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Like many great minds in Philadelphia, “The Thinker” is taking a summer vacation.
“The Thinker,” one of Auguste Rodin’s most famous sculptures and a prominent feature of the museum containing some 120 works by the French artist, has been transported to the Philadelphia Museum of Art for safekeeping during the initial phase of renovations to the exterior landscape of the Rodin Museum and along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Following the reapplication of a protective coating now being completed by the Conservation Department at the Museum, “The Thinker” will be on display in the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Great Stair Hall until it can be safely reinstalled at the Rodin Museum this fall.
The Rodin Museum’s limestone façade, known as the Meudon Monument, is currently under restoration. Modeled after the 18th-century façade at Château d’Issy, which Rodin had installed at his property at Meudon, France, the structure is being cleaned to remove vehicular grime and pollution accumulated during the past 80 years. The façade is also being repointed and its stone repaired where necessary, and the large French wrought-iron gates, fashioned in Paris in 1926-7 after a circa 1700 model, have been removed for cleaning, restoration, and coating.
During the course of the renovation, two flights of limestone steps leading to the Museum entrance will also be replaced using new stone quarried in France. This fall, when restoration of the Meudon Monument is complete, additional landscaping, paving, cleaning and renovation work will take place throughout the entire park block of the Rodin Museum, based on a design by Olin landscape architects to rejuvenate the grounds in the spirit of the original 1929 plan. Drawing from the blueprints and correspondence of building architect Paul Cret and landscape architect Jacques Gréber, the project retains key features of its formal Beaux-arts design, while renovating and upgrading circulation and lighting. Restoration work of walls, stairs and copings, landscaping, and garden improvements is expected to be complete by fall 2010.
The Rodin Museum and Garden Landscape Rejuvenation Project is part of a larger project to implement improvements to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and is facilitated through a partnership between Fairmount Park, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, with generous financial support from the Pew Charitable Trusts, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The William Penn Foundation, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the City of Philadelphia. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society is coordinating the grant-funded components of the project, for which the Philadelphia Museum of Art must raise matching funds through private donations to renovate the interior courtyard garden and ensure the success of the project for the Museum’s continued place as a jewel along the Parkway for years to come.