Reiss x Rodin at the British Museum


We sat down with Celeste Farge, curator of the Rodin and the Art of Ancient Greece exhibition at the British Museum, to learn about Rodin and his inspiration.

1. What inspired the British Museum to create an exhibition on Rodin?

In 1881, aged 40, Rodin made the first of many visits to London and the British Museum. On a later visit, he told a reporter that in his spare time he simply haunts the British Museum and called it the ‘rendezvous of all artists’. Greek art, and in particular the Parthenon sculptures, had a huge impact on Rodin and his work and this has not, until now, been fully researched and recognised.

2. As the curator, what does your role entail and how long does the exhibition take to put together from start to finish?

It’s an enormously varied role but the first task is to come up with a concept and narrative for an exhibition. We had around two years to prepare Rodin and the art of ancient Greece but we were fortunate in that this project was a collaboration with the Musée Rodin in Paris and we were able to draw upon their expertise. I went on several trips to the Musée Rodin in Paris and also to Rodin’s house and studio at Meudon with my co-curators to explore the galleries and, most excitingly, the storerooms to pick objects which best illustrated the narrative.

3. What can visitors expect from the exhibition?

The unexpected! We are exhibiting some of Rodin’s iconic works such as The Kiss and The Thinker but we re-evaluate them in the show. For example, we have paired The Kiss with a sculpture of two goddesses, one reclining in the lap of the other, from the Parthenon pediment. These are not an obvious pairing but both sculptures are carved from one block of stone and the figures melt into one another. They are a remarkable study in intimacy. Both sculptors have managed to turn cold hard marble into soft warm flesh.

4. Ancient Greek art hugely influenced Rodin’s work and the Greek aesthetic still inspires fashion designers today. What makes it so appealing?

I think it is their truth to nature. The sculptures in particular seem to live and breathe. The ancient sculptors have excelled in transforming cold hard marble into warm flesh and, when clothed, flowing diaphanous drapery. They are incredibly sexy.

5. Rodin was inspired by artful drapery of ancient Greek sculpture which ties in with one of our SS18 women’s wear trends. How did Rodin apply this inspiration to his work and where can we expect to see it within the exhibition?

Rodin was fascinated by the human form but also by the movement and representation of drapery. Drapery could be used as a device to give a motionless statue a sense of movement by flying out behind the figure or with folds cascading over the body. Rodin’s study of drapery is most apparent in his Draped Muse from the Monument of Whistler. It echoes that of the celebrated Venus de Milo which Rodin admired with a passion.

6. What is your favourite part of the exhibition and what should we make sure we don’t miss?

There is a showcase with Rodin’s small assemblage works. They are a relatively unknown side of Rodin’s oeuvre and were rarely displayed during his lifetime or for a long time afterwards. They illustrate a very playful side to his work where he combines different figures or objects, whole or fragmentary, ancient or modern, to create an infinite variety of experimental works. The playful creativity involved in combining different things applies as much to fashion as it does to art.

Rodin and the Art of Ancient Greece is at the British Museum from 26 April – 29 July.
Sponsored by Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Enter below for the chance to win a one year British Museum joint membership, a one night stay for two at the Principal London Hotel and a £1000 Reiss shopping spree.