Rodin and America

Since I was on campus to see the Monuments of Printing exhibition, I figured that  it was worth a quick visit to the Cantor Center to see Sequence again. And, once I was in the Cantor Center, I decided that I may as well take in the special exhibition on Rodin and America too.

This was one of those weird exhibitions which felt like an academic project rather than a real museum exhibition. In this case, the exhibition felt like a response to the prompt “demonstrate how <famous artist> influenced <other famous artists> in <region/period>” where the three variables are all sort of arbitrarily determined.

The result ends up including some pieces which don’t seem to fit* and excluding a lot of other work which would seem relevant.** Also, by focusing so much on the influenced-by pieces, it became easy to miss the source of the inspiration.

*I didn’t think the Muybridge pieces were relevant and question the Man Ray pieces too.

**No examples of Michelangelo’s “unfinished” slaves for reference as well as no non-American or current artists. It’s not like Rodin was only popular and influential here.

Is Rodin’s influence worth demonstrating? Absolutely. It’s easy to forget how much we owe him for the beginnings of modern art. But it’s probably better to do it as part of a Rodin exhibition where you can show his inspiration as well as what he influenced. By keeping the emphasis on Rodin, it’s very easy for the viewer to stay focused and see the connections to the actual Rodin rather than trying to envision a common ancestor for all the newer works.

At least the Cantor Center has a fantastic collection of Rodins nearby. The best way to view the special exhibition is probably to view the Rodins first, then the special exhibition, then the Rodins again, and then special exhibition again.

Which means that I should follow my own advice and view the special exhibition again too.

Author: Nick Vossbrink

Blogging about Photography, Museums, Printing, and Baseball Cards from both Princeton New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area. On Twitter as @vossbrink, WordPress at, and the web at

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