"This museum is the perfect showcase for the work of [Auguste] Rodin," commented Beth Williams during yesterday's preview reception for the reopening of the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia, Pa. "It has been completely refurbished, so it is sparkling just like it was in 1929 with it first opened."
Williams, who has worked as a guide in the Museum for more than a decade, believes that visitors achieve a much deeper and broader understanding of the famed French sculptor's work when they visit the vast collection that is housed in and around the Museum.
The Rodin Museum fully reopened to the public today following a 3-year renovation that included the restoration of the gardens designed by Jacques Gréber, the restoration of the Meudon Gate and exterior of the Rodin Museum, both designed by the great Philadelphia architect Paul Cret, and the restoration of the interior and reinstallation of the collection.
In the galleries of the Museum, visitors encounter an entirely new presentation of Rodin's work. The reinstallation includes 90 works in a variety of materials—bronze, marble, terracotta, and plaster—that survey the genesis and development of Rodin’s monumental The Gates of Hell, a project inspired by Dante’s Inferno that consumed the artist for nearly four decades, from 1880 until his death in 1917.
Outside the Museum, eight large bronze works are displayed in the garden, most of which have not been seen there for decades. While both The Thinker and the aforementioned The Gates of Hell have stood in their same locations since 1929, advances in conservation undertaken by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which now operates the Rodin Museum, have permitted the return of Adam and The Shade to their original places within the arches of the Meudon Gate for the first time since 1963. The Age of Bronze and Eve have also returned to the niches they originally occupied on the Museum building, overlooking the reflecting pool.
To the east of the building, The Burghers of Calais once again occupies the semicircular garden where it stood until 1955, when it moved to the west entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In 1967, The Burghers of Calais was moved to the interior of the Rodin Museum, becoming its centerpiece. On the building’s west side, a space vacant of sculpture for most of the Museum’s history now contains a version of the monumental Three Shades, on loan from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation.
Entrepreneur and philanthropist Jules E. Mastbaum, gifted the Rodin Museum to his native city in 1927. Since that time, it has become one of the fixtures of Philadelphia's expansive arts attractions, which includes the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and The Barnes Foundation, which is located directly next to the Rodin Museum.
Admission to the Rodin Museum is "Pay What You Wish" every day; the garden is free year-round. The Museum is open to the public from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Wednesday through Monday. It is closed on Tuesdays.
Information on visiting gay-friendly Philadelphia is available at www.visitphilly.com.
Travel Note: Amtrak offers convenient rail service between Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, Pa.