Rodan was a perv ... and I like it!

Musee Rodin was a destination I had my sights on since I first considered coming to Paris. Rodin, Dali, Picasso and many others have been a part of my life as long as I can remember. My parents were big fans of most modern-ish art and I grew up with works from these artists hanging on the walls and adorning the rooms of my home. While the signatures on the paintings alerted me to what was Picasso’s or what was Calder’s, I never looked close enough to the Thinker replica on the living room TV to notice the A. Rodin subtly imbedded into it. I was always in rapture over the detail and seriousness of the piece, the bulging muscles, the lumpy texture, the cold dark metal. I remember even early on I was so intrigued as to what exactly it was he was thinking about, this always made me a little worried for him. Of course the Thinker is an ubiquitous cultural icon, appearing on innumerable marketing ploys boasting the intellectual merit of a product, that is of course if it isn’t already graced by an Einstein sketch. Yet having access to it at home always made me feel like I was part of some kind of special club; I knew what that thinking man in the ads was really all about.

It wasn’t until I was a young adult and finally made it through enough of the Met in NY that I realized what exactly Rodin was all about and how intimately connected I was with his work even having only experienced just one item of his many brilliant works. I was surprised to learn that the Thinker (Le Penseur) was perhaps his least ambitious or awe inspiring work. Since then I have managed to look through a few books and catch a piece here or there at this museum or that. Well, nothing could have prepared me for what I was to see and experience at Le Musee Rodin. So, let me share some of the work that I found most moving.

Musee Rodin is located adjacent to Hotel des Invalides, a magnificent building just a jog from the Tour Eiffel, on the Left bank just south of the Louvre. I was told by Paul (remember, Zarita’s conversation guy) that these Hotels (de Ville, Invalides, etc.) were once really hotels, serving as more permanent residences in some cases. Invalides was for veterans of wars; it contains a hospital and retirement community, as well as some buried war heroes and a military museum. We strolled past the building starting at Pont Alexandre III, a beautiful bridge across the Seine. From the street the Musee Rodin isn’t particularly impressive at all, but that changes once you enter the main entrance in a restored abbey.

It was a rainy day, perfect for a museum! Behind me, the Eiffel Tower.

Zarita struggling with her umbrella in the heavy wind. Behind her, Pont Alexandre III.

Hotel des Invalides, right besides Musee Rodin.

The museum was currently holding a temporary exhibit, entitled “Les Figures d’Eros,” showcasing some of Rodin’s sketches of models, which were used as inspiration for later sculpture. Rodin worked with nudes almost exclusively and moreover, he was most interested in particularly contorted positions and very intent on capturing instants in human motion. So, he had is models assume extremely explicit positions; bent over, spread eagle, fondling themselves, arched backwards etc. It was either that or flailing around, gyrating or dancing. The sketches, often little more than pencil-scratch with watercolor added after the fact for emotional effect, were explicit to say the least. Still, it was amazing how his hand could capture just a moment out of a series of intense motions.

One of the works on special exhibit. It is a sculpture of Jesus on the cross, with Mary Magdelene at his feet. Well, she’s not quite at his feet, she’s more grabbing his torso, totally nude, while Jesus, almost devoid of life, rests his head on his shoulder. His mouth is wide open as if in a gasp. The positioning of Mary, the gasping face of Jesus, the nudity somehow imposes some eroticism on the scene, something so perverse considering the subject. I LOVE IT. Then I got yelled at for taking this picture because there was no photography in the special exhibit hall.

At first, having exited the temporary exhibit, I was a little concerned because it seemed as though the only other room in the building was a gift shop. Well, Zarita, having studied the museum map, pointed out the garden and adjacent chateaux looking building to me. I couldn’t believe it. In the middle of Paris, prime real estate; there was this massive hidden garden, haphazardly adorned with Rodin sculptures, FANTASTIC! And so we passed through the garden first, ogling great works like the Burghers of Calais, Adam, Eve, the Gates of Hell, the Three Shades, and of course the Thinker to name a few. Inside the chateaux there was even more to see! Well, needless to say, I was blown away and very satisfied. I think of all the things I’ve seen in Paris, that probably takes the cake.

The Chateaux behind me was the main gallery. They really make some beautiful museums here!

That’s him! Le Penseur in the midst of some very accurately trimmed hedges. Just behind him is he Hotel des Invalides.

Detail from the Burghers of Calais. It’s a sculpture depicting 5 important citizens (burghers), all men of Calais, who volunteered their lives to end a siege of Calais by England in the Hundred Years War. They were headed to their deaths to save the city, but pardoned at the last minute by he Queen of England. It’s an amazing piece. For one thing, it’s a monument to a loss not a victory and the men in the sculpture are starved, emaciated, depressed and worn.

The Three Shades, creepy.

The Thinker, the Three Shades, and many other Rodin works were all part of his greatest project, The Gates of Hell. The Gates are inspired by those of the same name in from Dante’s inferno, much admired by Rodin. They are a massive and overwhelming piece, consisting of hundreds of individual figures of suffering men and women trapped within them. The Thinker can be seen at the center of the gates, just above the doors. Its thought to represent Dante or Rodin himself.

A view of the golden dome of Invalides from within the Rodin museum garden. Imagine the beauty in he spring!

Many of the works blend right into the nature they are imbedded in. Here a sculpture becomes nearly indistinguishable from the trees and shrubs.

Zarita at the back end of the Garden, by the pond. The figures in the middle seem to be wrestling, the man on top struggling to subjugate a figure below him, here almost appearing to be drowning the person in the pond. Either that, or its an orgy, you tell me.

A pretty leaf–strewn reflection.

The museum grounds, me center left. The museum was also once a hotel and also the workplace of Rodin himself.

Detail of a sculpture of a woman holding large stone block above her head. The raindrops and lighting almost make it appear real.

So, in Europe they take children to important art museums and run workshops teaching them about culture. Can you believe it? I mean, I guess they to that here too … but not nearly as regularly as I saw it there. Here, a class trip to the Rodin museum would be considered exposure to pornography.

The walking man, detail.

Jeez, this one was so French! Its like the typical winged Liberty motif … but Rodin manages to also make it simultaneously hideous rather than the typical sensuous.

This one was rediulous, it was a perfect narcissus-like male figure.

I couldn’t resist the raw sexual energy.

Oh my god, this may have been the most amazing sculpture ever. I dunno if my picture gave it justice, but the piece was a collage of many different materials from stone to plaster and glue. The net effect was somehow so human in quality though and the texture of the face was almost exactly that of soft skin.

Me and Balzac. Rodin really liked Balzac.

An individual cast of one of the 5 figures from the Burghers of Calais. Here the man has a noose around his neck. The 5 men were ordered to come out in robes, nooses around their necks, carrying the keys to the city and castle.

Zarita taking a photo of the Thinker through the window.

The Thinker through the window, by Zarita.

I don’t remember what this piece was called, so lets just call it “The Epileptic Fit”.

Zarita thought this one was very gross … like a fishboy or something.

This one was entitled The American Wrestler.

Me and Le Penseur.

I thought this was an awesome shot, gloomy and pensive!

I’m obsessed alright?

Wow, so the Rodin museum was truly amazing and something I will remember forever. Well, it was a gloomy, rainy, cold day and it was time to go home and make some dinner. Just a few more shots to leave you with …

A gas station with Zarithchka.

The gas stations here are a lot more subtle than those in the states, at least in the city. This one looked just like a convenience store, but on the curb there stood a little pump. Cars didn’t “drive into” the station, just pulled up and filled up.

My one obligatory photo of the Metro signs.

Me at the Bastille, no storming.

If you carefully inspect the figure atop the bastille, then scroll back to my Louvre posting, you’ll find the same winged torch bearer on exhibit. Man, they love this bullshit.

Next time on Booby Goes 2 Europe: London Calling!

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