Musée Rodin, Paris

August 30, 2017 No Comments

The Musée Rodin is housed in the Hôtel Biron, a Mansion that was built on the Rue de Varenne in Paris, between 1727 and 1732. One of the things I love about the Musée Rodin is that Rodin actually lived and worked here and so did a number of great artists. There are nearly 300 works from Rodin’s collection on view at the Museum, including some works by other artists, such as Camille Claudel. The museum first opened to the public in 1919, not very long after Rodin moved out and only two years after his death.

The history of the estate and how it became a museum is worth reading about. Here is a bit from the Musée Rodin website to whet your appetite. “It 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 (1889-1963), the painter Henri Matisse, the dancer Isadora Duncan and the sculptress Clara Westhoff (1878-1954), future wife of the poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1921), who first told Auguste Rodin about the estate. In 1908, the sculptor thus rented four south-facing, ground-floor rooms opening onto the terrace, to use as his studios. The garden that had run wild probably made a strong impression on Rodin, encouraging him to place some of his works and part of his collection of antiques amidst its greenery. From 1911 onwards, he occupied the entire building.”


Musée Rodin


The grounds outside the museum stretch almost 8 miles. The garden had been neglected and overgrown by the time Rodin moved in. In 1908, he began to put works in the garden, together with some antiques he owned. “Male and female torsos, copies made in the Roman or modern period, after Greek works, were presented in these natural surroundings, their contours dappled by the sunlight: ‘Nature and Antiquity are the two great sources of life for an artist. In any event, Antiquity implies nature. It is its truth and its smile.’ (Rodin).” Today the gardens are well maintained and quite beautiful. There are many wonderful bronze works in the gardens. There is also nice cafe on the grounds to enjoy a snack, drink and a rest.

View of the extensive grounds from inside the Musée Rodin.


Emily at the Cafe.  Musée Rodin


When you first enter the property you come upon The Gates of Hell. If you study it closely you will discover that many of the smaller sculptures on these massive doors show up again in Rodin’s work. Rodin received a commission in 1880, to create a pair of bronze doors for a new decorative arts museum in Paris. The museum didn’t happen and the doors were never finished. Regardless, he spent thirty-seven-years working on the project, continually adding, removing, or altering the two hundred plus human figures on the doors. As you can see on closer inspection some of his best-known sculptures, like The ThinkerThe Three Shades, and The Kiss, were originally created to be part of The Gates and were only later removed, enlarged, and cast as independent pieces.

The Gates of Hell, Musée Rodin


The Gates of Hell (detail), Musée Rodin


Someone is sneaking up in me at the Musée Rodin


The Thinker in the Garden at Musée Rodin


The interior of the museum is gorgeous and filled with art.

Musée Rodin


Musée Rodin


Musée Rodin


The Thinker, Musée Rodin


The Minotaur, Musée Rodin


The Kiss, circa 1882 Musée Rodin



There are also a number of works by Camille Claudel at the Rodin Museum. Her father, Louis-Prosper Claudel, moved the family to Paris so that Camille could study art. When Rodin received his first major commissions in the early 1880s, he brought together a team of assistants to work with him in his studio.  Camille Claudel joined the group around 1884.  She seems to have spent a lot of her time on difficult pieces, such as the hands and feet of figures for monumental sculptures (notably The Gates of Hell).  Claudel learned a lot from Rodin during this time, including his method for profiles and the significance of expression. She also followed her own pursuits. She received her first commissions and sought recognition as an independent artist at the Salon. Between 1882 and 1889, Claudel routinely exhibited busts and portraits of people close to her at the Salon des Artistes Français. Some of her works were purchased by French museums in the 1890s.


Sakuntala, [known as Vertumnus and Pomona], by Camille Claudel, 1905, marble

Rodin and Camille became lovers, but he refused to leave his wife for her. “L’âge mûr ou La destinée, 1899, bronze. The Mature Age by Camille Claudel.  The Age of Maturity (1893-1900) is probably the work that most lends itself to an interpretation based on autobiographical narrative: the end of the relationship between Claudel and Rodin.  In actual fact, the association of the three figures with Camille Claudel, Auguste Rodin and Rose Beuret arose some time after the sculpture was first exhibited. The critics initially saw it as the “symbolic representation of Destiny, in which the ageing man is torn away from love, youth and life”. The work was a turning-point in Claudel’s career, a key moment, when she attained the full mastery of her powers, when she began to be recognized by the establishment, but when she realized she would never reach the heights that she could justifiably hope for. In the first version, the man stands in the centre, torn between two women, one old, the other young. The second version, full of powerful movement, intensifies the drama: this time the man turns his back on the imploring figure of the young woman, having letting go of her hand, and is led away by an old woman who also depicts Time.”  Camille Claudel page on the Musée Rodin.

The Mature Age by Camille Claudel


The Mature Age by Camille Claudel












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