The “Monument to Balzac” is exhibited in the hall of the museum.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. – One of the largest exhibitions of works by Auguste Rodin seen in the United States in the past 40 years is now on display at the Clark Art Institute.
The exhibition consists of 50 sculptures and 25 drawings from American museums and private collections that collectively bear witness to the history of collectors, agents, art historians and critics who worked to make Rodin known in America.
Although there have been many exhibits of Rodin, less attention has been paid to the French modernist’s legacy in the United States. The Clark exhibit examines Rodin’s influence and reputation on America from 1893 to the present day.
Part of the exhibition is on the first floor as you enter the Clark, to the right of the main hall, where Rodin’s “Monument à Balzac” is on display. Visitors can sit in the “Rodin library” filled with books on the sculptor and where sketchbooks with pencils are available.
The rest of the exhibition is displayed in the museum and divided into three parts: “The collectors”, “The era of museums” and “The revival”.
Each of these sections shows the progression of Rodin’s work and career. Throughout the exhibition, visitors can see the progression of his work through some of his original plaster models and then the completed pieces.
Also on display are sculptures that Rodin did not complete, allowing the viewer to see the artist’s process. Rodin was considered unconventional at the time for many reasons, including how some of his art seemed unfinished to contemporaries and bore traces of his process.
The “The Collectors” section of the exhibition showed Rodin’s first group of art that was shown in the United States beginning with pieces exhibited at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.
Born in 1840 into a working-class family in Paris, he studied art and mathematics as a youth — but was rejected by the École des Beaux-Arts — dabbled in the idea of taking religious orders and worked as a craftsman on ornamental designs. and on public orders. He finally opened a studio where he worked with live models in the early 1880s.
He was interested in the expression of human emotion and often reused pieces from previous plays. Initially, he was not very popular in the United States due to the provocative depictions that some of his sculptures showed. These rooms were moved to a private space and were only accessible upon request.
He was known for breaking convention by celebrating classic beauty by portraying the people around him. Some of his best known works are “The Thinker” and “The Kiss”.
With the influence of many collectors, artists and curators, including Rodin’s model Katherine Seney Simpson; American actress, dancer and choreographer Loïe Fuller; philanthropist Alma De Bretteville Spreckels, and more, Rodin’s work slowly began to gain popularity as it entered private and public collections.
The “Museum Age” section of the exhibition follows the reputation of his work after his death in 1917. Rodin left the contents of his studio to the French state on the condition that a museum be founded for his work at the Hotel Biron in Paris.
The museum received instructions from the artist that bronze casts of his sculptures fund museum operations and increase awareness of his work.
American museums and collectors began to expand their Rodin collections from donations or purchases, but many institutions preferred to display the finished narrative subjects. The unfinished works that are rented today were stored until the Second World War.
The final section of the exhibition, “The Revival”, examines his work from 1954 to the present day, when scholars and critics began to recognize the boldness and modernity of his work after the director of the Art Museum modern Alfred Barr requested a bronze casting. of Rodin’s “Monument to Balzac”.
Barr considered the piece “one of the greatest sculptures in the history of Western art”, which helped Rodin’s work become fully established in the United States.
This exhibition demonstrates the progression of his pieces becoming fully established in the United States.
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