Today Rodin is acclaimed as the father of modern sculpture, but in a different era, his work was labeled obscene. The world's artistic taste changed, and in due course, in 1911, the French government purchased Rodin's studio in this gray-stone, 18th-century mansion in the Faubourg St-Germain. The government restored the rose gardens to their 18th-century splendor, making them a perfect setting for Rodin's most memorable works.
In the courtyard are three world-famous creations. Rodin's first major public commission, The Burghers of Calais, commemorated the heroism of six citizens of Calais who in 1347 offered themselves as a ransom to Edward III in return for ending his siege of their port. Perhaps the single best-known work, The Thinker, in Rodin's own words, "thinks with every muscle of his arms, back, and legs, with his clenched fist and gripping toes." Not completed when Rodin died, The Gate of Hell, as he put it, is "where I lived for a whole year in Dante's Inferno."
Inside, the sculptures, plaster casts, reproductions, originals, and sketches reveal the freshness and vitality of a remarkable artist. You can almost see his works emerging from marble into life. Everybody is attracted to Le Baiser (The Kiss), of which one critic wrote, "The passion is timeless." Upstairs are two versions of the celebrated and condemned Nude of Balzac, his bulky torso rising from a tree trunk (Albert E. Elsen commented on the "glorious bulging" stomach). Included are many versions of his Monument to Balzac (a large one stands in the garden), Rodin's last major work. Other significant sculptures are the soaring Prodigal Son; The Crouching Woman (the "embodiment of despair"); and The Age of Bronze, an 1876 study of a nude man modeled after a Belgian soldier. (Rodin was falsely accused of making a cast from a living model.) Generally overlooked is a room devoted to Rodin's mistress, Camille Claudel, a towering artist in her own right. She was his pupil, model, and lover, and created such works as Maturity, Clotho, and the recently donated The Waltz and The Gossips.
Looking for a Quick Escape? -- The little alley behind the Musée Rodin winds its way down to a pond with fountains, flower beds, and even sand pits for children. It's one of the most idyllic hidden spots in Paris.
- © Frommer's 2013
- Highly Recommended 2010