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"RODIN: Sculpture from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Collection"
2000-01-20 until 2000-03-26
Dayton Art Institute
Dayton, OH, USA United States of America

The Dayton Art Institute is honored to host a selection of 71 sculptures by the great French sculptor, Auguste Rodin. Drawn from the prestigious Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Collection, located in Los Angeles and estimated to be the worlds largest private collection of Rodin sculptures, these works represent many of Rodins most beloved sculptures, including the famous Thinker. Also included are works from his famous Gates of Hell, Burghers of Calais, Monument to HonorČ de Balzac and any number of portraits and group figures, including a reduction of The Age of Bronze.

At the height of his career, Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) was considered to be the greatest sculptor since Michelangelo. His genius lay in his ability to liberate both his subject matter and his style from 19th century artistic conventions through a highly personal sense of expression and a willingness to accept change. No longer bound by the usual time-honored traditions of the allegory in the service of the State or the Church, Rodin found himself on the threshold of the modern age.

Yet, his beginnings were far from privileged or auspicious. His attempts to gain admittance to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts were refused three times and for several years, he worked as an ornamental mason with the decorative sculptor Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse. But in 1875, at the age of 35, Rodin traveled to Italy where he was able to study the works of the great High Renaissance sculptor Michelangelo, who was for Rodin his greatest influence and mentor. This was, in fact, the key to unlocking Rodins tremendous talent and potential. Rodins first major work, The Age of Bronze, exhibited in 1878, was inspired directly by Michelangelos Slaves, which Rodin would have seen both in the Louvre in Paris and in the Accademia in Florence. Freestanding, nude, without classical trappings or weapons, unidealized and blatantly human, Rodins sculpture was ridiculed by contemporary critics for just those qualities; one even accused him of having cast the statue from a live model, noting that the model was probably a common laborer. In fact, it was a representation of a Belgian soldier. Yet despite his critics harsh derision, Rodins forays into such new realism and naturalism were quickly drawing attention and would soon gain for him a public acclaim and critical success not seen by a living sculptor since the Renaissance.

By 1880, his reputation was so well established that he received a State commission for a bronze doorway to grace a newly proposed Museum of Decorative Arts, which sadly was never built. Rodin loosely based his doorway on a High Renaissance masterpiece by Lorenzo Ghiberti, the so-called Gates of Paradise of the Baptisty in Florence. Taking thematic inspiration from Michelangeos Last Judgement and from works by the contemporary French artist and illustrator Gustave DorČ, Rodin entitled this great doorway, The Gates of Hell. Although never completed during his lifetime, the project took more than 20 years of planning and produced some 200 study figures of great intensity and emotion, including the famed Thinker, Falling Man and The Kiss.

In 1884, Rodin was awarded another important commission, a sculptural group commemorating an event from the Hundred Years War in 1347, when following an 11- month siege, six leading citizens from Calais handed themselves over to the English in exchange for the safety of the citizenry of their city. Rodin worked on The Burghers of Calais for four years. In this tribute to the bravery of six men, Rodin dared to show the extreme suffering and fear of these civic leaders, itself a brave departure from an emphasis upon heroism and glory usually deemed acceptable for such public monuments.

Among the many other public commissions he received during his long life, his Monument to Balzac was probably the most important to him personally, while ironically the source of public scandal and critical outrage. Of this magnificent and powerful monument, Rodin said (it was) the sum of my entire life. Created by Rodin 40 years after the death of the famous French author, the sculpture was the product of nearly 50 studies, some based on Balzacs actual appearance, others more abstract and artistic. The finished model, presented to the public in 1898 was so ridiculed that Rodin did not cast the final sculpture in bronze before his death.

Yet, despite the difficulties Rodin encountered with critics and the public, by 1900, he had become the most important living sculptor in the world. He was photographed by the best photographers of the time (such as the American Edward Steichen), moved in the circles of European nobility and given an entire pavilion at the Paris Worlds Exposition. In 1916, a year before his death, Rodin donated his entire estate to the French government. Today, those works can be seen at the Hotel Biron where he lived the final nine years of his long and highly productive life.

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