Two days into its new incarnation, turnout is good at the Rodin Museum

Mary Lane Wark was among the first weekend's visitors to the retooled Rodin Museum.
Mary Lane Wark was among the first weekend's visitors to the retooled Rodin Museum. (APRIL SAUL / Staff Photographer)
Posted: July 16, 2012

Since Philadelphia's Rodin Museum opened in 1929, one small room at the back of the gallery has seen many a fresh coat of paint.

When the museum shut its doors for renovations a year and a half ago, conservators took a paint chip from the wall and drilled down to the first layer to discover the room's original hue: Pompeian red.

Now, the room is a rich volcanic color once more. "The redness of the room really brings out the fierceness of the figures, which is what I like about Rodin - the edginess," said Mike Stanaitis, a resident of Washington, visiting the renovated museum on its second day of operation Saturday.

Old and new fans of Auguste Rodin enjoyed the opportunity to see the world's largest collection of the French sculptor's work outside Paris in the reopened Beaux Arts building, which has been restored inside and out to resemble its original 1929 appearance.

"Taking it back to having some historical accuracy was very important for the museum," said Jennifer Parker, manager of the museum, which is operated by the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Parker said she hopes to welcome more than 80,000 guests in the museum's first year, and she said she was pleased with the turnout so far. Despite rain Saturday morning, visitors from as far away as Belgium milled among the indoor sculptures.

Eva Saville, 11, picked out her favorite piece after listening to clips about many of the statues on an audio guide. "I like the one over there that has the big nose," she said, gesturing toward a sculpture called Colossal Head of Balzac, "because it reminds me of something my uncle would draw. . . . He looks a little mad about something, maybe something he did or someone did to him."

Eva and her sisters and parents came to Philadelphia from Washington to visit the Barnes Museum, which opened in its new location next door to the Rodin Museum on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway earlier in the summer.

Neddy McMills, of New York City, who also included a Barnes visit on her trip, said after seeing the massive Gates of Hell outdoors at the entrance to the Rodin Museum that " The Gates are staggeringly beautiful."

Mary Pat Graham, of Mukilteo, Wash., said she was first captivated by Rodin when she saw his work in an exhibit at London's Tate Museum years ago and was disappointed on two earlier trips to Philadelphia that the museum was closed.

"I am really thrilled," she said Saturday. "It's very exciting to see it in person. It's very immediate, and what he does with the human body is extraordinary."

Parker said she hopes the museum draws fans of Rodin, like Graham, as well as any who enjoy visiting museums.

"There aren't many museums in the country that are dedicated to one artist like this, and we have one in Philadelphia," she said. "It's come back to life."


Contact Julie Zauzmer at 215-854- 2703 or jzauzmer@philly.com.

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