If you love statues but aren’t planning on visiting the expansive Louvre Museum, then the Musée Rodin in Paris is your next best bet. One of the top museums in Paris, this hotel particulier turned museum is dedicated to the works of famed French artist François Auguste René Rodin.
A distinguished sculptor, Auguste Rodin has his own museum in the Paris area, or rather two. The museum has two sites, the palatial mansion “Hôtel Biron” in central Paris in the 7th arrondissement (which is the one that is more easily accessible), as well as Rodin’s own home in the Parisian suburb of Meudon in Hauts-de-Seine.
Life of Auguste Rodin
Born in 1840, Auguste Rodin has been considered the forefather of modern sculture. A departure from the style of greek antiquity, his sculptures often have a rough, rather unfinished look. He modelled the human body based on naturalism, and his sculptures celebrate physicality rather than perfection.
As his fame grew, he began receiving requests to make busts of prominent people in France and internationally. Many of his works are sculptures are commissions of people, where his assistants made authorized copies of his works.
Upon his death in 1917, Rodin left his studio, many of his works, as well as the right to make casts from his plasters to the French government. Because he authorized the use of plasters, he is one of the most forged artists in the world.
In response to the forgeries, France passed several laws since 1956 to limit reproduction to 12 casts, the maximum number that can be made from an artist’s plasters and still be considered his work.
The Museum at Hotel Biron in Paris
It was initially built as a private residence for a financier in 1727, and at one point was leased to the Duchesse du Maine, the daughter-in-law of Sun King Louis XIV. After the 1789 French revolution, it became a school for girls but under the 1905 French law on the “separation of Church and State”, the school was forced to close.
It was here in 1908 where Rodin rented several rooms on the ground floor in which to store his sculptures. He would move in, hosting parties and his friends in its large expansive gardens.
In 1909, at the height of his fame at the age of 70, Rodin started asking for the Hôtel Biron to become a museum of his work.
Van Gogh and Monet exhibits
On the 1st floor of Hotel Biron in Musée Rodin, you will find many works and paintings of Rodin’s contemporaries like Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet. At this point in their careers, each were famous in their own right.
Some of these works were given as gifts to Rodin and made up part of his estate. You can find more of their works at the Musée d’Orsay and Musée de l’Orangerie, both of which are within walking distance from Hotel Biron.
Camille Claudel at Musée Rodin
The Musée Rodin also features the work of one of France’s most famous female sculptors, Camille Claudel. She met Rodin at the age of 18 and started working for him in 1883 in his studio. She was 24 years his junior.
It would take several decades after her death for some of Rodin’s work properly recognized as actually being the hand of Claudel and for her to get her vindication.
The two fell passionately in love and many of Rodin’s sculptures of females included the face of Camille. Their time together would last 10 years after which Rodin took his new pupil as his mistress and marries his official companion.
After their breakup, Camille Claudel continued to create but as a woman in a male-dominated world, she toiled in his shadow. She began to suffer from obsessions, with paranoia of persecution against Rodin, destroying a good portion of her own works.
Her brother Paul and their mother would have her committed in 1913 for mental illness. Doctors and her friends would later declare that she was not insane, but her family refused to release her.
She died destitute at the age of 78 in 1943 in the middle of the German occupation of Paris, deprived after spending some 30 years in an asylum.
When Rodin died in 1917, he had asked for a permanent exhibition place for the works of Camille Claudel to be displayed in Hotel Biron. It was only in 1952 however, when Paul Claudel donated 4 major works by his sister to the museum.
The Sculpture Gardens
The museum within Paris has a series of galleries filled with statues, but more importantly, it has a sculpture garden where you can let the kids roam freely, unlike some of the more serious museums.
Two of Rodin’s major works sit in the garden on either side of the entrance to the property, The Thinker facing The Gates of Hell.
In the back garden, you will find many other sculptures over the 7 hectares including the Monument to the Burghers of Calais and Ugolino and His Sons in the center of the ornamental pool.
There is much to see and look at, so lines can be rather long, especially in the summer time. You can book your skip-the-line tickets to Musée Rodin here.
If you enjoyed that article, you may like to read more about things to do in Paris. A bientôt!