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The Power of Rodin On Display at the Met

By John Tilley, Contributing Writer, September 21, 2017

His figures writhe, squirm, scream, and sometimes just think — but always there is the tumult of the human mind behind the great sculptures of the iconic Impressionist master Auguste Rodin, whose death one hundred years ago this year is commemorated at The Metropolitan Museum of Art with their special exhibition of his work, on view through January 18, 2018.

 

Auguste Rodin: ‘The Thinker;’ founder: cast by Alexis Rudier (French); modeled ca. 1880, cast ca. 1910; bronze; overall (wt. confirmed): 27 5/8 in., 185 lb. (70.2 cm, 83.9 kg); The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Thomas F. Ryan, 1910.

The museum puts on an accessible exhibition, highlighting their relationship with the sculptor as well as his relationships with other artists. The feeling of collaboration is strong within the show; rather than a static room full of statues, the curators have inserted paintings by Rodin’s contemporaries. A shocked Echo by Alexandre Cabanel is flanked by the shrieking head of Rodin’s The Tempest, both across from a large canvas of misery and hellfire by Franz von Stuck called, simply, Inferno. Cameo appearances include Degas, Monet, and the unexpected standout of Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, who Rodin knew personally, and whose Italian Renaissance-style pastel tableaus dance a quiet background minuet beside Rodin’s thundering Michelangelo-inspired figures.

Auguste Rodin: ‘The Tempest;’ Carved before 1910; marble; overall (confirmed): 13 5/8 x 14 7/8 x 7 3/4 in., 73lb. (34.6 x 37.8 x 19.7 cm, 33.1126kg); footprint of sculpture (confirmed): 14 1/2 x 6 1/2 in. (36.8 x 16.5 cm); Length of rod mount: 2 9/16 in. (6.5 cm); The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Thomas F. Ryan, 1910.

The collection of his work is impressive. Spanning the length of his career and in various states of completion, the viewer is immersed in his world and process; there is even a small side gallery with rarely-seen drawings. Besides what you’d expect from Rodin, the Adam and Eve flanking the entrance in dark bronze, for example, massive and slightly horrifying in their conveyance of anguish, there are many examples of a softer side to Rodin’s sensibility. The white marble pieces, with their combined religiosity and eroticism, display Rodin’s efforts to play into the style of the time as well as his ability to insert his signature realism of the body and psychological verve.

 

August Rodin: Pair of Standing Nude Male Figures Demonstrating the Principles of Contrapposto according to Michelangelo and Phidias, ca. 1911; terra-cotta; height (each) 14 1/2 in. (36.8 cm); The Metropolitan Museum of Art, gift of Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation, 1987.

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Rodin at the Met at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue, through January 18, 2018.

 

Cover: Auguste Rodin: ‘Eternal Spring;’ modeled ca. 1881; carved 1907, marble; overall (wt. confirmed): 28 x 29 x 18 in., 433 lb. (71.1 x 73.7 x 45.7 cm, 196.4 kg); The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Isaac D. Fletcher 1917.

 


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