by Celeste Farge, Bénédicte Garnier, and Ian Jenkins. Thames and Hudson, June 2018. 240 p. 203 ill. 9780500480304 (hardcover), $60.00.
Reviewed September 2018
The British Museum is home to the Elgin Marbles, a collection of Greek marble sculptures created by Phidias and his workshop that were originally part of the Acropolis in Athens. Lord Elgin removed the marble sculptures and fragments at the start of the 19th century and relocated them to London, where they subsequently found a home at the British Museum. In 1903, Rodin is quoted saying “in my spare time I simply haunt the British Museum.” It was there that Rodin encountered the sculptures and fragments of works by Phidias, which shaped the nature of his own work.
Rodin and the Art of Ancient Greece is a catalog accompanying an exhibition of the same name at the British Museum, in association with the Musée Rodin. Through the juxtaposition of ancient works with Rodin’s, it is clear that the work of Phidias greatly influenced Rodin’s own work, which is evident in their similar vitality, a trait not always apparent in stone. Through this catalog and exhibition, Rodin’s inspiration and method are at the forefront while also breathing life into the Elgin Marbles.
The book was researched and written by curatorial staff in the British Museum’s department of Prints and Drawings and the department of Greece and Rome, as well as curatorial staff at the Musée Rodin. Following an introduction by the director of the British Museum and forwards by the director of each museum, are essays by the abovementioned curators. The intelligently designed catalog of the exhibition features entries for 112 works. The works are arranged thematically, with portions on “Rodin’s Parthenon,’” “Truth to Nature,” “the Monument,” “the Fragment,” “Motion,” and “Emotion.” Tombstone information is included for all illustrated works, as well as a brief description of the work, and in the case of Rodin’s own work, where he drew his inspiration. Entries are concise. They are scholarly while remaining accessible to the general reader.
This volume is richly illustration with 200+ color and black and white reproductions of photographs, drawings, sculptures and sketchbooks printed on a low-gloss paper. The printing quality of the volume is superb as is the binding, despite having only a partial dustjacket. Included are a table of contents, a chronology of Rodin, selections for further reading, an index of works by Rodin, and a general index.
Rodin and the Art of Ancient Greece would be an appropriate addition for museum libraries or academic art libraries that support sculpture and art history departments. This publication would be of particular interest to those studying Rodin or classical art.