Nestled between New York City and Washington, D.C., Philadelphia can be easily overlooked. We’re often underrated. But the City of Brotherly Love has some incredible secrets, especially when it comes to art. The Rocky movies memorialize the front steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. But within the walls of the impressive building is, unquestionably, a world class museum. Only recently has the Barnes Foundation’s indescribable treasures been opened up to the public and is also accessible from the Ben Franklin Parkway. Just like Philadelphia can be overlooked, the Rodin Museum is often passed by for the bigger names. No, not the one in Paris; the one in Philadelphia. Just as Albert C. Barnes collected priceless art, so, too, did Jules E. Mastbaum collect the works of Auguste Rodin. The museum houses the largest collection of Rodin’s work outside of the French capital. And it’s in Philadelphia, just a stone’s throw from the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Barnes Foundation.
About the Rodin Museum
Philadelphia’s Rodin Museum was opened in 1929. The city’s Jules Mastbaum gifted the city his impressive personal collection of art by the French sculptor. Mastbaum’s collection included not only sculpture, but personal letters, sketches, prints and more from Rodin. Unfortunately, Mastbaum never saw the opening of the museum. But, in addition to the collection of art, Mastbaum also left his imprint in another way. Mastbaum was responsible for hiring two French architects, Paul Cret and Jacques Gréber, to design both the museum and the surrounding gardens.
Visiting the Rodin Museum
After a wonderful pre-Valentine’s Day lunch with my husband at Morimoto, we made a special trip over to the Rodin Museum. Although I had been there once before, it had been quite some time. In that interim, the museum went through a couple of renovations, the most recent of which was earlier this month. The museum has two distinct sections: indoor and outdoor. There are a number of large scale pieces that are outside of the museum. These include some of Rodin’s most famous, such as the Gates of Hell and The Thinker. Inside are a number of smaller pieces — busts, studies, and smaller sculptures — as well as a few larger pieces, including a marble replica of The Kiss.
Perhaps the most important thing to note when visiting the Rodin Museum is to keep in mind its size. The Rodin Museum is small. We spent about an hour in the essentially empty gallery on an icy cold Friday afternoon and were able to take our time and linger on certain pieces. The museum’s layout is first class. On a bright day, there’s plenty of natural light. There’s a side room with tables covered in Rodin reference books and tablet computers to allow you to dig a little deeper into what you’re seeing if it strikes your fancy. There’s plenty of room to admire the works close up, from across the room, from all angles.
The Rodin Museum’s Sculpture Garden
In the spring and summer, the gardens outside of the museum are simply beautiful. Visitors don’t even need to buy a ticket to enjoy them. The beautiful landscaping compliments the sculptures, water features and architecture of the gardens. There are benches where you can sit and take it all in.
Do yourself a favor. Don’t overlook the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia.
The Rodin Museum is centrally located on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, sandwiched between the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Barnes Foundation. The Rodin Museum shares the parking garage with the Museum of Art. Just be sure to get your parking ticket validated inside the museum to take advantage of the discounted rate. There is also a small amount of metered parking in the vicinity immediately around the museum. However, this parking can be hard to come by.
All opinions, as well as all photos, are my own.