Museum Monday at the Musée Rodin!
If any of you have been to the Palace of the The Legion of Honor in San Francisco, you know you are greeted by one of Rodan’s most famous works of art: The Thinker. The museum has about 70 works of Rodan’s and it is always one of my favorite places to go when I want to look and ponder and contemplate humanity. This mans amazing ability as an artist always brings awe to me. How did he do that? How does one look at a piece of marble and see the piece of art within? What if you make a mistake? You can’t just erase it or paint over it…Oh well, I guess I’ll make his nose smaller.
So, since I have been in Paris, the Musée Rodin is one place I have been chewing on the bit to visit. The reason I haven’t gone is…ah…well…I just, have not been. So I made a plan with my friend to spend the afternoon wandering the museum and gardens. She had work commitments, so there I was left to wander it alone…it turned into my weekly artist date with myself. I actually feel like crying when I think of the beauty of this place nestled in the midst of the city.
Before I launch into the museum itself, let me give you a bit of background on this most amazing building. It is now called The Hôtel Biron, and was Rodin’s home for the last part of his life, thanks to the city of Paris, he made a deal to buy the house in exchange for his art…what a deal eh?
A little timeline:
– Built in Rue de Vareene, Paris around 1932 for Abraham Peyrenc de Moras who died in 1932
– His widow rented it out to the Duchess of Maine who died in 1753
– The widow then sold it to Louis-Antoine de Gontaut-Biron
– Then sold back and forth to a series of people
– In 1810 leased to Cardinal Caprara and the Emperor of Russia housed his embassy there.
– The estate was put up for sale in 1905 and tenants were allowed to occupy the Hotel Biron.
– The people who rented? Isadora Duncan, Henri Matisse, Jean Cocteau, and Auguste Rodin
– The property was officially sold to the French Gov in 1911 and turned into a secondary school – everyone was asked to leave but Rodin and he started to negotiating with the state. In a letter he wrote:
“I give the State all my works in plaster, marble, bronze and stone, and my drawings, as well as the collection of antiquities that I had such pleasure in assembling for the education and training of artists and workers. And I ask the State to keep all these collections in the Hôtel Biron, which will be the Musée Rodin, reserving the right to reside there all my life.”
Auguste Rodin – Correspondence of Rodin, volume III, 1908-1912, letter no. 103 to Paul Escudier, late 1909
The gardens are stunning and vast. As you walk through the peaceful hush of cone shaped trees you come upon sculptures of Rodin’s. He has placed quite a few marble sculptures around the gardens, but over the years moss had attached them leaving them worn away. What you now see are his bronze sculptures. And one of my favorite pieces are the Gates of Hell doors he created. I walked towards the doors, the sun in my eyes, almost blinding the sight of them. As I crept closer the sun dipped behind the doors, leaving me in the shade of the doors where I could see all their beauty.
The inside of the house has recently been renovated to the original state and it is indeed stunning. Each room is divided into sections and grouped together for easier overall viewing. One room is about the different materials he used, another about the Gates of Hell. The Thinker was taken from this idea and made into a stand alone piece.
All in all there are over 300 works on display in the newly painted rooms; large and small, work in progress and finished, marble and bronze. I want to go back and wander once again. But please, this time without all those tourists.