Published: January 10, 2017
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF. – Marking the centenary of Auguste Rodin’s death in 1917, the Legion of Honor will present a completely new installation of its renowned Rodin holdings in “Rodin Centenary,” which will go on view January 28 and stay up through December 31.
Approximately 50 objects in bronze, marble and plaster – all from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s permanent collection – will be presented in a new context. The exhibition will examine the artist’s celebrated life and influential work – from his early days courting controversy with sculptures that bore unexpected levels of naturalism to his later renown and lasting influence. “Rodin Centenary” is part of a worldwide series of major Rodin projects and will provide Bay Area audiences a significant opportunity to examine and recontextualize the legacy of the artist known as “the father of modern sculpture.”
“Our Rodin holdings are one of the finest and most significant collections in the United States,” says Max Hollein, director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums. “This exhibition will surprise visitors and inspire dialogue on Rodin and his impact on artists working today. It is a must-see for anyone who thinks there is nothing left to learn about this towering figure in the history of modern art.”
In 1915, Legion of Honor founders Alma and Adolph Spreckels began assembling what American dancer Loie Fuller called “the greatest collection of perfect Rodins in the world.” The museum’s holdings remain among the finest pieces made during the artist’s lifetime. The exhibition will include pieces relating to Rodin’s most ambitious commissions “The Burghers of Calais” and “The Gates of Hell,” which included his most famous sculpture, “The Thinker” – now an iconic emblem of the Legion of Honor.
“Although significant collections of Rodin sculptures exist in museums across America and internationally, the collection held at the Legion of Honor is exceptional because of how and when the works were acquired,” says Martin Chapman, curator in charge of European decorative arts and sculpture for the Fine Arts Museums. “The Spreckels purchased works directly from Rodin’s studio, many of which are the original plaster models, or are works that were cast or carved with the direct supervision of Rodin himself – a distinction not found in many American Rodin collections.”
To further commemorate and celebrate the centenary of Rodin’s death, the Fine Arts Museums have invited international artists Urs Fischer (Swiss, b 1975) and Sarah Lucas (British, b 1962) to conceive installations combining new and existing works in dialogue with the museum’s Rodin holdings that explore two dimensions of Rodin’s work that often remain underappreciated: the melodrama of mortality that haunts his portrayal of historical figures, such as “The Burghers of Calais” and the apocalyptic vision of “Dante’s Inferno,” and his palpable eroticism, only barely veiled by mythological and religious subject matter, such as “Christ and the Magdalene.”
“Rodin’s naturalist conception of the body and his embrace of the fragment as a motif in its own right deeply influenced the trajectory of modern sculpture,” says Claudia Schmuckli, curator in charge of Contemporary Art and Programming for the Fine Arts Museums. “We are thrilled that Fischer and Lucas have agreed to consider their work in this context and bring a contemporary perspective to our understanding of Rodin’s work and legacy.”
The Rodin dialogues will go on view in 2017: Urs Fischer in late April through early July, and Sarah Lucas from mid-July through early October. An extensive scholarly catalog – the first to document these collection highlights – will accompany the exhibition. The exhibition is curated by Chapman and Schmuckli.
The Legion of Honor is in Lincoln Park at 100 34th Avenue. For more information, www.legionofhonor.org or 415-750-3600.
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