Sunday, October 26, 2014

Paris: The Rodin Museum


Digging into the culture of Paris, we decided, on a drizzly day to head over to the Rodin Musuem.

I saw the one in Philadelphia, which claimed to be identical to the one in Paris, showing all the same sculptures and history, but the two were not at all identical. In Philadelphia, back in 1984, they had the entire entourage of the Burgers of Callais, whereas there were only small 3-D sketches of the Burgers in the Paris Musuem.

Outside, mounted to a garden wall was the Gates of Hell. A work that had been commissioned, and one that Rodin worked on for several years. From that massive piece, he then went on to enlarge the themes with sculptures of figures from the Gates.

In a glass building, marble portraits and larger full size portraits of people were displayed. Behind the mansion was a lovely garden filled with many of Rodin’s most famous works, like the Thinker, St. John the Baptist, and the writer Balzac.

Inside the building were early works as well as many famous ones like The Kiss. I hadn’t realized how old August Rodin was when he died. He put in over 60 years of work, never stopping until he died over the age of 80. So it was no wonder there was so much to see, and and such interesting transitions as his work became more and more impressionistic.

In addition, and this was a delight to me, there were many pieces from his protégée Camille Claudel.

The movie of her life, Camille Claudel, is one of the saddest movies I’ve ever seen. She was a brilliant sculptor, but because of her sex and expectations of women in the 1800s, she failed to get the recognition she deserved. Rodin took her on as a protégée and as his lover.

Rodin, of course, used Camille as a model, creating a number of pieces that showed her delicate features. In one, the hand of a friend, (just the hand) is pulling back Camile’s hair and the contrast in size of her face with the man’s hand was striking.

Their relationship lasted ten years and finally Camille cut it off entirely, and tried to create her own reputation, disconnected from Rodin. However, she developed a persecution complex, and felt that Rodin was doing things behind her back to discredit her. Eventually her inner turmoil got the best of her and she gave up sculpture forever when she entered an insane asylum. She died at 79.


“The events of my life would fill more than a novel. It would take an epic, the Iliad and the Odyssey, and a Homer to tell my story “I won't recount it today, I don't want to sadden you. I have fallen into an abyss. I live in a world so curious, so strange.  Of the dream that was my life, this is the nightmare.”

Camille Claudel to Eugène Blot, Montdevergues Asylum


Victor Hugo by Rodin


Rodin by Camille Claudel

The Wave by Claudel

St. John the Baptist by Rodin