Rodin at the Met

 Photo from The Met

Photo from The Met

When I donned my art criticism hat and marched confidently toward the "Rodin At The Met" exhibition, I expected to find hordes of marble sculptures crammed into a massive, column-lined room with a fifty-foot ceiling. Auguste Rodin is considered the only impressionist sculptor, and on the 100th anniversary of his death, I was sure The Metropolitan Museum of Art would have a grand display of his finest work. Upon my arrival, I was pleased to find that curators Denise Allen, Ashley Dunn, Alison Hokanson, and Asher Ethan Miller had reached in a different direction and created an exhibit even more special than I imagined.

Life-sized bronze figures of Adam and Eve flank the entrance, serving the purpose for which Rodin originally sculpted them in his series “The Gates of Hell.” They lead into a long hallway containing some of Rodin’s most noteworthy pieces.  

Artwork within the hallway is not sparse by any means, but each piece is set apart from the others, allowing plenty of room for visitors to observe without disturbance.  Famous pieces like "The Tempest" and "The Age of Bronze" are on view in the gallery, but filling space between them is a smattering of paintings and sculptures from other artists.  Art that inspired Rodin, art that was inspired by Rodin, and art by friends of Rodin can all be found in the exhibition.

 Photo from The Met

Photo from The Met

Rather than gathering an awe-inspiring collection of the most expensive and striking Rodin sculptures, it feels as if the curators made a scrapbook of his life.  I found myself smiling at the paintings as I learned about who Rodin was, how he worked, and what his friends thought of him. At the entrance to a small alcove within the exhibition, a portrait of a warmly depicted Rodin hangs as if to welcome me.  I was pleased to find the alcove filled with sketches, books, and writings of Rodin.  There is a desk-like table in the center of the room, and it feels as if I’m visiting his own study.

Rodin At The Met is not an exhibition about how excellent Rodin’s sculptures are--it’s an exhibition about Rodin.  Instead of commemorating him with a magnificent show of his work, which they so predictably could have done, the curators gave Rodin a sweet and respectful memorial.  It pays tribute to his mastery and adequately displays his influence, as many art shows do, but it’s rare that an exhibition achieves those things and sends me out with a genuine smile.  This one did.