of Hell, while meditating on his work. The Thinker was therefore initially both a being with a tortured body, almost a damned soul, and a free-thinking man, determined to transcend his suffering through poetry. The pose of this figure owes much to Carpeaux’s Ugolino (1861) and to the seated portrait of Lorenzo de’ Medici carved by Michelangelo (1526-31).

While remaining in place on the monumental Gates of Hell, The Thinker was exhibited individually in 1888 and thus became an independent work. Enlarged in 1904, its colossal version proved even more popular: this image of a man lost in thought, but whose powerful body suggests a great capacity for action, has become one of the most celebrated sculptures ever known. Numerous casts exist worldwide, including the one now in the gardens of the Musée Rodin, a gift to the City of Paris installed outside the Panthéon in 1906, and another in the gardens of Rodin’s house in Meudon, on the tomb of the sculptor and his wife.”

Monument to Balzac

Auguste Rodin (1840 -1917)

1898 Bronze H. 270 cm ; W. 120.5 cm ; D. 128 cm

Cast by Alexis Rudier, 1935, for the museum collections

“Having conducted his research into Balzac’s body and head simultaneously, Rodin ended up with an assemblage in which these two elements conveyed their own values. While the head had evolved from a portrait resembling the writer into a concentration of expressive features , the body had moved in the opposite direction, veering towards a dilution of form in a symphony of nuances materialized in the fluid surface of the dressing gown .

What Rodin finally produced in 1897, after six years of labour, was a revolutionary monument. Stripped of the writer’s usual attributes (armchair, pen,book…), his Balzac was not so much a portrait but a powerful evocation of the visionary genius whose gaze dominated the world, of the inspired creator draped in the monk’s habit he used to wear when writing.

This overly innovative monument caused such an outrage when it was unveiled in 1898 that the commission was cancelled. Rodin never saw his monument cast in bronze.”

Pallas with the Parthenon

Auguste Rodin (1840 -1917)

1896 Marble, Plaster H. 47 cm ; W. 38.7 cm ; D. 31 cm

“Rodin admired the classical beauty of Mariana Russell, the Italian wife of his friend, the Australian painter, John Russell. At his request, Rodin modelled the bust of the young woman in 1888, but he then took the initiative of re-using it as a starting point for other works. In 1889, Rodin exhibited the face alone, in the form of a silver head, and then transformed this portrait into an allegory.

His sitter’s regular features reminded him so much of the perfection of Antique masterpieces that he turned Mrs Russell into Pallas with a Helmet, an evocation of Athena, the Greek goddess of reason, knowledge and the art of war. Pursuing his investigations in this vein, he reworked a marble portrait of the young woman, placing a small plaster model of the Parthenon on her head. This was a reference to Antiquity’s most famous temple, the main place of worship dedicated to the goddess in her native city of Athens. Rodin thus revived the image of the poliad divinity, the personification of a city crowned with fortifications, while proclaiming his love of ancient Greece, the unsurpassable model.”

The Gates of Hell

1880-circa 1890 Bronze H. 635 cm ; W. 400 cm ; D. 85 cm

“Cast made by Fonderie Alexis Rudier in 1928 for the museum collections.

The Gates of Hell occupied a unique place in Rodin’s oeuvre. Working feverishly on this project for several years, he created over 200 figures and groups that formed a breeding ground for ideas which he drew on for the rest of his working life. Having hoped to exhibit his Gates at the 1889 Exposition Universelle, but probably too busy to finish them, the sculptor stopped working on them circa 1890.

He did, however, express his desire to complete them on several occasions. In 1900, he decided to finally unveil them at his first solo exhibition in Paris. But they were shown in a fragmentary state, since he had given up the idea of mounting the figures that stood out the most – the individual figures cast separately from the main structure – because he thought they produced too strong an effect of contrast with the background.

In 1907, The Gates almost saw the day in a luxury bronze and marble version to be erected in the Musée du Luxembourg, which housed works purchased by the French state from contemporary artists.

Not until 1917 did Léonce Bénédite, the Musée Rodin’s first curator, manage to persuade the sculptor to allow him to reconstruct his masterpiece in order to have it cast in bronze. Rodin died before seeing the result of all these long years of effort.”

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