Not so much an art or history exhibition, Rodin and the art of ancient Greece is an exhibition advocating the benefits of obsession.
Auguste Rodin never visited the Parthenon, let alone set foot in Greece, but his lifelong obsession with the temple’s four friezes made him as learned in greco-sculpture as anyone. Pouring over books, sketches, and photographs of the Parthenon he became a lifelong devotee to Greek sculptor Pheidias.
You’re greeted by a quote from Rodin himself: ‘In my spare time I simply haunt the British Museum’ – I wasn’t the only one to roll my eyes and jot down ‘vanity project’ on my notepad. Two hours later and there can be no arguments; without the British Museum, Rodin may never have reached the heady heights he is remembered for in this exhibition.
The exhibition spans the whole Parthenon sized room 30 at the rear of the museum, built in 1753. It, in part, consists of several dozen blown-up versions of characters from Rodin’s Gates of Hell: a door he designed and cast for a new museum in Paris, which sadly never saw an opening night.
Not discouraged, Rodin delved deeper into his love of greco-roman antiquities.
Rodin’s stand out skills were no doubt in the casting of bronze. Statues of Pierre de Wissant, Eustache de Saint Pierre, and Jean D’Air showcase the subtlety of his casting, and yet deliberate preservation of chisel marks, and this is no more prevalent than in the final space, where the famous The Walking Man ushers you out of the door.
We hope you’ll be inspired by Rodin and the art of ancient Greece – we’d love to see your photos and drawings from inside the exhibition! Share them with us using #RodinExhibition and we’ll retweet our favourites ✍📸 pic.twitter.com/d1bU6727qf
— British Museum (@britishmuseum) April 26, 2018
The thoroughfare around the rectangular hall is busy with prams and flailing walking sticks, but you can’t shake the feeling that the British Museum is flourishing. While many of its contemporaries have ploughed new ‘Lates’ programs including music, drinking, and performing arts, the British Museum has pressed on with several headliner shows.
After the mixed response to ‘Living with the Gods’, one of the worst staged exhibitions I’ve seen in the capital (with halloween witches netting substituting for walls or dividers), the British Museum is now competing with Neil MacGreggor’s legacy.
In the meantime ‘Rodin’, the 2017 biopic of the artist, is well worth a watch; a rare insight into a brilliant artist, but a complicated soul.
The exhibition is a must, not only for the complimentary Roman and Greek work which Rodin collected all his life, but because it displays his iconic sculptures The Thinker and The Kiss.
The ‘Rodin’ exhibition is running until July 29 at the British Museum, tickets and information here.
Image: Adam Rzepka