Rodin and the art of ancient Greece
The British Museum
Until July 29th
Words: Lavinia Dickson-Robinson
Auguste Rodin (1840 – 1917) was one of the greatest and most innovative sculptors of the modern era. However, it is little known that Rodin took his inspiration, in large part, from the works of the fifth-century BC sculptor Pheidias, the artist who conceived the Parthenon sculptures.
This exhibition presents works by Rodin and explores how he admired the art of antiquity, particularly that of ancient Greece and how he regularly visited the British Museum to sketch and seek inspiration. Some of the sketches were done on headed notepaper from the Thackeray Hotel where Rodin stayed when he was in London, right opposite the British Museum.
For the very first time, visitors can appreciate Rodin’s extraordinary talent as a sculptor by showing his work alongside the very Parthenon sculptures that inspired him. Thanks to a collaboration with the Musée Rodin in Paris, over 80 works in marble, bronze and plaster, along with some of Rodin’s sketches are displayed in conversation with ancient Greek art. The show allows visitors 360-degree access to many of the works which
will be displayed at eye level as if they were in a sculptor’s workshop. The exhibition design takes inspiration from Rodin’s home and studio in Meudon outside Paris. This exhibition reveals that Rodin’s famous work The Kiss (1882) evokes two female goddesses, originally on the East Pediment of the Parthenon, one of which reclines luxuriously in the lap of her companion. The British Museum is borrowing an important version of The Kiss from the Musée Rodin. It is a plaster cast of the first marble example and it became the version which Rodin would display in exhibitions and from which others were copied. Both the Parthenon goddesses and Rodin’s marble Kiss are carved from a single block of stone with one figure melting into another.