Second in A Series: Art Museums On Philadelphia's Museum Row
A Jewel on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway The Rodin Museum Reopens
After three years and $9.1 million, the museum has been sensitively restored to the original 1929 vision of architect Paul Crét, landscape architect Jacques Gréber, and movie mogul Jules Mastbaum.
Francois-Auguste-Rene-Rodin (1840-1917). It's impossible to state Rodin's significance to the history of art. Not since the figurative sculpture of Michelangelo has there been such works created. Rodin, considered the 'Father of Modern Sculpture,' introduced impressionism into the world of sculpture by stripping his subject of all academic associations. His work showed emotion and feeling through texture, expressing only what he considered the essential "inner truths of the human psyche" to show extreme physical states of turmoil or overwhelming joy.
Instead of using the short brush strokes of paint filled brushes to show emotion, as his counterparts did in the impressionist school of painting, Rodin manipulated and pushed clay, making pockets or partial holes resulting in a tactile texture rather than visual texture.
In 1876, Philadelphia became the first city in the Unites States to exhibit Rodin at the Centennial Exposition in Fairmont Park.
Philadelphia native Jules E. Mastbaum (1872-1926) built a fortune as a "movie mogul," owning the largest movie theater company in America. While traveling the world in 1923, Mastbaum discovered the works of Rodin in Paris.
"The Left Hand" Photo courtesy Rodin Museum of Philadelphia
Mastbaum's First Rodin
When in Paris, Mastbaum purchased "Hand," a small bronze sculpture by Rodin, and sought out more of his work, thus beginning an obsession that eventually became The Rodin Museum of Philadelphia.
Rodin died in 1917, willing his estate to the French government and giving them permission to make casts of his work.
Mastbaum began buying bronzes, some that had been cast during Rodin's life, others that were cast especially for Mastbaum.
The "Gates of Hell," inspired by "Dante's Inferno," is the most notable example of those cast for Mastbaum. He ordered two castings of the "Gates," one for Philadelphia and the other for Musée Rodin in Paris that was in dire financial straights.
The Musée and French government were so grateful they gave Mastbaum six Rodin plasters out of their collection. These are now part of the more than 120 sculptures and numerous drawings that make up the Philadelphia Rodin collection.
The Jewel Sparkles Again
In July, the Philadelphia Museum of Art unveiled its multiyear rejuvenation project of The Rodin Museum to the art world and the City of Philadelphia.
Reopening the Rodin Museum called for a complete facelift of the interior and exterior of the building, designing and installing new display units for Rodin's work on paper as well as the refurbishment and application of a new patina to the sculptures. The result of this work is utterly startling.
Conservation work on sculptures underway. Photo courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The Rodin and its surrounding gardens and fountains have been transported back in time to 1929, and the visions of French architect Paul Crét, landscape architect Jacques Gréber, and the museum founder Jules E. Mastbaum.
The Museums' sculptures of "The Thinker," "The Burghers of Calais," "Adam," "The Shade," "Eve", "The Age of Bronze," and "The Gates of Hell," have not only been cleaned, restored and protected, but are displayed outside where they were originally intended to be. To handle this project, The Philadelphia Museum of Art called upon its conservation group of over forty artists, scientists and conservationists. Also involved were Philadelphia area landscape artists.
The Rodin Museum is once again open to the public. As an artist and admirer of Rodin, I am glad the "Jewel" is back.
Burghers of Calais, Modeled 1884-95; cast 1919-21.Auguste Rodin, French, 1840 - 1917. Cast by the founder Alexis Rudier, Paris, 1874 - 1952. Bronze, 82 1/2 x 94 x 75 inches (209.6 x 238.8 x 190.5 cm). Rodin Museum, Bequest of Jules E. Mastbaum, 1929
The Rodin Museum is a destination worth a special journey. It is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Mondays (closed Tuesday).
Admission: Pay what you wish: suggested admission is $8 general, $7 for visitors 65 and older, $6 for students with valid ID and visitors 13 to 18. Children 12 and under free. For $20, you can get a pass that lets you explore the Rodin and the Phhiladelphia Museum of Art for two days.
A special note of thanks to the staff of the Philadelphia Museum of Art for their assistance in providing information for this article.
Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 22nd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19130
Be Sure Philadelphia's "Museum Row" Is On Your Bucket List
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