Wednesday, February 22, 2017
100th anniversary tribute to Rodin at the Legion
There are exhibits of Rodin's work that are more powerful - the placement of the "Burghers of Calais" as you walk up the lawn to the entrance of the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena and the "Gates of Hell" outside the Cantor Art Museum in Stanford but it would be difficult to find more of his work outside France than the tribute to Rodin at the Legion of Honor. The 50 items from the Legion's collection range from the famous (The Thinker which silently greets visitors to the museum) to the many, less known but far more eloquent, plaster casts that he made in preparation for scultpures that often never got made.
Born in 1840 in France, Wikipedia claims that Rodin never set out to be a rebel. But what else can you call his deliberate flouting of convention in "The Burghers of Calais," his emotional tribute to Balzac, his deliberate hymns of priaise to sexuality and love in stone or clay? His tempestuous affair with Camile Claudel is well known, thanks to Isabelle Adjanti's poignant portrayal in the movie of the same name. But what is less known is his causal promiscuity which drove his common law wife crazy with jealousy. In all things he was larger than life and reveled in his fame. He apparently did not know the art of compromise and for that we can be grateful.
"August Rodin, Drawings and Watercolors," published by Thames and Hudson 2006 shows that he was also ahead of his time in in his drawings and watercolors, showing in aother medium the role of sensuality in his work .
Rilke thought that Rodin was born great and never had any doubts about his talent. That may or not be true but what is manifestly true is that his passionate, engaged, emotional work broke the conventions of 19th century sculpture. We still resonate to Rodin and pass by the many 19th century sculptures of now unknown generals and other sentimental, trite pieces in bronze or stone with indifference.
Rilke on Rodin: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/articles/detail/90278
“Our Rodin holdings are one of the finest and most significant collections in the United States,” notes Max Hollein, Director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums. “This exhibition will surprise visitors and inspire dialogue about Rodin and his impact on artists working today. It is a must-see for anyone who thinks there is nothing left to learn about this towering figure in the history of Modern Art.”
Through April 2017