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Today is the 100 year anniversary of Rodin’s death: November 17, 1917 — and to celebrate this centenary, The Metropolitan Museum of Art has staged a dynamic exhibit showcasing nearly 50 pieces by the inimitable sculptor (on now through January 15, 2018).
Auguste Rodin was a French sculptor, born in Paris in 1840. If you know very little about Rodin, you could think of him this way: he lived and worked around the same time as Monet and the other Impressionists, and he did for sculpture, what they did for painting. He pulled sculpture into the modern age.
If you already know something about Rodin, you probably know why I’m so drawn to him. We had the same hero: Michelangelo Buonarroti.
Michelangelo and Rodin were both trained in the traditional ways of their craft — Michelangelo studied the sculpture of ancient Rome and early Renaissance masters like Donatello and Ghiberti…
Rodin studied, well, the ancient Romans, Donatello… and Michelangelo.
Michelangelo took the work of the ancient Romans to an unsurpassable ideal (think of his Pieta or David) and then pushed those ideas further toward a more emotional — more human — expression.
Rodin, well, took Michelangelo to an unsurpassable ideal (think of The Thinker) and then pushed his ideas further toward more expression.
(Just in case you don’t believe the whole ‘Rodin loved Michelangelo’ thing, check out the second image above, Hand of God. It’s a tribute to those famous fingers in Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling panel, Creation of Adam. The Tempest — last image above — isn’t a tribute to anything Michelangelo, but I have no doubt the maestro would have loved it).
Not to be ignored, this exhibit also does a fascinating job of comparing Rodin’s work to that of his painterly contemporaries. I was particularly struck by the way his statues played off of the surrounding Impressionist paintings…
But I don’t know, call it a bias, I mainly wandered through that exhibit thinking about Michelangelo. About how much those two sculptors — separated by 300 years — were so similar… I was even struck by the strange similarities of their two portrait’s (Rodin’s on display in the exhibit; Michelangelo’s on display in my mind — although his portrait, too, lives down the hall, inside the Met):
Art (and history, too, so goes the cliché) repeats itself. The ancient sculptor of the Laocoon begets Michelangelo begets Rodin begets… who? 100 years later, perhaps, it’s time for someone new to step in and drag us all into another Renaissance.
Something to think about, anyway, as you’re wandering the halls of the Met.
Rodin at the Met
On now through January 15, 2018
Included with Museum Admission