Artist Auguste Rodin has been called the forefather of modern sculpture. Widely recognized for his innovative work in deconstructing the human body into fragments or partial figures, his works of art touch on emotion, realism, and movement.
In his day, Rodin was a nonconformist, rebelling against 19th century French academic standards, which were largely focused on decorative figure sculptures that followed a theme, such as mythology. His avoidance of traditional models and poses would come to define his legacy.
A collection of Rodin’s sculptures are on display at the Arthur Ross Gallery (ARG) in the exhibition, “Auguste Rodin: The Human Experience.” Seven sculptures are on loan from the private collection of Iris Cantor, and 13 are being shown via the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Foundation.
Lynn Marsden-Atlass, director of the ARG and curator of the University Art Collection, says the exhibition features exquisite works from Rodin, including three monumental scale works: “Meditation with Arms”; the “Torso of the Walking Man”; and the “Head of Jean d’Aire.”
“Equally important are the small-scale works such as the 1863 ‘Man with the Broken Nose,’ one of Rodin’s earliest works, and the ‘Hand of God,’ the work which inspired B. Gerald Cantor to collect Rodin’s sculpture,” she says. “This is an outstanding sculpture exhibition.”
One of the bronzes showcased in the exhibit, “Jean d’Aire,” is a three-foot nude study for part of the artist’s six-sculpture masterpiece, “Burghers of Calais.” The study is on loan from the University of Pennsylvania Art Collection and was donated to Penn in 1983 by art dealer Jeffrey Loria. He also gave to Penn Rodin’s “Grande Venus,” which sits at the entrance to the Office of the President in College Hall.
Marsden-Atlass says that personally, Rodin is a very important artist. For a decade, Marsden-Atlass taught in Paris and lectured on Rodin in her 19th century French art course.
“All classes on Rodin, I taught directly from the sculptures on view in the Musee Rodin,” she says. “I’ve studied and admired Rodin’s work for many years, and spent countless hours walking with my daughters in the Rodin sculpture gardens there.”
The ARG will feature Rodin-related events throughout the semester. On Friday, Sept. 6, Judith Sobol, executive director of the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Foundation, will speak at the gallery at 5 p.m. Other related programming will include an academic symposium, a musical performance, a film screening, and a French soirée.
“Auguste Rodin: The Human Experience” runs through Sunday, Dec. 22.