Auguste Rodin was an artist most well known for his sculpture and paintings. Rodin was born in Paris in 1840, and it is not until he reached his forties, that he became recognized and appreciated for his talents. His first successful sculpture was called The Age of Bronze; critics say that the work is so realistic it looks as though it was directly molded from the body of his model. Other famous works include The Burghers of Calais, The Gates of Hell, The Thinker, and The Kiss. Rodin also produced many works in tribute to famous authors such as Victor Hugo and Honoré de Balzac. Before the end of his life, Rodin donated his life’s oeuvres to the French state. They are now housed in the Hôtel Biron, where they are on display inside the mansion, and also in the large garden that surrounds the building.
The mansion that the museum is housed inside is practically a work of art itself. The colors are soft and repetitive blues, blacks, whites, and natural wood, and the intricate woodwork and plaster on the walls and ceilings of the building are beautiful and very meticulously maintained by the museum. In 1904 the Hôtel was acquired by the French state, which decided to rent out the space to artists. Writer Jean Cocteau, painter Henri Matisse, dancer Isadora Duncan, and poet Rainer Maria Rilke all called the house home at one point, along with Rodin. By 1911, Rodin was the sole resident. It was soon after this time that Rodin made the decision to donate his works and personal collection to the French state. In 1919, the hôtel opened its doors as the Musée Rodin.
According to the museum, ‘the historical link between the collection and the Hôtel Biron is the essence of the museum’s soul; renovating the space meant renewing the link without unsettling that soul. The new museum tour is designed to focus on Rodin’s work in all its facets; rather than presenting a ‘new Rodin,’ the idea is to take a new look at the artist and his work.’ The complete restoration has given the mansion a bit of a face lift, the flow of the exhibition is much more accessible and visitor friendly, and many works by the artist that have never before been seen are now on display. This is in part thanks to new scientific discoveries on the preservation of plaster and other materials Rodin utilized in his works.
Some other differences and improvements to the museum include a clearer and more chronological arrangement of Rodin’s works, thanks to the fact that many more of his sculptures, paintings, and drawings are able to be on display. There is also an exact replica of a room as Rodin would have enjoyed it in his days of living in the hôtel. The museum also proudly displays some of Rodin’s personal collections. 50 paintings, that have remained undiscovered until now, gathering dust in old store rooms, have been pulled out to be put on display. This includes paintings by world renowned painters Monet, Van Gogh, and Edvard Munch. There is also an oval room arranged like a ‘cabinet of curiosities’, filled with trinkets and treasures owned by Rodin. 123 new antiquities from Rodin’s personal collection are now on display in this room. The final addition to the museum is the Gallery of Graphic Arts. This new space displays drawings, engravings, photographs, and other archive documents that provide a closer look into Rodin’s life and successful career.
The museum reopened its doors on November 12, 2015, on Rodin’s 125th birthday.
Musée Rodin Paris, 77 rue de Varenne, 75007, Paris +33 (0)1 44 18 61 10
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 10am-5:45pm
Visit www.musee-rodin.fr for more information.
By Molli McConnell
Molli McConnell is a writer and photographer living in Paris, France. You can see more of her work on her blog here.