Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Philadelphia --- The Rodin Museum

The French sculptor, Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) is now considered among the greatest sculptors of all time but it wasn't always that way and he suffered great criticism in his lifetime for his adherence to naturalism in his sculpture. However slowly he built a solid reputation and he began to receive commissions. He also spent a period of time in Italy where he studied the work of Michelangelo, who obviously had a great influence on the direction of his sculpture.

One of his best known sculptures, The Thinker, sits outside the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia which for me was a highlight of our visit to Philadelphia.

In 1923 Jules Mastbaum, a very rich Philadelphia philanthropist began collecting Rodin's work with the idea of creating a museum for the city. He assembled the greatest collection of Rodin outside of the Paris Rodin Museum and he commissioned architects to design a beautiful neoclassical museum and garden. Sadly he died in 1926 before its completion but the museum opened in 1929, showcasing 128 of Rodin's sculptures and plaster studies.

Interestingly enough, The Thinker, was a study made for his famous commission, The Gates of Hell, upon which he worked from 1880 until his death in 1917. Originally a 27.5 inch bronze and entitled The Poet, after Dante, The Thinker later became enlarged and a separate work and has been cast 61 times in all, with a copy on his tomb in Meudon, France where he died.

The outer entrance to the Philadelphia Rodin Museum, with The Thinker on the white pedestal, rather lost in the background

The formal pool and garden between the outer entrance and the museum itself. You can just see The Thinker centred in the opening

The main gallery of the Rodin Museum, with The Burghers of Calais in the centre
This larger than life monumental group was a commission from the Mayor of Calais and was completed in 1889.

A close-up of the figures of The Burghers of Calais

Entitled Mignon, this exquisite bronze represents a twenty-five year old Rose Beuret, Rodin's lifelong companion for more than fifty years, despite his many other lovers. Mother of his son, his model, and finally his wife at the age of 72, she died two weeks after the marriage.

The Martyr, a life-sized bronze figure of a woman, conceived for The Gates of Hell but not cast until 1925, after Rodin's death.

The exquisite sculpture Eternal Springtime, a mere twenty eight inches of beauty, grace and passion. This sculpture was very popular and Rodin repeated it often in marble and bronze

I have so many more photos, some good, some not so good, from my visit but this post is already too long. All photos are mine except the one below. Since The Gates of Hell casting at the entrance to the Museum was one of the not so good photos, mainly because they were at the top of a staircase and I could not stand far enough away to photograph them completely I have used this one which can be copied freely. It is the casting at the Musée Rodin in Paris.

I can not tell you how much I enjoyed this museum. The splendid building, its design and its beautiful situation in the park were indeed a worthy setting for this wonderful collection, so carefully assembled by Mr Mastbaum.

If you ever go to Philadelphia, do not omit this treasure from your itinerary. It's definitely worth a visit.


Lord Higham- Murray said...

The real "Thinker"? The original? Wow. What a philistine I am. Didn't know that.

Plus aren't the other sculptures a bit risque for your blog, JMB? :)

Eurodog said...

I too love Rodin and remember being in a daze for days after visiting the Rodin Museum in Paris. I have never been to Philadelphia but will visit the museum if I ever go there.
I always associate Rodin with Camille Claudel who went into mental decline after their affair ended. I gather she died in a psychiatric institution where she had been interned 30 years.

Janice Thomson said...

Oh thank you so much for this informative post and the wonderful photos of Rodin's work! His sculptures are deeply expressive. Although 'The Thinker' is my favorite I find exquisite beauty in all his pieces and admire the 'Martyr' for the emotions it evokes as well.
Excellent post Jmb.

rlbates said...

Thanks for taking me to the museum! Loved it!

Crushed by Ingsoc said...

I think in fact Rodin did several versions of this statue, which is why it is often depicted differently.

jmb, did you post just the title first, by accident?
I clicked here last night to find 'Philadelphia' on it's own...

Ellee said...

I know I would love this museum too. I particularly like The Kiss, I have seen a copy at the Tate Modern.

david mcmahon said...

My first stop, the next time I'm in Philly. Thank you ...

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Another wonderful post, jmb. I had no idea that there was such a Rodin collection in Philadelphia. I love that Mignon photo.

Lee said...

Wow! What a wonderful museum! I didn't know "The Thinker" was in Philadelphia! That certainly is an eye-opener...all of what you've depicted is an eye-opener! Thanks, jmb.

jmb said...

Hi James,
Well one of 61 originals, as it turns out. Different sizes too.
Risque? This is ART!

Hi Eurodog,
Sadly I have not been to the Rodin Museum in Paris. Camille Claudel is also an interesting person and sculptor but I did not photograph any that she was the model for so did not mention her. Supposedly her family kept her locked up unnecessarily for many of those years.

Hi Janice,
I like the Kiss too and have seen it at the Tate many years ago.

Hi R,
Glad that you enjoyed the tour. It is a special place.

Hi Crushed,
I believe that is so. Certainly different sizes.
Yes, inadvertently an empty post, titled Philadelphia, was published for an instant last night. Unfortunately bloglines perpetuated its memory for a time. Did you think the old lady had lost it?

HI Ellee,
I have seen the Kiss at the Tate many years ago and apparently there are many copies in bronze around the world.

HI David,
You would not regret a visit there at all. I hope you make it.

I loved the Mignon too. It was so beautiful and I took many photos of it, with flash, without flash but they were not great. This one I lightened a little and it was the best of the bunch.

Hi Lee,
The Thinker is everywhere since so many have been cast. But this was a truly wonderful museum. I loved it.

Thanks to all of you for visiting and commenting

Anonymous said...


I saw 'The Thinker' and 'Balzac' by Rodin in the Paris Metro - the subway station nearest to the Rodin Museum. They were life size replicas, of course, but how nice to have such an exhibit in the subway!

All the best,

'Saw Lady'

jmb said...

Hi Saw Lady,
What a nice idea to have Rodin in the Paris Metro. Did you busk there too? I don't remember buskers at the Metro, just a lot of Africans selling nuts but I haven't been for a few years.

Ellee said...

Are you allowed to touch the statues? I wouldn't be able to resist.

Crushed by Ingsoc said...

Initially, I was thinking it was a link, but nothing happened.

I was puzzled for a while, but guessed rightly in the end.

Carver said...


Very interesting post and photographs. I googled Rodin and NC Art Museum after reading your post because I felt like I had heard something about us getting some Rodin's. I found out that my state's museum received a gift of 22 bronze sculptures of Rodin as a gift by a foundation which "makes the Museum one of the world's top Rodin repositories." It went on to say "Museum to house the only major Rodin museum in the south. New galleries and Rodin Study Center to open in 2008."

Since it's only a 15 minute drive from my house, I'll have to go as soon as it opens. Thanks for giving me the impetus to discover what's coming up and will be something to look forward to. I've been thinking about going to the museum for the outdoor art walk to take pictures for my blog because I've never taken pictures there. I used to go to the museum quite regularly but haven't lately.

Regards, Carver

Liz said...

What a fabulous place!

"he suffered great criticism in his lifetime for his adherence to naturalism in his sculpture." I'm glad he stuck with it; I much prefer sculpture I can identify, at least in part.

I didn't know that sculptures could be cast many times. (I am an ignoramus about art!)

sally in norfolk said...

i love all those sculptures....

jmb said...

Hi Ellee,
I don't know if you are but I didn't just in case.

Hi Crushed,
I finally put up the post correctly. Just a little glitch!

Hi Carver,
You community is very lucky to get these sculptures so you must go when they open the gallery.

Hi Liz,
It was a fabulous museum. With Rodin, you are only supposed to cast each one 12 times maximum, although they have been a bit loosey goosey with some of them.

Hi Sally,
Glad you enjoyed the photos, the reality is even better.

Thanks to you all for visiting and commenting

Lord Higham- Murray said...

Ah - art! Yes, I was forgetting that.