A group of 18 bronze, marble and terracotta sculptures by Auguste Rodin were lent to the V&A when the outbreak of the First World War prevented them from being returned to France; Rodin later donated the bronzes to the Museum.
Born in Paris on 12 November 1840, Francois-Auguste-Rene Rodin was educated at the Petit Ecole, a specialist school for Design and Mathematics. Rejected three times by the Grand Ecole he found work as a statuary mason. After briefly entering a religious order, Rodin attended a course given by Antoine-Louis Barye, a renowned sculptor of animals. Employed as a maker of decorative sculpture and architectural embellishments Rodin visited Belgium and later Italy where he was inspired by the work of Donatello and Michelangelo to produce The Age of Bronze, a strikingly realistic work which brought him critical attention. In 1880 he won a commission to create a portal for a planned museum of decorative arts, based on the South Kensington model, and spent much of the next four decades producing The Gates of Hell.
By 1900 Rodin’s reputation led to the exhibition of his work at the International World Fair in Paris inspiring commissions from International patrons. In 1902 a cast of St John the Baptist was bought by public subscription and presented to the Victoria and Albert Museum. His work was exhibited at an exhibition of Contemporary French Art held at Grosvenor House in 1914. The outbreak of war meant it was impossible for Rodin to return his work to France and instead John Tweed, a British sculptor, negotiated with Eric MacLagan, Curator of Sculpture and Architecture, to loan the sculptures to the Victoria and Albert Museum for six months. This loan was motivated in part by a wish to honour French and English soldiers killed in the war. Rodin himself worked closely with MacLagan to approve the placing of the sculptures and ultimately agreed to donate the collection to the Museum. The donation reflected Rodin’s ambition to be represented in a major international collection.
Rodin died on 17 November 1917. In his will he left his studio and the right to make casts from his work to the French Government.
MA/ 1/ R1381: Nominal file - Auguste Rodin
MA/1/T1574: Nominal file - John Tweed
MA/30/253: Central Inventory register
MA/49/2/88, 90, 93, 95 & 96: Press cuttings
Other archival sources: see the Artists’ Papers Register
Selected printed works:
Catalogue of Sculpture by Auguste Rodin. London: HMSO, 1914. NAL pressmark: VA.1914.0007
Hawkins, Jennifer. Rodin Sculptures. London: HMSO, 1975. NAL pressmark: VA.1975.0012
Le Normand-Romain, Antoinette. The Gates of Hell. Musée Rodin, 2002
Elsen, Albert E, ed. Rodin Rediscovered. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 28 June 1981 - 2 May 1982
Mitchell, Claudine, ed. Rodin the Zola of Sculpture. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004. NAL pressmark: 602.AE.0424
Rodin. Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2006 exhibition catalogue
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