With over 140 bronzes, marbles, and plasters, the distinguished collection housed in the Rodin Museum represents every phase of Auguste Rodin's career. Open to the public in 1929, this remarkable ensemble of architecture, landscape, and sculpture, designed by architect Paul Cret and landscape architect Jacques Gréber, is now restored to its original splendor. The museum and grounds offer a unique ensemble of Beaux-Arts architecture and a formal French garden in which to experience the sculpture of Auguste Rodin.
In the 1920s the City of Philadelphia was in the midst of creating the Benjamin Franklin Parkway as a great civic space. The Free Library of Philadelphia opened its central Logan Square location in 1927, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art's main building was opened to the public the following year. Nestled between these two public destinations on the Parkway, the intimately scaled Rodin Museum opened in November 1929. A unique ensemble of Beaux-Arts architecture and a formal French garden in which to experience the sculpture of Auguste Rodin, the Museum was designed by French architect Paul Cret (1876–1945) and French landscape designer Jacques Gréber (1882–1962). Its founder, the entrepreneur and philanthropist Jules E. Mastbaum, gave the Museum to his native city as a gift and it was immediately embraced and celebrated, drawing over 390,000 visitors in its first year. Today, it is one of the defining icons of the city, housing one of the most comprehensive public collections of work outside Paris by one of the world's most renowned sculptors.
Since 1929, the Philadelphia Museum of Art has administered the Rodin Museum and its collection. Over the years, several large sculptures originally installed outdoors were taken inside to protect them from the elements, and the original plantings became overgrown. The building, its galleries, and its grounds have been renovated to restore the Museum to its original vision, and new conservation treatments have made it possible to return sculptures to their intended places in the garden. The Museum has reopened with an inaugural installation dedicated to The Gates of Hell
, the defining project of Rodin's career and one that consumed him for almost four decades.An important part of visiting the Rodin Museum is experiencing the garden, which recently underwent a three-year rejuvenation effort supported by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the City of Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation, and generous public and private funders. The project was conceived and overseen by the landscape architecture firm OLIN and follows the spirit of the original plans by Cret and Gréber.
The inaugural installation of the restored Rodin Museum includes nearly thirty works focusing on the towering bronze doors inspired by Dante's Divine Comedy
that have occupied the building's portico since 1929. In 1880 Rodin received a commission to create The Gates of Hell
for a new decorative arts museum that was going to be built in Paris. Though the museum was never realized, The Gates
became the seminal work of Rodin's career and a key to understanding his artistic aims. Left in plaster at Rodin's death in 1917, the first bronze casts of The Gates of Hell
were made for Jules Mastbaum, the founder of the Rodin Museum; one appears here and the second was given to the Musée Rodin in Paris.
Some of Rodin's most famous works were originally conceived as part of The Gates
and were only later removed, enlarged, and cast as independent works. The Thinker
evolved from the focal point atop The Gates
into a freestanding sculpture. Though the monumental-sized Thinker maintains its prominent place in the garden, a smaller version can be seen in this gallery. Also on view is Copy of Rodin's "The Kiss"
, a marble depicting doomed lovers Paolo and Francesca, who reside in the second circle of hell in The Divine Comedy. Created especially for the Museum by sculptor Henri Gréber (French, 1855–1941), Copy of Rodin's "The Kiss"
suits the main gallery of the Rodin Museum exceptionally well and demonstrates Jules Mastbaum's vision for the Museum as a place where the breadth of Rodin's work could become more widely known and appreciated.
"The Collection." Rodin Museum. Accessed January 21, 2018. http://www.rodinmuseum.org/492-518.html.