Return to Previous Page

June 17th, 2004
Rodin Museum Celebrates 75th Anniversary in Philadelphia with Special Exhibition and Series of Public Events

The Rodin Museum, a Philadelphia landmark and one of the world’s most important collections of 19th-century sculpture, opened its doors to the public on November 29, 1929, exactly one month after the stock market crash that signaled the beginning of the Great Depression. On the occasion of the 75th Anniversary of this celebrated showcase of works by the great French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), the Museum will present a series of special events, programs and a new installation featuring provocative pairings of Rodin’s sculptures, including the plaster and bronze versions of Rodin’s most lyrical work on the theme of human love, Eternal Springtime (1884).

"We are delighted to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Rodin Museum, home to the spectacular collection amassed by a native Philadelphian which continues to captivate generations of visitors from throughout the world," said Anne d’Harnoncourt, Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which has cared for and administered the Rodin Museum since 1939. "The Rodin Museum is, more than ever, one of the city’s great cultural attractions and a key element of our growing campus along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway."

Beginning in fall 2004, the Rodin Museum’s 75th Anniversary celebration will feature a lively series of public programs, including family and children’s activities, lectures, school programs, and concert performances, as well as a 75th Anniversary Gala planned for Thursday, October 14. A French-language audio guide and a new children’s guide to the Museum will also debut during the anniversary year.

The special installation, scheduled to open in September 2004, will illuminate the artist’s working process and how he developed his themes. A central focus of the installation is Danaid (1902), one of Rodin’s most admired marbles, which was acquired by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2003. Among the artist’s most touching evocations of despair, Danaid–also known as The Source–represents the arched form of a young woman fallen to her knees over a broken vessel from which water flows gently, commingling with her hair. The sculpture was given to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1902 by the Philadelphia artist Alexander Harrison (1853-1930), who acquired Danaid directly from Rodin through an exchange of his own marine pictures. The American artist wrote to Rodin that Danaid would be a "patriotic artistic gift to the city of Philadelphia."

Danaid will be shown with a number of related sculptures of the female form. The wonderful marble Aurora and Tithonus (1906) will be an anniversary loan from the Musée Rodin in Paris. In Philadelphia, it will be united with another of Rodin’s depictions of a female figure mourning over the lifeless body of her beloved, the plaster Death of Adonis (1888). The marble Andromeda (1885) depicts the despairing beauty of Greek mythology at a point in her tale just after her father, King Cepheus, chained her to a rock, sacrificing her to a sea monster to save his people. The plaster Sorrow (c. 1887) is closely related in feeling to Andromeda, each showing female figures so overcome with grief that they fling themselves forward and fold their arms around their heads.

Also paired in the installation are Adam (1880) and The Shade (1880, enlarged c. 1902), two towering bronze figures that reveal the impact Michelangelo had on Rodin’s art; as well as The Cathedral (1908) and The Hand of God (1898), two of Rodin’s larger studies of hands. Other pairings will be made with sculptures from the Rodin Museum collection, the John G. Johnson Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and loans from public and private collections.

When Auguste Rodin had his American debut at the Centennial Exhibition of 1876 in Philadelphia, he was in his mid-30s and could not have imagined that this city would create one of the world’s great monuments to his achievement. Located in a park setting at 22nd Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway (four blocks east of the Philadelphia Museum of Art) the Rodin Museum is today one of the jewels of the city’s cultural landscape. The Museum, with its elegant gardens and classic Beaux-Arts architecture, is the legacy of one of Philadelphia's best-known philanthropists. Movie magnate Jules Mastbaum (1872-1926) fell in love with the Rodin’s work during a visit to Paris in 1923. With characteristic energy Mastbaum spent the next three years assembling an extraordinary collection of sculpture and drawings by the great artist, with the idea of establishing a Rodin Museum in Philadelphia for "the enjoyment of my fellow citizens."

While creating his collection, Mastbaum commissioned the gifted architects Paul Cret and Jacques Gréber to design a building and formal garden on Philadelphia’s new Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the broad, tree-lined boulevard designed to evoke another grand avenue, the Champs Elysées in Paris. The museum, simple in detail, is monumental in its conception and yet intimate in scale and feeling. The gateway leading to the garden and museum reproduces the façade of the Château d’Issy, the eighteenth century château at Meudon, southwest of Paris, which Rodin had restored in 1907 and where he is buried. Unfortunately, Mastbaum died before he could see the realization of his dream.

The Rodin Museum is one of the most distinguished museums devoted to the work of a single artist. Mastbaum’s gift to his native city contains 128 bronzes, marbles, plasters, terra cottas and waxes, representing every aspect of the artist's career and all his major projects. Treasures at Philadelphia's Rodin Museum include a cast of The Burghers of Calais (1884-95), his most heroic and moving historical tribute; The Mask of the Man with the Broken Nose (1863-64); powerful monuments to leading French intellectuals such as Apotheosis of Victor Hugo (1890-91); as well as The Thinker (1902-04), perhaps the most famous sculpture in the world, which greets visitors outside the Museum's entrance on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, is one of Philadelphia’s many defining works of public art. The monumental Gates of Hell (1880-1917), which was Rodin’s most ambitious project and one that occupied the artist for 37 years, rises to a height of twenty feet at the entrance to the Museum. It was cast in bronze for the first time at Mastbaum's request. Inside, visitors can see one of the important early terra cotta models (1880) in which Rodin began to shape his vision for the culminating achievement of his career.

Francois-Auguste-Rene Rodin was born in Paris in 1844. By the time he died in 1917, he was not only the most celebrated sculptor in France, but also one of the most famous artists in the world. Both controversial and greatly admired during his lifetime, Rodin broke new ground with vigorous sculptures of the human form that often convey great drama and pathos. For him, beauty existed in the truthful representation of inner states, and to this end he often subtly distorted anatomy. His genius provided inspiration and a challenge for a host of great sculptors who succeeded him, including artists as varied as Henri Matisse, Constantin Brancusi and Henry Moore.

Social Media
Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Tumblr/YouTube: @philamuseum

We are Philadelphia’s art museum. A landmark building. A world-renowned collection. A place that welcomes everyone. We bring the arts to life, inspiring visitors—through scholarly study and creative play—to discover the spirit of imagination that lies in everyone. We connect people with the arts in rich and varied ways, making the experience of the Museum surprising, lively, and always memorable. We are committed to inviting visitors to see the world—and themselves—anew through the beauty and expressive power of the arts.

For additional information, contact the Communications Department of the Philadelphia Museum of Art phone at 215-684-7860, by fax at 215-235-0050, or by e-mail at The Philadelphia Museum of Art is located on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 26th Street. For general information, call (215) 763-8100.

Return to Previous Page