Philadelphia: Rodin Museum

Philadelphia: Rodin Museum

Jules Mastbaum (1872–1926) was a wealthy Philadelphia businessman who, in the 1920's, assembled the largest collection of the works of Rodin outside of France. He commissioned architect Paul Cret and French landscape designer Jacques Gréber to design a museum and garden to house his collection, a gift to the people of Philadelphia.  

The Museum could brand itself as The Hidden Jewel of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Once trees are in full leaf, you might even miss Rodin's best-known sculpture, The Thinker, set back a bit as it is from the sidewalk.  Watch your background carefully when you shoot The Thinker - the best views are from the street side, with the large, classical portal behind him.

The portal, called The Meudon Gate, is a replica of the facade of the late seventeenth-century Château d’Issy, which was reassembled by Auguste Rodin (French, 1840–1917) on his property at Meudon, just outside Paris. The placement of sculpture into the arches of the gate here mirrors the arrangement at Meudon.

Once you pass through the portal, you come to the most photographically interesting part - you view opens up to a reflecting pool with the small museum building itself at the far end. From late spring through early autumn, the garden surrounding the pool adds color. But with the right lighting, the museum and its reflection make for a compelling image in any weather.

The Museum is small, but full of exquisite work by Rodin. At the center of the front are The Gates of Hell, originally intended for a museum in Paris, modeled but never cast by Rodin, owing to lack of funds. Mr. Mastbaum had once cast made for Philadelphia and another one for Paris. 

Don't forget to see the sculptures outside of the building. My favorite is The Burghers of Calais, to the right of the building. Walk up to the six life-size figures and study each one's reaction to the situation they face, surrender to the English king and certain execution. Try what I did - photograph their hands, rendered in great detail by Rodin. 

Midtown: One Beacon Court

Midtown: One Beacon Court

Annapolis, MD: Storm Clouds Over the State House

Annapolis, MD: Storm Clouds Over the State House

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