With its serene sculpture-filled three-hectare garden and magnificent mansion, the Rodin Museum is one of the most captivating museums in Paris. Open all year round, visiting the museum's collections and its gardens can be an unforgettable and relaxing experience.
The works of Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) were considered scandalous during his lifetime. They deviated from the decorative and thematic style of sculpture of his time; they were considered powerful, sexual, and raw. He was unconventional in his methods of working, letting his models move around his studio instead of standing immobile. Over the years, Rodin built his reputation by gaining important commissions from reputable clients. By the time his works were exhibited at the Pavillion de l'Alma during the Paris Universal Exposition in 1900, the public had warmed up to him and he was finally acknowledged as an important artist in his own right.
The Rodin Museum is now housed in the artist's former workshop, the Hotel Biron, a beautiful hotel particulier in the heart of Paris dating back to the 18th century. In the early 1900s, its rooms were rented out as studios to artists like Henri Matisse and Jean Cocteau. Rodin rented several rooms on the ground floor in 1908. The hotel's artistic habitants were evicted, but Rodin was granted permission to stay there until his death, with the deal that he would turn over his works and collections to the State. The museum opened to the public in 1919, two years after Rodin passed away.
The Hotel Biron, where the permanent collection is housed, is currently undergoing a massive renovation (which is slated to be finished in early 2014), but Rodin's most significant works are still on display via a temporary presentation of the collections called Masterpieces on the move . The exhibition is divided up into ten sections, outlinig Rodin's artistic career.
Rodin's important early works include The Man With A Broken Nose, a sculpture submitted for 1875 Paris Salon exhibition, and The Age of Bronze, a piece which was clouded by scandal. Critics accused Rodin of using a life cast of his model, but were eventually proved wrong. The unfortunate incident had a silver lining: he was later commissioned to do The Gates of Hell, thanks to the attention the scandal drew.
The Gates of Hell was an imense project which Rodin tackled over the space a decade. It consisted of almost 200 figures depicting scenes from Dante's Inferno. Numerous sculptures in The Gates Of Hell served as subjects and inspirations for much of his future work. The Thinker, probably Rodin's most famous work, was originally made for this oeuvre.
The Kiss is also another sculpture that was originally a part of The Gates of Hell. Inspired by the characters Paolo and Francesca from Dante's Divine Comedy, Rodin decided that the pair clashed with the entire Gates of Hell theme and exhibited it as an independent work. It was a successful move, and a large-scale version in marble was commissioned by the French government for the 1889 Exhibition Universelle. It took him almost ten years to complete it, and today the two sensual figures remain in their eternal lip lock inside the museum.
Other works not to miss in the museum are The Walking Man, The Age of Bronze (inspired by Michelangelo), and The Centauress. A section is devoted to Rodin's art collection: Jules Desbois' Misery, portraits by Antoine Bourdelle, and paintings by Van Gogh, Claude Monet, and Eugène Carrière. There is a notable number of works by sculptor Camille Claudel (1864-1943), Rodin's pupil and mistress. She had a brilliant career that ended in tragedy: she was diagnosed as mentally ill, and was admitted into an asylum in 1913 where she stayed until her death 30 years later.
A trip to the Rodin Museum is not complete without a tour of its beautiful garden, which is as important as the museum's collections. A stroll through the hedges and rose gardens unveil The Thinker, The Gates of Hell, Balzac, Three Shades and other sculptures, all against the wonderful backdrop of the Invalides.
A visit can take about two to three hours, but you can stretch your time in the gardens by taking a snack at the Café du Musée Rodin. It's best to get your tickets online to avoid the lines, especially during the springtime, when everyone takes advantages of the gardens to bask in the sunshine and the presence of wonderful art.
79 rue de Varenne, 75007 Paris
Opening hours: Tues - Sun, 10am to 5:45pm
Nocturnal visits: Weds until 8:45 pm
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