Rodin and the Museum of Fine Arts

- 7 December - 3 March

Curator: Ferenc Tóth

The dossier exhibition organized by the Department of Art after 1800 showcases Rodin’s works preserved in the collection of the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts and the latest research results relating to it. The exhibited six sculptures, the prints, photographs, and the related catalogue will acquaint the public with the most recent research findings and recently discovered documents pertaining to the sculptures’ becoming part of the museum’s collection, as well as the technical analyses carried out on the works.

In the years prior to the opening of the Museum of Fine Arts in 1906 the body of experts entrusted with the building up of the collections devoted immense effort to compiling art works that would make the new institution’s holdings on a par with those of the prominent European museums. The purchase of five sculptures by Auguste Rodin directly from the artist stands out among the acquisitions made at that time in terms of both significance and scale. The purchases made in 1900–1901 were initiated and carried out by the eminent museum expert Gábor Térey, who was officially delegated to the Exposition Universelle of 1889. His letters written to Rodin are in the archives of the Rodin Museum in Paris. These and other letters as well as the thus far unpublished documents preserved in the archives of the Museum of Fine Arts provide step-by-step background information to the entire acquisition process from the conception of the idea to its implementation.

Subsequently added to the works acquired at the turn of the last century was the sculpture titled The Kiss, purchased in 1968. Never before have all the Rodin sculptures in the museum’s collection been showcased together. The exhibition will afford the museum the opportunity not only to display all the six works (and some subsequently acquired prints) together but also to publish the aforementioned outstanding historical correspondence in the catalogue accompanying the exhibition. The recently discovered documents provide a full picture about the increasingly close-knit relationship that developed between the heads of Hungarian museums and institutions and Rodin, who at the time had already been widely recognised.

The technical analyses recently carried out on the Rodin sculptures in the museum’s collection helped to establish extensive details about the execution of the individual works (some of which were directly commissioned by the museum). The X-ray analysis of the plaster cast The Bronze Age has revealed, for example, that the cast was made using a very special and extremely rare process. The uniqueness of the Budapest work is further enhanced by the verdigris of outstanding quality, thus justifying the distinguished place this piece occupies in the oeuvre. An invaluable document previously thought to have been lost has also been found. A reference is made in the correspondence between Térey and Rodin that following the suggestion of the former the sculptor sent an autographed photograph of his sculpture titled Eternal Spring to the then incumbent minister of culture, Gyula Wlassics to draw his attention to the work and convince him to purchase it. This photograph has been kept by one of the descendants  of the minister and thus can now be included in the catalogue as one of its interesting highlights.

The research carried out in relation to the newly found documents and the preparatory work for the Rodin exhibition has produced a lot of valuable information about the internationally renowned sculptor’s works that are preserved in the museum’s collection. The catalogue in which they will be published will make compelling reading for all those interested, while providing a highly important research resource for the coming generations of Hungarian and international scholars.

The exhibition was realised with the support of the Vaszary Villa in Balatonfüred, where the exhibition can be seen from 15 March 2013.

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