Rodin and the Art of Ancient Greece review

Art
4 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(10user reviews)
Rodin and the Art of Ancient Greece review
Auguste Rodin, 'The Kiss'. Copyright Musée Rodin.

One look at Medusa would turn flesh to stone. Auguste Rodin was sort of the opposite, dedicating his life and radical art instead to somehow turning stone into living, breathing, rippling flesh. His revolutionary sculptures feel quiveringly close to bursting alive and writhing with movement.

He was far from the first to manage that anthropomorphic feat, though. Thousands of years before Augie picked up a chisel, the ancient Greeks were Frankensteining marble to life like nobody’s business. The British Museum’s Parthenon marbles are the most exquisite of the lot – proper wonders of the world – and they were a huge inspiration to Rodin. So here, the BM’s whacked work by the French master next to the ancient sculptures that he was obsessed with. Most shows that put ancient perfection next to modern radicalism do a disservice to both. But this is a gorgeously put together exhibition.

It starts on a high: a plaster version of ‘The Kiss’ sits next to two reclining Greek goddesses draped in robes that seem to drip and cascade. The fluidity of the marble trickles into the gooeyness of the kiss, a work that feels like it’s slurping up out of solid rock.

‘The Thinker’, huge and imposing, comes next, contemplating the ancient river god Ilissos. A falling torso nearby echoes the shape of the god Hermes, a dying hybrid creature mirrors a combatting Greek centaur. Rodin’s ancient inspiration is clear and constant.

But whereas the Parthenon marbles are idealised visions of human figures, Rodin’s work is explosively exaggerated. The hands on his ‘Burghers of Calais’ are huge meaty hocks, the poses of his nudes are twisted and extreme, his figures too big, his features too pronounced. Where the Parthenon marbles are damaged by time, Rodin rips his own sculptures’ heads and hands off, finding beauty in disintegration. Rodin flexes his muscles incessantly, pushing and pulling at the fabric of sculpture, creating thousands of stone revolutions.

But the show does churn up a lot of questions about authenticity, authorship – how big of a role did Rodin’s assistants actually play in creating his work? – and most of all about whether or not the British Museum should even still have the Parthenon marbles. It’s a big, awkward debate that doesn’t get properly addressed. A huge marble elephant in the room.

None of that takes away from how beautiful the work on show is, though. The whole thing feels like jolts of electricity coursing through time: a spark of brilliance in ancient Greece rippling and crackling into the hands of Rodin thousands of years later. Or maybe it’s an age-old heartbeat, pumping blood through history and bringing everything around you to life.

By: Eddy Frankel

Average User Rating

4.3 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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tastemaker

Le Musee Rodin in Paris is one of my all time favourite museums so I was incredibly excited to see the new British Museum exhibition featuring Rodin's work. This new exhibition has been curated exceptionally well, giving an insight into Rodin's work that I had never seen before. It was simply fascinating to read about the history behind each and every one of his pieces and how he drew inspiration from Ancient Greece. You can see the progress of his work, seeing the pieces that he drew inspiration from too. Rodin was inspired by many of the pieces in the British Museum so I imagine it would make the man himself very happy to know that his works have now been displayed alongside the very same that inspired him. Not one to miss this summer. 


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tastemaker

Amazing not only to to see Rodins' masterpieces, but to view them alongside the British Museums own Ancient Greek sculptures that inspired him, now this is awesome. A unique juxtaposition of ancient and modern sculpture, a back to the future of the history of Art.


tastemaker

Rodin is a great master of sculpture and the exhibition is displaying some of his masterpieces. Although I missed a bit of history and direction between all the different things we could see there. The exhibition is actually set in one unique room where the natural light is sublimating the marbles; it makes the visit even more enjoyable.

tastemaker

A preview of the Rodin exhibition at the British Museum was the perfect way to get a morning dose of culture. The exhibition is the perfect size, as you spend a good amount of time appreciating and learning about the artist and his inspirations. I got a great insight into his works and how his visit to London provided a degree of inspiration.


My personal favourite was the 'The Kiss' sculpture as it was so naturally depicted! It was also really nice to see a projection of his piece, 'The Gates of Hell', and its smaller components. Definitely a recommended exhibition on your next visit to the British Museum!

tastemaker

I could happily have spent many hours in this exhibition. Beautifully and thoughtfully presented in a wonderful modern space. The narrative running through the exhibition is simple and inspiring rather than heavy and academic. Also the first exhibition where photography is encouraged which I think allows a different engagement with the work and provides a happy reminder. Thoroughly recommended. I left with my spirits lifted.

Tastemaker

Must see exhibition! Fascinating stories of the art and the artist. I was awed to see such beauty up close and personal! The work is paired with Ancient Greek pieces, which I always feel honoured to see, for reference to Rodin’s inspiration. Although it was never finished, the Gates of Hell is a masterpieces, even in pieces. Well done to the British Museum for putting together such a beautiful exhibit.

Tastemaker

Rodin and the Art of Ancient Greece is a fantastic exhibition, in terms of both content and context. The Parthenon marbles are always, controversially, in the British museum collection but exhibiting them with the Rodin sculptures for which they provided inspiration, adds a frame of reference to both. 

We see the timeless beauty in the 2500 year old pieces and the movement in the intervening time from idealism to realism in Rodin's relatively modern statues. The show cleverly depicts both sets of pieces as individual parts of a larger work. Elgin removed decorations from the Parthenon in Athens and Rodin's sculptures are part of his, never fully finished, Gates of Hell.

The British Museum holds one of the greatest art collections in the world, so you shouldn't need extra excuses to visit, but it does not have any Rodin in its permanent collection - so you will get added value if you go while this exhibition is on!

tastemaker

For any Rodin fans, this exhibition is a must and, for everyone else, it is also a must.  The man was clearly a genius and this collection highlights this.  To see versions of famous statues such as The Kiss and The Thinker in one room is a real treat and the space is laid out really well.  A wonderful exhibition!

tastemaker

I think a lot of us remember our first visit to the Pantheon at the British Museum, and the sense of awe that stayed with us long after. A century ago Rodin had that same moment and went on to build his entire life's work on that inspiration. And today we get to see his work here in the British Museum. My fav piece is definitely the kiss and the photo real sculpture at the first part of the exhibit, and it helped me gain another level of appreciation for the art of sculpture.

tastemaker

The exhibition gives a good insight into the life and the beautiful art of Rodin, who himself was a big fan of the British Museum. 


Albeit the fact that a lot of the art on display is made of cast, visitors can only marble (pardon the pun) at the talent, his love of the Parthenon, as well as his admiration of ancient Greece. The fact that Auguste Rodin never visited Greece makes it even all the more impressive. 


Many of the sculptures in the BM will be found in his famous "The Gates Of Hell" piece and the exhibition displays this quite cleverly. 


Can't go wrong with a bit of sculpture / culture (or "sculture"), so worth a brief stop when in the BM already. 

Four stars for me.