Rodin: An orgy of works in Paris


‘The Thinker’, ‘The Kiss’…

Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) is a giant of sculpture whose most famous works have almost become clichés (on this idea of Rodin as a cliché, see  the new work by Urs Fischer – a life-sized version of ‘The Kiss’ in Plasticine, as shown recently at the Sadie Coles Gallery in London), yet whose influence on the history of art is still underappreciated.

For this reason, we have to welcome the fact that on the centenary of his death, this towering figure whose legacy is sometimes overshadowed by his tumultuous relationship with Camille Claudel, is being celebrated in grand style in Paris.

The Musée Rodin is staging an imaginary dialogue with the German contemporary sculptor Anselm Kiefer, while at the Grand Palais there is an enormous show where his work is being shown alongside works by his successors over the past hundred years. For too many reasons to mention, Rodin wins every time.
In this wave of Rodinesque exhibitions, what you should see as a matter of priority is a work that was rediscovered in the museum’s storage, lying there in three pieces.

Following its restoration, it now occupies the central room of the Musée Rodin’s permanent collection in the Hôtel Biron. Catherine Chevillot, the director of the Musée Rodin, explains the concept behind this rediscovered work.

Absolution’, 1.9 metres in height, was made at the end of his life and coincides with the most experimental phase of his career.

It involves an assemblage of three separate pieces in which a man and a woman, skilfully distorted, come together, draped in an actual sheet soaked in plaster.

It’s sublime and exceptionally modern. As a matter of fact, Rodin is establishing an array of plaster forms (limbs, busts, heads, hands), which are like letters of his sculptural alphabet

Rodin likes to leave traces of his ‘tinkering’: holes, clods of earth etc.

It’s a way of showing that nothing is ever complete, that it’s art, not reality.

It is these same practices in plaster that occupy Anselm Kiefer, an artist who we’ve possibly seen too much of in Paris over the past few years.

As for the exhibition at the Grand Palais, comprising 331 works in total, among them 169 by the Frenchman, it’s a real orgy of Rodin.

If the confrontations with Giacometti, Picasso, Brancusi and even an early work by the English artist Thomas Houseago (born 1972) are fertile, works by Maillol and Zadkine in his late period, and countless others fail to measure up to the weight of this genius.
As Brancusi said about his time in Rodin’s atelier:

‘Nothing grows in the shadows of great oaks.’

Rodin is a sublime centenarian oak.

Until 22 October. www.musee-rodin.fr

Until 31 July. www.grandpalais.fr

- April 24, 2017

Auguste Rodin
Auguste Rodin
Auguste Rodin
Auguste Rodin
Auguste Rodin
Auguste Rodin
Auguste Rodin
Auguste Rodin
Anselm Kiefer
Alberto Giacometti, Auguste Rodin
Thomas Houseago
Auguste Rodin , Georg Baselitz
Auguste Rodin
Auguste Rodin
Constantin Brancusi
Urs Fischer