Rodin Museum Philadelphia

French architects, Paul Cret and Jacques Greber, designed the Rodin Museum, located at Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 22nd Street. It houses the largest collection of Rodin’s works, from 1840 — 1917, outside the Musee Rodin in Paris. The collection of bronze and plaster castings, drawings, prints, letter, and books was gathered in a very short time to be given as a gift to the city of Philadelphia by Jules Mastbaum, movie tycoon and philanthropist. Three years after Mastbaum’s death, his widow honored his wishes, and the Museum was officially inaugurated in November 1929.

Rodin’s works, often compared with the genius of Michelangelo, are remembered for their controversial, yet powerful artistic expression in figurative sculpture. His 124 sculptures reflect the movement of men and women in the light and shadow of natural settings. Many of his works such as Andromeda and Bacchus were inspired by his obsession with Greek and Roman mythology, the Bible, and Dante. His imagination combines intensity with inner emotions in sand and lost wax casting techniques. Casting involves replicating the original sculpture of clay or wax in plaster, which is then shellacked, supported with a frame, and covered or partially buried in sand. Once the plaster shell is removed, a core is left around which the melted bronze is poured. Once solidified, the core and sand are removed and the sculpture receives a coating of chemicals in the complex procedure of patination. Since patination may suffer deterioration or changes in color over time and with excess moisture, Rodin’s writings are often consulted for his recognized expertise in this area of sculpting.

Standing in the courtyard entrance of the Museum is the artist’s famous sculpture, The Thinker, created in 1880-1882. In 1880, Rodin began The Gates of Hell, which served as an entrance way for a short time. Although he spent years on the project, the 21’ high bronze casting of over 100 animal and human figures was left unfinished at the time of his death in 1917. Other rooms in the Museum feature Eternal Springtime, which speaks of human love, a sculpture of the heroic Burghers of Calais, and a separate room devoted to the French novelist Balzac, perhaps Rodin’s most frequent model. In addition, there are monuments to the French writer Victor Hugo and the British painter Alphonse Legros. Statues of the Minotaur, the Sorceress, the Poet and Love, and the Sirens, as well as photographs by Edward Steichen of Rodin at work, complete this impressive collection.

The Museum also features the Sketchbook, an album created by Rodin around 1860 before his first great masterpiece in 1864, The Mask of the Man with the Broken Nose. The Sketchbook includes drawings of animals, street scenes, and landscapes, which were typical of a 19th century French art student. History reveals that Rodin began his education at the age of 14 at the Special Imperial School of Drawing and Mathematics, then known as the Petite Ecole. To further his education, he often visited the Louvre and studied at the Gobelins Tapestry Works, where he learned to draw from live models. The Sketchbook reveals another side of Rodin seen in the less formal, spontaneous sketches of wild animals in Menagerie of the Jardin des Plantes and horses in the market on the Boulevard Saint-Marcel. The Sketchbook, developed for the 75th anniversary of the Museum in 2004-2005, can be viewed in a kiosk at the main entrance of the Museum.

Over 60,000 people visit the Museum and the Gardens surrounding it each year to experience and reflect upon the beauty of Rodin’s unique interpretation of art and nature.

Hours: Tuesday — Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed Mondays & holidays.
Admission: $3.00 donation suggested.
Tours: Free to the public, 1:00 p.m., Tuesday, Thursday, & Sunday, and the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of the month.
(Handicap accessible and assistance available.)

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