The more I visit the Rodin Museum in Paris, the more I love Rodin's work and appreciate his incredible talent.
Born in Paris in 1840, Rodin showed signs of artistic ability at a young age and attended a school where he was able to study art. Although there were many setbacks in his artistic journey, unlike many other artists of his era, Rodin lived long enough to see his work critically acclaimed.
At the age of 24 Rodin met a young French seamstress by the name of Rose Beuret. They would have an on and off relationship for many years, finally marrying in the last year of their lives. She was his model for this sculpture, Jeune Femme au Chapeau Fleuri (Young Woman with a Flowered Hat).
In 1883 at the age of 43, Rodin met the 18 year-old Camille Claudel who became his mistress. She was a talented sculptor in her own right and had an influence on Rodin's work. The sculpture on the left is a bust of Rodin by Camille Claudel and the one on the right is Rodin's sculpture entitled, Camille Claudel, Aux Cheveux Courts (Camille Claudel with Short Hair).
I find the garden of the Museum and the works displayed there including The Gates of Hell and The Burghers of Calais as inspiring as the works displayed inside the museum.
The Gates of Hell
Much of Rodin's work was a result of various public commissions he was granted. One of these was the creation of a portal for a decorative arts museum in Paris. Inspired by Inferno, part of Dante's Divine Comedy, Rodin spent almost 40 years working on The Gates of Hell. The museum was never opened and The Gates of Hell was not completed by Rodin before his death, existing only as a plaster model.
Two bronze models were cast in 1925, one for the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia and the other for the Musée Rodin in Paris.
It's an incredibly intricate work which stands 20 ft. tall. Rodin created more than 200 human figures for the doors, including The Thinker which is prominent toward the top.
More details from The Gates of Hell.
I could have stared at it for hours!
Below is the plaster model in the museum.
Les Ombres (The Three Shades) are the three larger-than-life figures whose much smaller bodies occupy the top portion of The Gates of Hell. What a setting!
The Burghers of Calais
The Burghers of Calais was another commission which immediately captivates you. The city of Calais on the northwestern coast of France commissioned a sculpture to commemorate an episode of the Hundred Years' War which took place between England and France from 1337-1453. Calais and its surrounding area were attacked by England's King Edward III. Edward offered to spare the citizens of Calais if its town leaders (the Burghers) would surrender and ultimately be executed. He demanded that they come out with nooses around their necks and holding the keys to the city and castle. Ultimately their lives were spared by Edward's wife Philippa who persuaded her husband not to execute them as she believed killing them would bring bad luck upon her unborn child. Rodin wanted to convey "the image of misery and sacrifice" with this sculpture, created between 1884 and 1889 which poignantly captures the moment the Burghers appeared to the townspeople.
Holding the key...
More close-ups and individual castings..
Other Works in the Garden
In the Monument to Victor Hugo, Hugo is shown sitting on the rocks of Guernsey where he lived in exile. Rodin extended the arm as if to calm the waters. He's accompanied by The Tragic Muse.
And more in the garden...
Inside the Museum
The Kiss is probably as well-known as The Thinker. The result of another commission by the French state, The Kiss was also inspired by Dante's Divine Comedy. It portrays the lovers Paolo and Francesca who were later condemned to wander eternally through Hell.
The Walking Man is composed of a torso and legs which were originally two works totally independent of each other. By planting both the sculpture's feel on the ground, Rodin was attempting to re-create the beginning and end of a step rather than the step itself.
Other beautiful works inside the museum...
I've been able to visit the museum in the spring and fall and both are excellent times to wander in the garden. Here are more photos taken during my visits.
More peeks at The Thinker.
The Rodin Museum is truly a gem; I hope you've enjoyed this virtual tour as much as I enjoyed my visits!
➜ Top Tips
The closest métro is Varenne, Line 13, just around the corner from the museum.
The Rodin Museum is closed on Mondays.
There is a small café on the grounds for lunch or a snack.
If possible, plan your visit for a beautiful day to get the most out of the garden.
Buy your ticket online and be there at 10:00 am when it opens.
You could combine your visit with Les Invalides whose dome appears in some of these photos and which is just a few steps away from the Musée Rodin.