Musée Rodin (Rodin Museum)
79 rue de Varenne, Paris, France [ Map ]
Musée Rodin was originally a house built in 1728-30 for the wealthy wig-maker Abraham Peyrenc de Moras. In 1753, Duke Louis Antoine de Gontaut-Biron (1701-1788) purchased the property and developed the grounds of the estate into one of the wonders of Paris. The house became known as the Hôtel Biron.
After the Duke’s death in 1788, there were several changes of ownership. When the Duke’s heir Armand Louis de Gontaut was executed by the guillotine in 1793, the property was rented to various tenants and began to decline. The Papal Legate to France and the Russian ambassador were notable residents in the early nineteenth century.
In the 1820s, the property was given to the Société du Sacré-Coeur de Jésus for use as a school for young ladies of noble birth. Legislation separating Church and State forced the closure of this school in 1905. Pending its demolition, the rooms of the near-derelict Hôtel Biron were let to tenants. Among this group were the artists Jean Cocteau and Henri Matisse, and the sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917).
Although Rodin did not work in the Hôtel Biron, from about 1908 he used a number of rooms on the ground floor of the building to house his work with a view to the eventual creation of a museum. After 1911, when the Hôtel Biron was acquired by the French Government, Rodin made the donation of all his remaining works to the State conditional on the establishment of a museum in the building. Musée Rodin is the lasting legacy of those negotiations.
[Source: Jacques Vilain: ‘From the Hôtel Biron to the Musée Rodin’, Musée Rodin website (2011)]
Musée Rodin is of international significance for its historical and artistic associations with Auguste Rodin and as the location of many of his most important works. The museum also contains works by Rodin’s pupil and mistress Camille Claudel (1864-1943), as well as paintings by Monet, Renoir and Van Gogh that were originally part of Rodin’s personal collection.
The Eymardian significance of Musée Rodin relates to the membership of Rodin in the Blessed Sacrament Congregation and to Musée Rodin being the repository of Rodin’s bronze bust Father Pierre-Julien Eymard (1863).
As a young man aged in his early twenties, Rodin joined the Paris community of the Blessed Sacrament Congregation at Faubourg-Saint Jacques in late 1862. After taking the habit of the Congregation and receiving the religious name of Brother Augustin, he lived in the Faubourg-Saint Jacques community with the Congregation’s founder Peter Julian Eymard.
The Blessed Sacrament Congregation was in great need of religious vocations at that time, but Eymard did not want vocations at any cost. He soon recognised that Rodin had not entered with a clear awareness of his calling. It seems that Rodin had made the decision to join the Congregation a few weeks after the premature death of his sister Maria, who had been a novice in a convent. He was grieving and almost suicidal according to some reports.
At Faubourg-Saint Jacques, Eymard encouraged Rodin to persevere with his art, using a garden shed for a studio. He even agreed to sit as a subject in 1863, although the magnificent bust of Eymard that Rodin produced was not entirely to the sitter’s liking. Eymard complained about the ‘devil’s horns’ that seemed to emerge from the waves of his hair! As a true artist, Rodin refused to compromise.
Some of the surviving photographs of Eymard might suggest that he was a soft and gentle person. Rodin had seen a more intense personality that was also a part of Eymard’s character and deserved to be recognised.
Rodin remained in the Blessed Sacrament Congregation for five months in 1862-63 before returning to secular life to pursue his real vocation as a sculptor. He never made any permanent profession of vows. The story of Rodin’s later life reveals that he rejected some of the precepts of the Catholic faith, but he never lost his Catholic cultural heritage. Contrary to some reports, Rodin continued to maintain close links with the Blessed Sacrament Congregation. He was reported to be present when Eymard’s remains were brought to Corpus Christi Chapel in Paris in 1877.
Rodin’s bronze sculpture Father Pierre-Julien Eymard (1863) is located on the ground floor of Musée Rodin and is one of the earliest works in the museum’s collection. Several other casts of the bust are known to exist, including an example on public display in the Rodin Museum at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the United States. A reduced bronze cast (comprising head and collar) is held in the European Art collection at the Brooklyn Museum, New York (USA) but is not on public display.
Please note that Musée Rodin is not open on Mondays.
Between 2012 and late 2015, the Hôtel Biron will be undergoing extensive renovations. Temporary exhibitions featuring significant works will be on display during this period. Visitors are advised to check the official Musée Rodin website (see link below) for current information.
A combination entry ticket at a discounted rate is available to visit Musée Rodin and Musée d’Orsay on the same day. Special categories of visitors are entitled to free admission. Online ticket purchase is also available to avoid queues. For further information, please refer to the Musée Rodin website.
Musée Rodin [Official website with French and English language options]
Father Pierre-Julien Eymard (A. Rodin, 1863): podcast of audio tour Stop 808, Rodin Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Art (USA) [click Audio Stop Player on webpage to begin]
Le Père Pierre-Julien Eymard (1863): European Art Collection, Brooklyn Museum (USA)
Musée Rodin: The Shape of Ecstasy [Video (14:23): Watch on YouTube]