With over 140 bronzes, marbles, and plasters, the distinguished collection housed in the Rodin Museum represents every phase of Auguste Rodin’s career. Located on Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway—which was intended to evoke the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris—the elegant Beaux-Arts–style building and garden offer an absorbing experience.
In the Galleries: The KissDiscover what passion looks like in the hands of a master sculptor. 2017 is the one hundredth anniversary of Auguste Rodin’s death. To mark the occasion, the Rodin Museum is taking part in worldwide celebrations of the artist’s work and legacy with special exhibitions and programs. This new installation explores the artist’s intimate and powerful depictions of romantic love. Bringing together marbles, bronzes, plasters, and terracottas made by Rodin over a thirty-year period, the installation includes works such as The Minotaur, I Am Beautiful, Eternal Springtime, and Youth Triumphant. It demonstrates the variety of approaches, meanings, and allusions that Rodin brought to his intimate figure groupings to evoke emotional intensity. In particular, Philadelphia’s copy of The Kiss, a marble commissioned by Jules Mastbaum in 1926 for the Rodin Museum, is considered for its unique history and as an example of Rodin’s continuing appeal. As part of the reinstallation, the library, octagonal galleries, and vestibules feature other important Rodin sculptures, including The Thinker and Monument to Balzac. The Rodin Museum also includes works focusing on the towering bronze doors inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy that have occupied the building’s portico since 1929. In 1880 Rodin received a commission to create The Gates of Hell for a new decorative arts museum that was going to be built in Paris. Though the museum was never realized, The Gates became the seminal work of Rodin’s career and a key to understanding his artistic aims. Left in plaster at Rodin’s death in 1917, the first bronze casts of The Gates of Hell were made for Jules Mastbaum, the founder of the Rodin Museum; one appears here and the second was given to the Musée Rodin in Paris.
The GardenThe garden outside the Museum displays a total of eight works. While The Thinker and The Gates of Hell have stood in their same locations since the Museum opened in 1929, recent advances in conservation undertaken by the Philadelphia Museum of Art have permitted the return of Adam and The Shade to their original places within the arches of the Meudon Gate for the first time since 1963. The Age of Bronze and Eve have also returned to the niches they once occupied on either side of the Museum’s portico overlooking the reflecting pool. On the building’s west side, a space vacant for most of the last eighty years contains a version of the monumental The Three Shades, a generous loan from Iris and B. Gerald Cantor.
The History of the Rodin Museum
In the 1920s, the City of Philadelphia was in the midst of creating the Benjamin Franklin Parkway as a great civic space. The Free Library of Philadelphia opened its central Logan Square location in 1927, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s main building opened the following year. Nestled between these two destinations, the Rodin Museum opened in November 1929. A unique ensemble of Beaux-Arts architecture and a formal French garden, the Museum was designed by French architect Paul Cret (1876–1945) and French landscape designer Jacques Gréber (1882–1962). Its founder, entrepreneur and philanthropist Jules E. Mastbaum, gave the Museum to his native city as a gift. It was immediately embraced and celebrated, drawing over 390,000 visitors in its first year. Today, the Rodin Museum is one of the defining icons of Philadelphia, housing one of the most comprehensive public collections of Rodin’s work outside Paris. Since 1929, the Philadelphia Museum of Art has administered the Rodin Museum and its collection.