Rodin Museum fetes sculptor with passion themed installation

By , on February 6, 2017


“The Kiss,” in marble, portrays a couple forever locked in an amorous embrace. (Photo: Musée Rodin)
“The Kiss,” in marble, portrays a couple forever locked in an amorous embrace. (Photo: Musée Rodin)

PHILADELPHIA—Auguste Rodin’s sensuous piece “The Kiss” will, fittingly, form the core of an installation at Philadelphia’s Rodin Museum centred on the theme of passion to mark the 100th anniversary of the French sculptor’s death.

“The Kiss,” in marble, portrays a couple forever locked in an amorous embrace. The new installation’s marble, bronze and plaster casts feature pairings including men and women, mothers and children, a woman clutching a dead lover — and others that are playful, animalistic and one considered too shocking for even Rodin to exhibit during his lifetime. He died in November 1917.

“He explores the idea of a couple … through desire, attraction, repulsion and shame,” said curator Jennifer Thompson. “This is what passion looks like at the hands of Rodin.”

The installation is part of a yearlong series of celebrations looking at the groundbreaking artist’s life being held at a host of art museums large and small around the world, with the Musee Rodin in Paris at the centre. The public programs and exhibitions — unified under #Rodin100 — are bringing together new information about the man considered the father of modern sculpture.

Among the Philadelphia installation’s 16 works is the plaster “Young Mother in the Grotto,” an ode to maternal love featuring a young woman and chubby baby, and “The Minotaur,” which depicts the mythological creature with a human face said to be a self-portrait, groping and leering at a woman who seems torn between desire and revulsion.

“The Damned” is a plaster cast that even Rodin thought was too racy to exhibit, with its two women in a lusty embrace, buttocks aloft.

Philadelphia’s version of “The Kiss” is a copy commissioned in 1926 by theatre magnate Jules Mastbaum. The museum, which opened in 1929, was a gift to the city from Mastbaum, who was introduced to Rodin’s work during a 1923 trip to Paris.

Mastbaum hired two French-born architects living in Philadelphia, Paul Cret and Jacques Greber, to create the limestone museum, modeled on a 17th-century chateau Rodin preserved at his home in Meudon. Its holdings include more than 140 bronze, marble and plaster sculptures, plus drawings, prints, letters and books.

He and his architects wanted a great marble sculpture as the museum’s centerpiece. They got permission from the Musee Rodin in Paris to re-create “The Kiss,” and sculptor Henri Greber — Jacques Greber’s father — was selected and given a full-size plaster model to work from. It’s one of four copies of sculpture considered by some as his masterpiece.

“In all of these works, he’s sharing with us a catalogue of passion,” Thompson said.

It will be on view until 2019.