Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker, one of the artist’s most famous works and a familiar fixture of Philadelphia’s Rodin Museum, will be reinstalled on its pedestal outside the Museum’s entrance on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on Wednesday, January 13th. Since June, the sculpture has been on display in the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Great Stair Hall, while the Rodin Museum’s limestone façade, known as the Meudon Monument, underwent restoration.
Modeled after the 18th-century façade of the Château d’Issy, which Rodin had installed at his estate at Meudon, France, the structure was cleaned to remove the layer of vehicular grime and pollution that had accumulated on its surface during the past 80 years. Its façade was also repointed and its stone repaired where necessary. The large French wrought-iron gate and transom, fashioned in Paris in 1926-7 after the gates at the Château d’Issy, designed around 1700, were removed for cleaning, restoration, and coating. During the course of the renovation, the monument’s pediment, roof and flashing system were repaired and two flights of limestone steps leading to the Museum entrance were replaced using new stone quarried in France.
Andrew Lins, the Neubauer Family Chair of Conservation and Senior Conservator of Decorative Arts and Sculpture at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, supervised the restoration of the Meudon Monument, working with Milner + Carr Conservation, LLC, in collaboration with Dan Lepore & Sons Company, Masonry Contractors, and Gooding, Simpson & Mackes, Inc. Specialty Roofing Contractors. Restoration of the wrought-iron gate was performed by Vintage Metalwork, Inc. of Milford, Delaware.
Commencing this spring, 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 renew and improve the grounds in the spirit of the original 1929 plan. Drawing on 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. The new planting plan for the interior courtyard garden and areas surrounding the museum are being implemented in close coordination with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. This work is expected to be completed by the end of 2010.
The Rodin Museum and Garden Landscape Rejuvenation Project is part of a broad long-term effort to renovate 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 Rodin Museum’s continued place as a jewel along the Parkway for years to come.
Opened in 1929, the Rodin Museum was the gift of movie theater magnate Jules Mastbaum (American, 1872–1926) to the city of Philadelphia, and contains some 120 works by the French artist. Mastbaum began collecting Rodin’s work in 1923 and within three years had assembled the largest collection of his works outside Paris, including bronze castings, plaster studies, drawings, prints, letters, and books.
“The Rodin Museum houses one of the world’s great collections of the artist’s work,” Timothy Rub, the George D. Widener Director and CEO of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “Restoring these key components of the Museum’s physical structure and reviving the natural beauty of its exterior landscape will have a lasting impact on residents of Philadelphia as well as visitors from around the world.”
“The completed project will make a wonderfully befitting neighbor to the new Barnes Foundation on the Parkway,” Rub added.
Gail Harrity, the Museum’s President and Chief Operating Officer, noted: “This unique partnership among Fairmount Park, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, and the Art Museum continues the successful and longtime collaboration our institutions have enjoyed for many years,” adding that, “It underscores our commitment to enhancing the Parkway and sustaining its role as a vital public thoroughfare and cultural corridor for the City of Philadelphia.”