Walking with Rodin

Somedays we run, somedays we walk, somedays we crawl out of bed, and never really make it to standing all the way up. This day was a slow, long one, but we managed to grab a bit of culture and blast our way through a gray, drizzly Paris day.

The Thinker, thinking away, presumably

We had been seeing Rodin’s handiwork throughout Paris. At the D’Orsay, at the Louvre, and in a dozen other spots as well. Those collected at the Rodin Museum were amazing in their notoriety. This is where we met the Thinker, that famed but silent prognosticator, doing what he does best, in a wonderfully landscaped position of prominence immediately at the right of the gate. Visible from the road, and already a familiar piece, we took our pictures and entered, glad to be away from the bluster.

The Rodin museum is in the Hotel Biron, where Rodin set up his workshop in 1908. During his career, he also amassed a fantastic collection of his contemporaries’ art. Of course, being the basic art consumer that I am, Van Gogh and Monet practically popped off the walls at me, but it was Diriks that stood out from the painted collection. The life he captured in Pines By The Sea, and the cloudscape over a tranquil sea set me to ease in a moment.

Pines by the Sea, but Diriks, and a moment of serenity on a cloudy, blustery Paris day

The texture that Rodin captures is mindbogglingly precise. Its smoothness at times and even its hair forgives the immobility of the medium and invites life to stone, to marble, to plaster. His bust of Jules Dalou, another sculptor and a friend, has a distracted, far-away expression that draws you in, instantly. You want to throw a jacket around his bare proud shoulders but shudder at the thought of upsetting the subject.

Just outside and opposite the courtyard from the Thinker, the Burghers of Calais memorialize the surrender of six of the wealthiest citizens to save the French port town to the British after an 11 month seige during the Hundred Years War. The six figures are proud and dignified, even in defeat, and Rodin captures their self-sacrifice and scaled up their size so that even to me, a larger man, I found myself looking up into their faces and contemplating the anguish the characters went through.

Jules Dalou, a man exiled, then welcomed back, then befriended by Rodin, and immortalized in pensive distractedness

I enjoyed getting lost in the talent of Rodin and the eccentricity of his collection. His influence and the ability of his students humbled me, and most specifically, his hands. I’ve never been able to draw a hand, and here is Rodin, carving from marble the Hands of God which stood taller than a few of our party. His decision to leave some of the marble untouched made the parts that he did alter stand with that much more grace. A large portion of the gardens were under construction during our visit, but it was still worth the trip, especially for a student of sculpture.

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