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Musee Rodin opens Rodin The Light of Antiquity

Musee Rodin Paris presents Rodin The Light of Antiquity an exhibition on view November 19 to February 16.

Auguste Rodin, Assemblage: Female Torso kneeling in a Cup. © musée Rodin. Photo: C. Baraja.
Auguste Rodin, Assemblage: Female Torso kneeling in a Cup. © musée Rodin. Photo: C. Baraja.
The exhibition reveals Rodin’s close relationship with Greco-Roman Antiquity that started in his early years of training and continued until his death in 1917, in the context of the artist’s studio. The visitor can explore a selection of forty-five sculptures, seventeen drawings and one painting by Rodin, and compare them with twelve large-scale models from Antiquity that he admired – the Venus de Milo and the Diadumenos, for example – and which are echoed in his work. The Musée Rodin is, for the first time, taking out of its reserves eighty-nine works from its collection of Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiquities, terracotta vases and figurines, bronze and marble statues, which have been restored for this occasion. Although he started by seeing the work of Antiquity as objects to copy, from the 1880s onwards Rodin explored them through the filter of Michelangelo’s works, but without abandoning the models of the Belvedere Torso and the Crouching Venus. From the 1890s, the sculptor took the example of Antiquity, and made it entirely his own, moving beyond the notion of influence, to draw on the “contentment, calm, grace, balance and reason” inherent in it. The imprint of Antiquity, particularly of the Venus de Milo, became almost invisible, and then reappeared in his later works like Meditation and the Monument to Whistler, examples of his work on the partial figure. With the figure of The Walking Man, Rodin established his modernity in the tradition of heroic torsos.

It was in the observation of nature, from this point foreword his only source of inspiration, that Rodin found this “feeling for Antiquity” which came through in his portraits, such as in Pallas with the Parthenon.

During the same period, the sculptor assembled a huge collection of antiquities, taking, from the Greek vases in particular, objects for assemblages in his sculptures. The visitor can see Rodin’s collection of works from Antiquity in his studio as well as pages from the albums of his imaginary museum, in a slide- show of old photographs from the Museum’s collections. The exhibition has had the benefit of exceptional loans from the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire, Geneva, the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Marseille, the Musée des Moulages, Montpellier, and, in Paris, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, the Musée du Louvre and the Musée du Petit Palais.

The exhibition was undertaken on the initiative of Pascale Picard Heritage curator.