The animal is ignorant of the fact that he knows. The man is aware of the fact that he is ignorant. Victor Hugo
Victor Marie Hugo (26 February 1802 – 22 May 1885) was a French poet, novelist, and dramatist of the Romantic movement. Hugo is considered to be one of the greatest and best-known French writers. Outside of France, his most famous works are the novels Les Misérables, 1862, and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (French: Notre-Dame de Paris), 1831. In France, Hugo is known primarily for his poetry collections, such as Les Contemplations (The Contemplations) and La Légende des siècles (The Legend of the Ages).
Let me first say, I am not an art aficionado. I am not even sure I could pick out an Impressionist artist from a Post Modernist . I am sure I could not tell a Renoir from a Ruben but I do know what a Rodin is. I would not know this except for a course in college I had to take, I don’t even remember the title something like “Art Appreciation” or “Art for Knuckleheads”. It was not something I was excited about (bored to tears would be a better term), but it was a requirement for graduation, you know like breathing is a requirement for life. What art appreciation had to do with a degree in Criminology I have no idea, it’s not like I, a country boy from Western PA was going to go to work for Interpol or some other made up police agency that investigated thefts from the Louvre.
At one point in the course each person had to write a paper about an artist. How I picked Rodin, I have no idea, it might even have been assigned by the teacher. As I started to do research I became engrossed. No so much by the sculptures themselves, that came a little later. I started to get into the stories of Augustus Rodin and how he worked with the models, the time he spent with each of them, their movements around his studio and his personal life which could be used for a soap opera. I was fascinated by the story behind “The Man with the Broken Nose”, how he used a local workman “Bibi”
as his model; or the girl modelling for “Eve” had to stop because of an unexpected pregnancy.
Less than a week ago, on the first Sunday of June, I was able to get to the Rodin Museum here in Philadelphia. I went by myself, which in hindsight was a good thing. The building is only one story with floor space probably equal to six good sized high school classrooms. The space is not crowded in the least with many of the larger pieces being placed so you can circle around them entirely.
The interior of the museum is elegant with marble floors in the main room and gorgeous hardwood floors in a smaller room which I could not find a name for so I just named it The Study because it has two large tables with padded chairs, suitable for sitting and writing. I was fortunate during my first visit because the wonderfully bright sunshine was coming thru the huge windows both illuminating the pieces within and enabling viewing of the larger pieces outside.
I decided to just absorb the place at first, so I put in my headphones, logged into the free Wi-Fi and turned on Pandora to Instrumental Folk Music and looked at every piece in the building. I feasted on Augustus Rodin’s art, then after a short ice tea and cheese popcorn break (purchased from Wawa just up the street, and consumed outside under the trees).
I began to use the free Rodin App, which has most of the pieces in an easy to follow menu, with a short audio piece accompanied with a variety of corresponding pictures.
After exhausting about half of the material in the app I latched onto a tour that had just begun and followed it thru all four major rooms inside then out into the gardens to learn about the grounds, including the Gates of Hell
and my favorite large piece the Burghers of Calais. The staff member giving the tour was excellent bringing along pictures of the artist at work on the pieces, and showing comparison photos of Michelangelo’s work and how it influenced Rodin’s.
Reading the reviews on Yelp and other promotional pieces on the Rodin Museum the term small and intimate were used quite frequently. One reviewer on Yelp talked about seeing it all in about a half hour. So I guess the three hours I spent there might be considered obsessive by some, and I might have crossed over from admirer to fan (fan being short for fanatic).
To be totally fair, the place was not perfect, there were numerous cobwebs on the Burghers of Calais (located on the eastern side of the building), which was a little distracting. The second minor deficiency was the Rodin App, while free needs to be updated because some of the pieces have been changed around since the app was completed. Granted these are minor complaints that did not detract too much from an amazingly enjoyable day.
Asking if I will go again would just be silly, of course I will go again, what will be hard is going to other museums here in Philadelphia and enjoying them just as much as the one dedicated strictly to François-Auguste-René Rodin.