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Pheidias’ goddesses from the 5th century BC as inspiration for Rodin’s „The Kiss“ from 1882

Auguste Rodin: The Kiss, large version, after 1898, Plaster, cast from first marble version, of 1888–98 © Musée Rodin.

Exhibition in the British Museum: The French sculptor admired ancient Greek art and especially the creator of the Parthenon sculptures

Auguste Rodin (1840 – 1917) was one of the greatest and most innovative sculptors of the modern era. However, it is little known that he took his inspiration, in large part, from the works of the 5th-century BC sculptor Pheidias who is known as the artist who conceived the Parthenon sculptures. Until July 29, 2018, the British Museum’s exhibition „Rodin and the art of ancient Greece“ presents works by Rodin in a new light and explores how he admired and the art of antiquity, particularly that of ancient Greece.

Supported by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, this exhibition will reveal how Rodin regularly traveled to London and visited the British Museum to sketch and seek inspiration.

Yet: Roding never simply copied Pheidias’ masterpieces.

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 exhibition design takes inspiration from Rodin’s home and studio in Meudon outside Paris, and the Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery will be filled with natural light at both ends of the space for the first time since it opened in 2014.

In both Meudon and Paris, Rodin had displayed ancient pieces among his own works, on crates, stands or plaster columns.

Goddesses in diaphanous drapery, figures L and M from the east pediment of the Parthenon, about 438–432 BC, Marble. © The Trustees of the British Museum.Rising goddess, figure K from the east pediment of the Parthenon, about 438–432 BC. Marble © The Trustees of the British MuseumThis 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 has borrowed 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.

Rodin in his Museum of Antiquities at Meudon on the outskirts of Paris, about 1910. Photo: Albert Harlingue. Image © Musée Rodin

Rodin first visited London and the British Museum in 1881 and was hugely impressed by the collection, particularly the sculptures of the Parthenon. He visited London throughout his later life, and in 1902, he said „in my spare time I simply haunt the British Museum”. Rodin continued to visit the Museum until shortly before his death in 1917.

Coming on loan from the Musée Rodin are also a number of Rodin’s sketches, including 13 of the Parthenon Sculptures. 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.

The show is sponsored by Bank of America Merrill Lynch and organized with Musée Rodin, Paris.

British Museum: Rodin and the art of ancient Greece

The Guardian

Auguste Rodin, Sketches including figure K from the Parthenon and a metope from the south side of the Parthenon, 20 February 1905. Graphite on paper © Musée RodinAuguste Rodin: Pallas (Athena) with the Parthenon, 1896 Marble and plaster. © Musée RodinUnmounted youths preparing for the cavalcade, block from the north frieze of the Parthenon, about 438–432 BC, Marble, © The Trustees of the British MuseumAuguste Rodin, The Age of Bronze, 1877. Bronze. Sandcast before 1916 © Musée Rodin

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(06.05.2018, 05.06.2018)