Through a unique collaboration between Rockefeller Center, the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation and the Public Art Fund, New Yorkers and visitors to the city have the rare opportunity to view eight monumental Rodin sculptures in one of New York City’s quintessential public spaces, the Channel Gardens of Rockefeller Center. This much-travelled promenade leading from Fifth Avenue into the heart of Rockefeller Center has been specially landscaped and transformed into a formal French garden, creating an exquisite setting to view many of Rodin’s most renowned monumental works, including this most recognized sculpture, The Thinker.
Brought together for the first time in a public setting in New York City, Rodin at Rockefeller Center includes many of the most beloved Rodin sculptures. From his famous series, The Gates of Hell and The Burghers of Calais to a number of individual sculptures, the exhibition presents this seminal artist’s revolutionary approach to the human figure. Often regarded as the greatest sculptor since Michelangelo, Auguste Rodin’s (1840-1917, b. Paris, France) genius lay in his ability to liberate both his subject matter and his style from 19th-century academic traditions through a heightened sense of personal artistic expression. His artistic mission to communicate the vitality of the human spirit found a strong resonance in the public’s imagination because of the artist’s bold impressionistic modeling and choice of non-traditional and often provocative subject matter.
Beginning on Fifth Avenue, Rodin’s The Three Shades, set against the dramatic vista of the Channel Gardens and rising tower of 30 Rockefeller Center, marks the entrance to the exhibition. These muscular figures (influenced by Rodin’s study of the sculptures of Michelangelo) are framed by a colonnade of Italian cypress trees.
As viewers make their way through the beautifully landscaped Channel Gardens, a central grove provides an intimate setting to view figures from the Burghers of Calais (Jean De Fiennes, Monumental Head of Pierre de Wiessant, Monumental Head of Jean d’Aire) alongside Whistler’s Muse, Meditation, and Monumental Torso of the Walking Man. The Thinker, one of the most beloved sculptures of all time and perhaps Rodin’s greatest triumph, caps the exhibition at the western end of the promenade overlooking the Festival café.
The sculptures on view have been generously loaned from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Collection, the world’s largest and most comprehensive private collection of Auguste Rodin’s work.
“To have these sculptures exhibited in New York City’s preeminent public space is part of the continued realization of my late husband’s dream of sharing the beauty of Rodin with everyone,” said Mrs. Iris Cantor, chairman and president of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation. “Millions of people, who might not otherwise have had the chance, will get to experience some of Rodin’s greatest works up close, with Rockefeller Center as a spectacular backdrop.”
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