If you like impressionism and have a soft spot for friendship stories, you should visit the Musée Rodin. There you will find a friendly letter from one famous sculptor to one famous painter. An exchange between Rodin and Monet.
Rodin and Monet were born only two days apart in the 19th century. Although it is unclear how they met, they shared a strong friendship and deep admiration for each other’s work. They both searched for nature in their respective art forms. Apparently, when Rodin first saw the ocean, he exclaimed: “It is like a Monet!”. However, despite their admiration for each other, their careers developed very differently.
Rodin and Monet’s polar careers
The impressionist painter knew success before the sculptor, a success tainted by critiques and sarcasm. Monet’s painting Déjeuner sur l’herbe (The Luncheon on the Grass) made him famous in 1865. Rodin’s work finally received the recognition it deserved in 1880, when the state bought his L’Âge d’Airain (The Age of Bronze) and placed an order for The Gates of Hell (which he delivered 30 years later). Simultaneously, Monet’s masterpieces were met with scorn, leaving the impressionist painter in a financially difficult situation.
A difficult exhibition
Later in the decade, Monet and Rodin organised an exhibition of their work together at The Exposition Universelle of 1889. It was important for Monet to show his work next to Rodin’s, so the sculptor’s reputation could shed a nicer light on his paintings. However, the day of the opening, the situation almost turned into a disaster when Monet found Rodin’s sculptures standing in front of his paintings, hiding them. This raised a conflict between the two artists, to say the least. Nonetheless, the incident didn’t end the friendship and the exhibition turned out to be a huge success, as it received positive reviews from both the public and the critics.
Monet and Rodin kept in touch after the exhibition, even though they saw less of each other since Monet moved to Giverny. They still shared a common artistic purpose, just like when Rodin helped Monet get Manet’s Olympia into the Louvre as soon as the painter asked. Monet also donated a large amount of money for the enlargement of The Thinker (a gift to the city of Paris) even though he lived modestly.
The Musée Rodin held an exhibition in 2010 and reunited their works together in a less ego-bruising way. Today, you may still see Monet’s painting, Belle-île, which was initially a gift from the painter to his sculptor friend.
Article written by Clémence
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