On the left bank of River Seine in the 7th arrondissement of Paris you will find a real jewel- Musee Rodin. There are at least four reasons not to miss it when you visit Paris:
1. The crowd is much less than at the other Parisienne attractions
2. You will spend a few hours enjoying magnificent sculptors in one of the most beautiful gardens in the world and inside a splendid building of the former hotel Biron
3. You will be fascinated by the life of one of the most talented artists of modern times – Auguste Rodin (1840 -1917)
4. You can admire three paintings of Van Gogh – Pere Tanguy, The Viaduct in Arles and The Harvesters and a painting of The Rodin’s Thinker by Edvard Munch.
Of all the sculptures displayed in the Musee Rodin I have two favourites – The Thinker and Balzac.
The famous Thinker presents a man with a very fit and powerful body (nowadays we cannot attach gender) sitting on a stone in a moment of deep thought and concentration. It appears that he has risen above daily chores and noises, above the external world and is contemplating his inner worth and space. It is very clear to me why Rodin was acknowledged as a modern sculptor – he did not go for a photographic similarity of the figure but expressed himself as an artist, expressed feelings, concepts and ideas. One of the man’s legs is not fully developed and is still part of the stone, the surface is not smooth but has traces of sculptor’s tools (is that reminding you of the brush strokes on the paintings of Van Gogh?!). The sculpture just invites us to stop for a while, to slow down, to rise above modern day speed and impatience and look for inner peace.
The “Balzac” sculpture caused a scandal when it was presented by Rodin. The author of Human Comedy was well known for his habit of writing standing up wearing his dressing kaftan. Creating his monument, Rodin chose not to use any symbols such as books and pens or to go for a photographic resemblance of the writer. Instead, he presented a revolutionary monument, showing a man with vision, a genius looking over the world, powerful with his intellect and talent. Surprise, surprise – The Society des Gens de Letters who commissioned it refused to accept it. Why? Because the decision was made by yesterday’s people and not people of vision. (the story of our lives).
Rodin’s personal life is very interesting for me for two reasons. Firstly, Rodin was not a mainstream artist. He applied three times to the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts and failed every time. He had a very long apprenticeship mainly in the studios of the very fashionable sculptor Albert-Ernest Carrier- Belleuse in Paris and Brussels, learning the trade of the decorative craft. He was 35 when his first sculpture The man with the broken nose was accepted by the Salon. Success came to him when he was 40 years old. Maybe the fact that he did not have an academic education and was more practitioner than creator was a blessing in disguise as this paved his way to become the most famous sculptor of the 20th century.
Secondly, Rodin met his long-time partner and wife for two weeks, Rose Beuret, when he was 24. She was a seamstress and they had one son Auguste Beuret (Rodin gave him only his first name not his surname). The artist had endless affairs but Rose never left him. Maybe she loved him and/or she appreciated that she was living with a genius. Rodin was unfaithful to her and had a 10 year passionate affair with one of his students, Camille Claudel. Camille became his lover and muse. She was also a talented sculptress. They separated when Rodin refused to leave Rose for Camille but they still kept in touch. However, in 1893 Camille created The Age of Maturity sculpture. It has three figures. In the middle is a man, on the left is a much younger woman on her knees who is looking longingly towards the man, The man is reacting to her but at the same time is leaning to the right where there is a mature woman embracing him. The mature woman is smiling and guiding the man away from his young lover. Rodin was furious with this sculpture and that was the end of his relationship with Camille. Camille continued her creative work but became ill and was confined to an asylum. Rodin married his long-time companion Rose two weeks before her death.
Musee Rodin has a room dedicated to the work of Camille Clodel, including The Age of Maturity. One wonders whether mature ladies should choose to live in France if handsome and talented French men appreciate maturity so much (reference: current President Macron).