Paris: How To Spend A Day With Rodin

The year 2017 marks the centenary of the death of the French sculptor Auguste Rodin. This is why you’ll hear a lot about him, should you visit France this year.

If you’re staying in our apartments in Paris, here’s a suggestion on how you could spend a day with Rodin and learn many things about this great artist.

A centenary exhibition has been organised at the Grand Palais (3 Avenue du Général Eisenhower) until July 31st. It is a huge success, and in order to avoid queuing up for hours, you can book your ticket here. It is also a good idea to choose an audio-guide. Since many people are expected to visit this excellent exhibition, I would recommend heading there in the morning. Besides learning more about Rodin and his art, you will find information on the history behind many of his works as well as his influence on other artists.

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Home of the exhibition: Paris’s stunning Grand Palais (credit: Getty Images)

You may have heard of the sculptress Camille Claudel. This amazing woman met Rodin in 1882. He was 42, she was 18. Together with other young female artists, she was practicing her art under the direction of sculptor Alfred Boucher. As Boucher was going to be in Rome for several months, he asked  Rodin to replace him. Soon, Rodin noticed how talented Camille was. In 1884, she started working for him. Eventually, the two artists became passionate lovers and rivals.

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Camille Claudel and a fellow sculptress in her studio

The exhibition will enable you to compare what Rodin and Camille Claudel made of the same model, an elderly lady. Rodin saw her as “Celle qui fût la belle Heaulmière”, named after a poem on lost youth and beauty. More originally, Camille Claudel created “Clotho”, a strange statue representing the youngest of the Three Fates in Greek mythology, who decide human destiny.

You will also be able to admire a mask of Camille Claudel, assembled with a reproduction of a hand of Pierre de Wissant. This mask highlights the simple beauty and frailty of Camille as a young woman.

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Same model: Celle qui fût la belle Heaulmière (Rodin) versus Clotho (Claudel)

To continue your day with Rodin, you could spend the afternoon at Musée Rodin (77 rue de Varenne). The museum is in a mansion known as Hôtel Biron, and surrounded by a large and pleasant garden, right in the middle of Paris.

You can enhance your visit of the museum and of the garden with an excellent audio-guide. It will give you additional information on Rodin’s masterpieces. One room of the museum is dedicated to Camille Claudel. There, the outstanding originality and talent of this artist is made obvious.

However, the end of Camille’s life was tragic. After years of passionate love, Rodin and Camille Claudel parted. Camille wanted Rodin to marry her, but he seemed unable to separate from Rose Beuret, a seamstress he had met during his youth. Rodin tried to help Camille and boost her career, but she grew suspicious of him. She would refer to him as “la fouine”, the snoop. Gradually, Camille became so isolated and hard to deal with that after her father’s death, her family decided to have her locked in a mental institution. She remained there until her death in 1943. During the 30 long years of her seclusion, her mother and her sister never visited her. Her brother, Paul Claudel, who had become a well-known writer, visited her on 13 occasions.

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Scenic grounds: the setting of Musée Rodin

By the time Camille was put in a mental institution, Rodin was an old man. Apart from sending her money, he was not able to give much support. Rodin had many mistresses and never parted from Rose Beuret. However, Camille Claudel had a special place in his heart. When he planned Musée Rodin, he included an exhibition space for Camille’s works. In so doing, Rodin made the link between his work and the work of his unfortunate love unforgettable.