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Indepth Arts News:

1999-07-08 until 1999-09-19
Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens
Jacksonville, FL, USA United States of America

The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens is one of only four museums in the United States to host this exhibition of the work of world-renowned sculptor Auguste Rodin. The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation organized the exhibition entitled Rodinís Monument to Victor Hugo as part of their mission to make the French masterís work available to a broad public audience. This exhibition includes twenty sculptures by Rodin in bronze, marble, plaster and terra cotta, as well as several works on paper. The focal point of the exhibition is Rodinís commanding bronze Monument to Victor Hugo. This single sculpture weighs 2,750 pounds and has dimensions of 6íx 9íx 5í. The monument, originally commissioned in 1889, was cast in bronze in 1996 by B. Gerald Cantor (1916-1996), through the Cantor Foundation and realized with the cooperation of the Musťe Rodin in Paris.

Through Rodinís early marble busts, plaster figures, and preliminary studies, visitors will be able to trace the masterís thought process as he conceived the final monument. Bringing all twenty-two pieces together allows the public to see Rodinís mind at work. It is very gratifying to be able to present this exhibition in Jacksonville and weíre grateful to CSX Transportation for their tremendous support and sponsorship of this exhibition, said museum director, Kahren Arbitman.

The arts and education form the foundation of a community, said A.R. Pete Carpenter, president and CEO of CSX Transportation, Inc. The Cummerís ability to attract an exhibition of this magnitude is a tribute to the museum and its leadership. Since Jacksonville will be the only city in the Southeast to host this body of work, we have a unique opportunity to showcase our community.

The cast is only the second to be made, and the first to be accessible to audiences outside of France. The first cast of this monument is permanently located at the intersection of two avenues in Paris. The original commission for a monument of Victor Hugo was awarded to Rodin in 1889 by the French government as part of a restoration program for the Pantheon, the converted eighteenth-century church in Paris. Restoration plans included a vast sculptural program for monuments dedicated to the men who were considered greats of the French Revolution. A monument to Victor Hugo was planned because he carried the French revolution into the nineteenth century. Auguste Rodin was selected as the sculptor for the Hugo monument. This commission held great personal significance for Rodin, who, like many in France during this time, idolized Victor Hugo for his literary and political achievements. Rodin worked on the project intensely for years and finally in 1897 he unveiled a three-figure plaster group. Although political problems plagued the project, the monument was never cast in bronze during Rodinís lifetime.

In 1952 the city of Paris commissioned the original cast in bronze to commemorate the centennial of Victor Hugoís poems, Les Chatiments (The Punishments) which he wrote in 1853 while in self-imposed exile on Guernsey.

Completion of the monument, one of Rodinís more elaborate creations, was hindered by the politics of the times more than a century ago. Today it is probably his least known monument. In the sculpture, Rodin depicts the most celebrated author of the nineteenth century as a giant seated on rocks near the edge of the sea where the waves break. Hugo, the poet, dramatist, novelist and political activist is immersed in thought while listening intently to the voices of his muses. The Tragic Muse hovers near his head while the personification of Meditation merges from the sea. The poetís left arm and hand are dramatically extended toward the sea as if to quiet the waves to better hear the voices.

This exhibition explores the different stages of Rodinís response to an enormous challenge - celebrating the extraordinarily prolific career of Victor Hugo and creating a monument capable of capturing the legendary figure. Because of the generosity of Iris and the late B. Gerald Cantor and the Cantor Foundation, The Cummer Museum is able to exhibit these extraordinary works of art to residents and visitors of the Southeast United States. The exhibitionís next and final stop is The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, founded in 1959, is the largest fine arts museum in Northeast Florida. The Museum has a permanent collection of more than 4,000 objects and is noted for its collection of Old Master and American paintings and Meissen porcelain. Located on the St. Johns River, the museum also features two and one half acres of formal English and Italian gardens.

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