After creating this intriguing slide show, I have been pondering for several days why I am so drawn to Auguste Rodin.
I am pondering why, as part of a mostly business trip to California, I just had to make the 55 minute trip from Marin County to Santa Clara County ( I consumed nearly 12 hours just to travel from Connecticut to the Bay Area and time was very precious to me) to visit this Rodin collection. After all, with the limited amount of time I had, I was turning down the opportunity to see a much acclaimed show at the De Young Museum of French 19th century masterpieces from the Musee d'Orsay in Paris.
Why does Rodin's vision fascinate me?
It all began with an enlarged slide of Rodin's Thinker which I saw projected on a a screen as part of my CC-Humanities Art course at Columbia. My instructor was telling the class just how overpowering a figure Rodin was and that his 'monumental' works are inspiring.
Well now, it's hard to get excited by an enlarged slide...
So, I made the trek to the Museum of Modern Art on 53rd Street, where Rodin's Balzac is displayed. It impressed me, no doubt--a single replica, much, much larger than life standing in the museum's outdoor garden. Rodin said of this piece: "Nothing else that I have done satisfies me as much, because nothing else cost me so much effort, nothing else so profoundly summarizes what I believe to be the secret of law of my art. "
Years have passed ....
Last year, the Stamford Museum and Nature Arts Center had a exhibition entitled " Rodin in his own Words: Selections from the the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Collection" , featuring a limited number of smaller casts, many of which were apparently cast posthumously. There were photographs of his larger works as well as an excellently documented exposition on the lost-wax casting process, Rodin's favorite mode of sculptural reproduction.
Then a visit to the Philadelphia Museum's Late Renoir show in August of this year brought me in contact with their collection of Rodins. (See my recent blog on this show)
So, when I read in a guide book about the Cantors donating their collection of over 200 Rodins to The Stanford museum in 1999, I knew I had to make the trip down.
The outdoor sculpture garden contains 20 pieces comfortably spaced out over an acre. These include: the massive Gates of Hell, with figures inspired by Dantes's Inferno and presided over by The Thinker at its apex, Adam and Eve (flanking the GOH), The Three Shades, The Martyr, a Nude Study of Jeanne D'Arc.
The Spirit of Eternal Repose is the male nude captured from an upward perspective with outstretched arm and leaning towards one of two fir trees. He exudes grace, charm and harmony. It is as if Rodin is reaching deep into his soul to reflect the inner spiritual peace that man is capable of reaching.
This peace is in contrast to the eternal struggle of man's sensuality TO OVERCOME his reason and restraint; this peace is often tragically terminated by the triumph of the sexual drive over discipline that is depicted in panel after panel in the lascivious scenes of debauchery and lust in the GOH.
Enjoy the slide show as much as I enjoyed seeing the originals.
A bit of background to the Gates of Hell.
In 1880, the Ministere of Beaux Arts in Paris, commissioned Rodin "to execute, for the sum of 8,000 francs, the model of a decorative gate in bas-relief for the Musee des arts decoratives representing the Divine Comedy of Dante."
Rodin began his research by reading Dante several times, drawing hundreds of pages of studies in his sketchbook and executing dozens of maquettes (scale models); he then studied gates of the baptistry in Florence and especially Ghiberti's "Gates of Paradise."