Monday, September 29, 2014


We were touring the Palais Garnier when our guide remarked how fortunate we all were that Rodin had been rejected - twice - by the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. That rejection meant he wouldn't be trained to turn out pieces in the Neo-Classical style that adorn the interior of the Palais. Instead, he would go on to create his own distinctive form and make way for modern sculptors. I'd never really placed Rodin on a timeline before, and was surprised his ground-breaking works were produced as recently as 1860-1911.

Just a few days later, at the Musee D'Orsay, I was standing at the  Gates of Hell plaster, which we would see in bronze at the Musee Rodin a few hours later. It wasn't really planned, but what a great sequence of viewing! And another eye-opener. There was the familiar Thinker, positioned on the Gate, that I have admired for so many years at our own AGO. I had not realized the Thinker was part of a larger composition.

At the Musee Rodin, we wandered the large garden to enjoy the sculptures in the green setting. Rodin himself arranged that Hotel Biron permanently exhibit his sculptures for posterity. In addition to the expansive gardens, there was a gallery devoted solely to marble works, and another large building full of sculpture on display. While we were there,  a retrospective explored connections between Mapplethorpe and Rodin.

By reading the fine print along the way, I was intrigued by connections I hadn't made before. Rainer Maria Rilke, the great poet, was a friend and private secretary to Rodin. There was also the love triangle between Rodin/Claudel/Beuret, which would make a fascinating short fiction. Claudel was a gifted sculptor in her own right, and both modeled for and apprenticed under Rodin before they became lovers. Rodin refused to give up Beuret, the mother of his son. Some believe this may have been part of the reason Claudel went mad and was institutionalized after their affair. Heartbreaking.

Just a week later, we would see Rodin's Burghers of Calais on the grounds of the Palace of Westminster in London. I wandered over to take a long look, admiring the expressions and the upturned hand on one of the figures.

I had not realized at the time, but many believe Claudel to be the artist who sculpted the hands and feet of the Burghers. Also, not realizing it at the time, our Paris apartment was literally steps away from where Camille Claudel lived and worked, on Isle St-Louis. Now I have to go back for a return visit!

1 comment:

NBH said...

Ah, I fell in love with Rodin staring at the Gates of Hell at the Musee D'Orsay and so on my next trip to Paris made sure to visit the Musee Rodin and wander through the garden. I was not disappointed. Glad you were able to make it my favourite places in Paris including Saint Chapelle. I still have more trips to Paris left in me, besides seeing the monument at Vimy Ridge is on my bucket list.