Historical Note


The Rodin Museum, located on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, was constructed during the years 1926-1929 as a gift to the City of Philadelphia from Jules E. Mastbaum. The architects for the museum were Paul Philippe Cret and Jacques Greber, a Parisian who had previously conceived and worked on the development and planning of the Parkway. During the later years of his life, Mastbaum, a prominent philanthropist in Philadelphia, Head of the Stanley Company of America, and a movie theater magnate, had built the most important collection of Rodin's work outside of France, purchasing bronzes, prints, letters, books, and other documentary material from the Musée Rodin and other collections.

Originally, Jules Mastbaum wished to donate the building to the City of Philadelphia, making it city property, while remaining the owner of the works of art to be displayed there. However, Jules Mastbaum died before completing the negotiations with the Fairmount Park Commissioners. His wife, who was left to carry out the negotiations, altered the agreement by including the art works in the gift to the City. In 1929, an agreement was drawn up between the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Fairmount Park Commission making the Museum the caretaker of the Rodin Museum and its contents, while the City of Philadelphia retained ownership of the property.

The Rodin Museum remained untouched, aside from basic maintenance, until 1968 when the monumental bronze sculptures that had originally been installed on the grounds were brought inside to the Rodin Museum's main galleries in order to protect them from pollution and vandalism. This move brought about some discussion as to what to do with the side galleries. In 1982, an entrance for the physically handicapped was constructed. The smaller bronzes, marbles, and plasters which had been displayed in the gallery of the new entrance were removed and placed into storage. It became obvious to administrators that the installation of the galleries in Rodin Museum needed to be rethought and renovated. The renovation would include replacing the entire electrical system from 1929. Money was made available through two donors, the Alliance Francaise and the Women's Committee in 1988, enabling preliminary steps to be made toward the goals of the project. The Philadelphia Museum of Art and a National Endowment for the Arts grant made it financially possible for the work to be completed.

Works Consulted

Archives Reference Files. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Archives. Includes a binder entitled, "PMA Officers and Staff, 1876-present," which consists of photocopies of annual report listings from 1876 to 1990.

Tancock, John L. Handbook. (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1969).

Tancock, John L. The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin: the Collection of the Rodin Museum (Philadelphia: The Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1976).

Watkins, Fridon, compiler. Catalogue of the Rodin Museum (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Museum of Art, 1929).

Brownlee, David Bruce. Building the City Beautiful. (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1989).