Rodin, Father of Modern Sculpture

RODIN: MUSES, SIRENS, LOVERS  / Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Collections on view July 12 – Dec. 8, 2019

 At the peak of his career, Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) was the most famous sculptor in the world and the greatest sculptor since Michelangelo. RODIN: MUSES, SIRENS, LOVERS  / Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Collections, on view beginning July 12 at the Columbus Museum of Art, explores the artist’s fascination with and representation of women. The exhibition showcases more than 40 bronzes of women as models, lovers, art collectors, and sources of artistic inspiration. These works tell the story of the importance of Rodin’s sculpture to modern art and encapsulate the innovations that broke with centuries of tradition. RODIN: MUSES, SIRENS, LOVERS has been organized and made possible by the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation. Judith Sobol, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions for the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Foundation, is the guest curator for the exhibition.   

“We’re thrilled to have this exhibition at Columbus Museum of Art,” said Nannette Maciejunes, CMA executive director. “Rodin is the father of modern sculpture and an important figure in art history. We’re proud to bring this stunning show to the people of Central Ohio.”

Rodin was celebrated for the passion expressed by his subjects and their compelling poses. Rejecting 19th-century academic traditions, Rodin made sculpture that conveyed the vitality of the human spirit. His vigorous modeling emphasized his personal response to the subject, and he conveyed movement and emotion by inventing new poses and gestures. He created his own form of artistic expression that was grounded more in the world he saw around him than in conventions of the past. Today we acknowledge that his vision led sculpture into the modern era.

“Rodin believed that art should above all tell the truth, and his truth was rooted in what he called nature and in the contemporary world he saw about him,” said Judith Sobol, guest curator of the exhibition. “In telling this truth, Rodin revolutionized sculpture and brought it out of its past of centuries-old conventions into what today we know as modern art.” 

One of the earliest works in the exhibition comes from the most ambitious piece of Rodin’s career, The Gates of Hell (1880s). The most recent piece in the exhibition, Dance Movement D, was executed around 1911. This selection provides an opportunity to study and appreciate Rodin, particularly his images of women, a crucial part of his sculptural practice. 

Rodin worked directly in clay and sometimes also plaster and wax, as the first step toward a finished three-dimensional work of art. The finished piece would then be carved in marble and/or cast in bronze. There was often more than one of these finished pieces and they could be rendered in various sizes and in bronze or marble or both. The art world calls these pieces replicas. They were typically made by his studio workers, assistants who he had trained. He himself rarely worked on these replicas. Because the bronzes were cast from molds and the number that could be cast was entirely under the control of the artist, Rodin could produce many casts of the same piece. This allowed him to exhibit in many different shows at the same time, which led him to become famous all over the world.

Born in 1840 into a modest French family, Rodin received traditional instruction at a government school for craft and design. For nearly a decade he earned his living as an anonymous member of a sculpture workshop, producing ornamental works for a successful decorative sculptor. In 1880, when he was 40 years old, Rodin received his first public commission. During the 1880s, 1890s and 1900s, the now-well-known Rodin was commissioned to create other monuments that were often controversial and always celebrated. By 1890 Rodin had a large workshop of assistants, which enabled him to create many pieces, often in large editions. By 1900, as Europe’s leading sculptor, he sent works to museums, galleries, and collectors all over the world. A year before his death in 1917, Rodin donated to the people of France the contents of his studio at the Hôtel Biron and of his studio and home in the Paris suburb of Meudon. Today the Hôtel Biron and the structures and land in Meudon are the two sites of the Musée Rodin.

About Columbus Museum of Art

Columbus Museum of Art, located at 480 East Broad Street, creates great experiences with great art for everyone. The Greater Columbus Arts Council, Nationwide Foundation, Ohio Arts Council, and the Henry D. and Carol B. Clark; Paul-Henri Bourguignon and Erika Bourguignon Fund for Visual Arts; Vada Beetler Memorial; and Robert B. Hurst funds of The Columbus Foundation provide ongoing support. CMA, Schokko Café and the Museum Store are open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. General admission is $18 for adults; $9 for seniors (60+), students (18+) and children 4 and older; free for members and children 3 and younger; $5 on Thursday evenings (5-9p.m.). A separate admission fee for special exhibitions may apply. General admission is free for all on Sundays. CMA charges a flat rate of $5 for parking in the Museum’s East Gay lot. CMA members park for free. For additional information, call 614.221.6801, visit, or find us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram @columbusmuseum.

Pizzuti Collection of the Columbus Museum of Art, located at 632 North Park Street, is open Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. General admission is $12 for adults and $10 for seniors; free for students and children. Parking is available at meters, lots and garages throughout the Short North. For additional information, call 614.221.6801, visit, or find us on Facebook and Instagram @pizzuticollection.

Media Contact: Melissa Ferguson, 614.629.0306,

Image: Auguste Rodin, Three Faunesses, modeled before 1869, Musée Rodin cast, cast number unknown, 1959. Bronze; Georges Rudier Foundry. Lent by the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation.