Thursday, 15 November 2012

Rodin Museum, Paris

Rodin Museum, Paris

Although I have visited the Rodin museum on so many occasions I can barely count them it still never fails to enchant me. As you walk into the gardens there is a sense of tranquillity and calm; a feeling for me that I have escaped the city and can, for a brief period in time, lose myself in the gardens and admire the immensely moving and grand bronze sculptures - masterpieces of design and intensity - that they house. Having just recently visited the Musee Rodin this October I could really feel the sense that Nature and Art are living alongside each other, the oranges and yellows of the tree’s leaves providing a colourful and vibrant contrast to the many dark, lifelike sculptures that are housed in the property.

Auguste Rodin was born in 1840 and is now generally considered to be the progenitor of modern sculpture. He was drawn to the works of Donatello and Michelangelo when he visited Italy in 1875 and we see how it had a profound effect on his work. Not interested in mythology or allegory Rodin was a Naturalist; concerned with character and emotion and he modelled the human body with realism, individual character and physicality. He was also a master of form, light and shadows as seen, for example, in his tremendous sculpture, Gates of Hell. In this awe inspiring and monumental sculpture of Dante’s Inferno we see the details of the sculptures and forms that Rodin intricately moulds on the walls of the door. The Thinker, being one of the sculptures on the Gates of Hell began life as a 27.5 inch high bronze piece on the lintel of the gate from which the figure would gaze down on Hell. Also known as The Poet, we see aspects of the biblical Abraham, the renowned poet Dante and Rodin himself in the sculpture. Rodin was not enormously popular during his life time and he survived on commissions. The Gates of Hell was paid for by his Japanese patron Mastsukate Kojiro and was won as a commission in 1880 for a planned museum of decorative arts in Paris that eventually never came into fruition. Yet it is interesting to think that Rodin was never accepted into Paris’ foremost school, the “Grand Ecole” and throughout his life had to fight the negativity and criticism of his peers.

Many of the portal figures in the Gates of Hell became sculptures in their own right such as his most famous sculptures The Thinker and The Kiss. Rodin’s bigger version of The Thinker is grand and awe inspiring, staring up at the sculpture one feels one’s own smallness and humanity. Rodin was known to have said “What makes my Thinker think is that he thinks not only with his brain, with his knitted brow, his distended nostrils and compressed lips but with every muscle of his arms, back and legs, with his clenched fist and gripping toes”. The emotional intensity and virility of the sculpture as well as its physical force is what makes it stand out so much in the museum and as a timeless masterpiece in the modern world.

Rodin was incredibly talented and productive during his lifetime. His sculptures may obscure his total creative output as he created thousands of busts, figures, sculptural fragments over five decades. He also painted in oils and watercolours and the Musee Rodin in fact have 7,000 of his drawings and prints in chalk, charcoal and drypoint; many of which can be seen inside the museum. Added to this is the delightful café at the back of the gardens which serves delicious hot and cold food. The audioguides are well worth renting especially if you are visiting with children as they have a special audioguide specifically tailored for them.

To this day the Rodin museum will remain one of my favourite museums in Paris, my favourite in the world. An exquisite haven in a busy metropolis. A museum where I can lose myself in a world of timeless sculptures and beauty. If you haven’t been you must go! The museum should not be missed, by Larissa Woolf, Arts Editor,

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