By Melissa Mitchell
The UI campus has no shortage of great minds. Joining them this month will be one of the greatest thinkers of all time. Make that "The Thinker."
The infamous brooding bronze hunk is just one of more than 60 works by French sculptor Auguste Rodin on view at the UI's Krannert Art Museum April 25 through June 15. "Rodin: Sculptures From the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Collection" features figures and studies for several of the sculptor's major projects created during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, such as "The Gates of Hell" and "Burghers of Calais." Also included is a portrait bust of Rodin created by Camille Claudel, his lover and assistant, as well as two-dimensional works and photo-murals, including a series that describes the casting process.
"It's very much a show about Rodin's creative process," said museum curator Eunice Dauterman Maguire. "Many of the pieces are studies and variations of other works exhibited nearby. Looking at them, you can see how one thing led to another in his thinking."
The traveling exhibition is on loan from the Cantor Foundation, caretaker of the world's largest and most comprehensive collection of works by Rodin. The foundation was established by philanthropist-collectors Iris and B. Gerald Cantor for the purpose of sharing their collection with the public. Gerald Cantor, who died in 1996, started the collection in 1945 after becoming captivated by a marble version of Rodin's "Hand of God" at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Over the years, the couple acquired about 750 large- and small-scale sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs and Rodin memorabilia. They donated more than 450 of those works to museums throughout the country; they gave another 187 to Stanford University, where they also established a fellowship that enables doctoral candidates to travel and conduct research abroad.
"The exciting thing about this show [at the UI museum] is that some of the works included in it were never cast in bronze until the Cantors came along and had it done," Maquire said. For instance, she said, Rodin's "Gates of Hell" for which the original version of "The Thinker" was created existed only in plaster-cast form until the Cantors commissioned a bronze casting in the 1980s. The French government originally had commissioned the project in 1880 for a proposed Museum of Decorative Arts, which was never built. The four-year, lost-wax casting process commissioned a century later by the Cantors was documented in "Rodin: The Gates of Hell," an award-winning documentary film produced by Iris Cantor.
Maguire will be on hand to answer questions about Rodin and the exhibition at an opening reception from 6:30 to 8 p.m. April 25. The public is invited to attend.