Visit the Rodin Museum of Sculptures in Paris

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by Henk Bekker

in France, N24, Paris

Visit the Musée Rodin in Paris to see the best collection of sculptures and art by Auguste Rodin displayed in his Hôtel Biron studio and the popular museum garden.

Visit Room 5 of the Rodin Museum in Paris to see sculptures from The Gates of Hell.

The Rodin Museum is dedicated to the work and life of Auguste Rodin, France’s best-known sculptor, who is often considered the founder of modern sculpture. The museum displays some of his most famous sculptures including versions of The Thinker, The Kiss, The Age of Bronze, and monumental sculpture groups such as The Gates of Hell and The Burghers of Calais. The permanent exhibition includes many further smaller works and studies. Rodin owned an interesting collection of Impressionist paintings including several works by Van Gogh, Renoir, and Monet. Buy Musée Rodin tickets online or book guided tours to skip the lines.

Musée Rodin in Paris

The Thinker and Eiffel Tower at the Rodin Museum in Paris

The Musée Rodin is arguably the best of the single-artist museums to visit in Paris. It is in the Hôtel Biron where Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) worked the final decade of his life.

The Rodin Museum was founded on the initiative of the artist himself — he donated all his works, collections, and intellectual property rights to the state allowing the museum to open to the public in 1919, just over a year after his death.

The main museum consists of around 20 rooms inside the 18th-century mansion while temporary exhibitions are staged inside the modern building housing the ticket windows and visitor facilities. A further major attraction of the Rodin Museum is the extensive sculpture garden stretching along the Boulevard des Invalides as a pleasant oasis of peace in the heart of Paris.

Visit the Rodin Museum and Gardens in Paris

Visit the Musée Rodin in Paris to see the best collection of sculptures and art by Auguste Rodin including the Age of Bronze in his Hôtel Biron studio and the popular museum garden.

The exhibitions in the Musée Rodin on the ground floor are mostly chronologically arranged while the upper floor is more thematic and displays include many works by friends and contemporaries.

Early Career

Early Rodin Paintings in the Rodin Museum in Paris

The first few rooms cover Rodin’s early career as an artist. Displays here include The Man with a Broken Nose bust which Rodin considered his first good sculpture. Rodin’s early works were mostly paintings of people, Belgian landscapes, various studies, and drawings.

Rodin’s breakthrough as a sculptor came only in his late 30s. His first large sculpture, The Age of Bronze, was made in 1876 and caused a scandal when first displayed in Brussels and Paris in 1877. Rodin was falsely accused of having taken a casting directly of the life model. However, this was disproven and The Age of Bronze is often considered to be the first modern sculpture.

A copy of the life-size The Age of Bronze (L’Âge d’airain) is beautifully displayed together with St John the Baptist Preaching (1880). Rodin made the latter slightly larger than life-size to prevent further gossip that his sculptures were simply casts of models.

→→ See Where to See The Age of Bronze Sculpture by Auguste Rodin for more on this remarkable work of art.

The Gates of Hell

Rodin’s masterpiece The Gates of Hell receives much attention both inside the museum and in the garden, where a full-size bronze copy is displayed. Rodin worked on this monumental door intended for the planned Museum of Decorative Arts, which was never built, from 1880 until his death.

The third version, completed as a scale model in plaster in 1882, is currently displayed in the museum. This version has significantly fewer figures than the around 180 in the last composition.

Rodin altered the work through the decades and repurposed parts for freestanding sculptures or used elements in other works. Two of Rodin’s most famous sculptures — The Kiss and The Thinker — made their first appearances in The Gates of Hell. Versions of these works are on display in Room 5 together with further sculptures from the Gates such as The Three Shades and The Prodigal Son. Many further ones are scattered throughout the museum and garden.

Rodin’s Public Monuments

Rodin received commissions for several public monuments, of which The Burghers of Calais (1889) is the most impressive. Rodin made numerous studies of the characters in his most famous public monument and played around with several groupings before settling on the final composition of his masterpiece.

A full-size bronze version of The Burghers of Calais is in the garden but many of the studies of the individuals portrayed are displayed in the museum and garden. The first bronze cast of The Burghers of Calais is in front of the town hall in Calais.

Rodin also produced large sculptures for the memorial of Victor Hugo and Honoré Balzac.

Rodin: Friends and Influences

The exhibitions on the upper floor are more thematic. Themes covered include how Rodin worked, assembled, or altered works using different sizes and versions of the same subject. Many torsos, busts, and of course hands are on display, including The Cathedral.

Rodin extensively collected and studied art from antiquity. He famously used an antique twisted torso of a male as inspiration for several works including The Walking Man.

A few sculptures by friends are also shown including by Antoine Bourdelle (also visit his wonderful free Musée Bourdelle near Montparnasse station) and especially Camille Claudel. Rodin and Camille Claudel (1864-1943) were teacher and student, artist and muse, friends, lovers, and bitter enemies. Rodin vindictively undermined her work and ability to display especially after their relationship broke down. A fine bronze of The Waltz — Claudel’s most praised work — is on display in Room 16.

Rodin owned many paintings by friends and fellow Impressionist artists including Monet and Renoir. Rodin already owned several paintings by Vincent van Gogh before the Dutch painter became famous.

Works inspired by Rodin are often on display ranging from contemporary art projects to a painting of The Thinker by Edvard Munch.

Sculptures in the Gardin of the Musée Rodin

Ugolino and His Children at the Rodin Museum in Paris

Many sculptures by Auguste Rodin are on display in the beautiful, large gardens of the Musée Rodin — a haven of peace in busy Paris.

Rodin’s three most famous bronzes are in the front garden between the street entrance and the Hôtel Biron:

The monumental size The Thinker was erected by public subscription in 1906. He stares across the Rose Garden to a full-size The Gates of Hell, which of course has a much smaller “thinker” above the doors. Exactly who The Thinker represents is debated: according to the museum: “The figure represents Dante, author of The Divine Comedy which had inspired The Gates, but also Cronus (Saturn), Hades the Greek god of the underworld, or the creator leaning over his work. With its blend of calm and strength, it became world-renowned as a symbol of hope and faith in humanity.”

The Gates of Hell in the garden of the Musée Rodin in Paris

Rodin worked on The Gates of Hell from 1880 until his death with the last version having around 180 characters. The bronze version in the gardens of the Rodin Museum has large bronze sculptures of Adam and Eve on either side while a further large copy of The Three Shades is nearby.

One of the twelve authorized full casts of The Burghers of Calais is close to the museum exit. Studies of the individual burghers are displayed deeper in the huge back garden of the museum.

Further sculptures in the large garden include Ugolino and His Children (at the center of the large water fountain), the monuments to Victor Hugo and Balzac, Shade, Eve on the Rock, and Aphrodite.

Visitor Information to Visit the Rodin Museum in Paris

Les Invalides seen from the garden of the Musée Rodin in Paris

Opening Hours of the Rodin Museum

The Rodin Museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 18:30. The gardens close at nightfall, if earlier — in winter around 17:00.

The Musée Rodin is closed on Mondays, January 1, May 1, and December 25.

Ticket Prices for the Rodin Museum in Paris

Sculptures in the Rodin Museum in Paris

Admission tickets for the Musée Rodin is €14. Admission is free for children under 18 and EU nationals under 26.

The Paris Museum Pass is accepted and gives priority access.

From October to March, admission is free on the first Sunday of the month.

A time-slot reservation system is not currently in use at the Rodin Museum but visitors with an online ticket get skip-the-line privileges for a mere €1 surcharge. Online tickets thus do not lock visitors into a specific time slot and sometimes are even valid for a full year after purchase — check the conditions on the actual ticket.

Many Musée Rodin guided tours are available as are combinations with further Parisian sights and Seine River cruises that should give some discounts.

Combination tickets with the Musée d’Orsay give a small discount but are currently only sold at the museum itself. Resellers often combine Rodin Museum tickets with other museums and sights for small savings.

Transportation to Visit the Rodin Museum

Getting to the Musée Rodin, 77 rue de Varenne, 75007 Paris, is easy from most parts of Paris. The closest metro station is Varenne (line 13 or use Invalides (metro 8, 13, or RER C).

The museum is almost adjacent to the Hôtel des Invalides (Napoleon’s Tomb). The neighborhood is very pleasant for walking making a stroll to the Eiffel Tower, the Seine, or even the Musée d’Orsay a good choice.

Henk Bekker in armor

About the author:

Henk Bekker

Henk Bekker is a freelance travel writer with over 20 years of experience writing online. He is particularly interested in history, art, and culture. He has lived most of his adult life in Germany, Switzerland, and Denmark. In addition to European-Traveler.com, he also owns a travel website on the Lake Geneva region of Switzerland and maintains statistical websites on car sales and classic car auction prices. Henk holds an MBA from Edinburgh Business School and an MSc in Development Finance from the University of London.

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