Many consider Auguste Rodin to be the greatest sculpture since the Renaissance. It’s a point that’s hard to argue with as Rodin was a highly imaginative and successful artist, still well known a century after his death.
Probably the best place to see his work and learn more about his life is in Paris’ Rodin Museum. Most pieces in the Museum’s collection are located within the Hôtel Biron, a classic 18th-century mansion, very close to Les Invalides (where Napoleon’s tomb is located). To a large extent the Rodin Museum is park-like, with seven beautifully landscaped acres dotted with sculptures by Rodin. It’s a lovely relaxing place to be, within the heart of the city but removed from the busy hustle and bustle of Paris.
The museum is home to Rodin’s antiques and paintings from his personal collection, including rare paintings by his contemporary, Vincent Van Gogh works. And, of course, the museum has many of the important works from his life, including the smaller models he crafted when he developed his best know pieces.
Rodin first visited the Hôtel Biron in 1908 and fell in love with the building and its grounds. It was poorly maintained then and owned by the French state as a place to board poor artists and performers. For three years, Rodin rented four of the ground-floor rooms for his studio. In 1911 the government announced plans to demolish the mansion; Rodin fought to save the building. He offered to leave his entire estate (including his furniture and art collection) to the French people IF they would permanently house it at the Hôtel Biron, and IF he could live here for the rest of his life. The Musée Rodin opened in 1919, two years after Rodin’s death.
The interior of the museum is recently renovated (a process just begun when we visited), the museum is light and cheerful. The Hôtel Biron spreads across eighteen rooms which are more or less chronologically arranged. You’ll see the space where Rodin lived, still with its original furniture. There are many rooms devoted to Rodin’s genius and work, and even one dedicated to the his student and mistress, Camille Claudel.
After touring the Hôtel Biron, be sure to stroll through the gardens and enjoy Rodin’s outdoor works, including some of his best know pieces.
The above piece is The Gates of Hell, which some regard as the artist’s finest work. It has many details to it, some of which are quite familiar.
We enjoyed the half day we explored this Museum and grounds. A very recommended attraction.
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