To find the still-breathing, creative, and passionate touches of the artist, one must take a trip to the Musee Rodin in Paris, where the creaking floors of the rooms of the 18th Century edifice that once housed Rodin"s studio, now holds an unmistakable feeling of the artist"s presence through his displayed works.
Auguste Rodin, born on November 12, 1840 in Paris, is considered a key innovator in modern sculpture. Just as Picasso had opened a new stage for modern painting with his cubist paintings, many of Rodin"s works experimented with and developed the notion of fragmentation, as can be seen in his numerous incomplete-looking sculptures of bodiless spare parts such as hands, feet, torsos, and so on.
Rodin first rented the ground floor of the museum (which was then called the Hotel Biron and owned by the government) in 1908 as his studio and later, with the backing of his closest friends, decided to turn the Hotel Biron into a museum devoted to his works. It was only a year before his death that Rodin handed over to the government all his collections and personal archives.
The museum resembles a chateau, surrounded by three hectares of land, although this is not evident upon first view of the front entrance to the cobblestoned ground. Once inside, a majestic marble staircase leading from the museum"s entrance leads to high-ceilinged drawing rooms that still hold the artist"s antique sofas, chairs and other furniture, along with paintings of his friends Monet, Renoir, and Van Gogh. On the floors of each room stand his sculptures, such as "The Kiss," "The Thinker," and ""The Burghers of Calais."
Although some sculptures are surprisingly realistic and conservative (such as "The Kiss" and "The Age of Bronze"), the majority of his displayed works seemed roughly sculpted and incomplete, which can be attributed to the artist"s intention. As is evident in the controversial statue of Honore de Balzac (which barely resembles anything like the writer"s appearance), Rodin liked to concentrate on the "intimate person," in an effort to unveil a person"s depth and richness in the viewer"s imagination of the personality, rather than to remind us of the person"s "external circumstances."
This intention proved itself right, for despite the fact that one is barely able to tell the writer"s body parts from one another, strangely enough, the tall and robust statue reeks of Balzac? arrogance, pride, and intensity.
Once visitors complete their tour of the museum, they are led to the back exit of the building, which opens on to a view of the three hectares of garden lined with paths flanked by rows of linden trees on each side, and decorated with a large ornamental pool in the center.
While walking along a path, a trickling flow of water can be heard, although at first sight the source of sound is not evident... until the path winds to clumps of bushes and several species of colorful and neatly trimmed plants hiding small water springs come into sight on each side of the garden, resembling small marble fountains. Rodin"s marble sculptures, some wet and even slightly mossy, seem to blend into this panorama of greenery and sounds.
Among these works of art is the towering "Gates of Hell." The "Gates of Hell" is Rodin"s first and biggest commissioned work, a life-long project which he was unable to complete by his death. The over-powering and slightly morose piece of work was inspired by Dante"s The Divine Comedy; however he chose to ignore two-thirds of the poem in order to concentrate on its darkest aspect Hell.
Bodies hurtling across the Gate (created separately and then patched together) seem to collide and anxiously claw at each other without any gemiome encounter, unable to get themselves together, while at the same time their fevered motions through contorted bodies seem to reflect the deprivation of unresolved desires.
While the visitors end their tour by resting at the outdoor cafe located in the garden, one cannot help but imagine the regret and reluctance the sculptor must have felt in leaving all his achievements, some incomplete, as well as his beautiful garden, behind.
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