Rodin at the Legion of Honor
The work of the French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840–1917) lies at the heart of the Legion of Honor’s collection. The collection was assembled by the museum’s founder, Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, from 1915. She gathered a group of works that American dancer Loïe Fuller called “the greatest collection of perfect Rodins in the world.” By the time of Mrs. Spreckels death in 1968, the collection added up to more than 90 of Rodin’s sculptural work.
The collection of Rodins at the Legion of Honor extends from the sculptor’s work from his early days in the 1860s and 1870s when he struggled to gain recognition, through years of adverse criticism, to his heyday in the early twentieth century, when he earned international renown as the artist who had liberated sculpture from the academic tradition. The museum’s holdings contain many of the finest pieces made during the artist’s lifetime, including The Age of Bronze, Saint John the Baptist Preaching, and The Kiss. Pieces relating to Rodin’s most ambitious commissions, The Burghers of Calais and The Gates of Hell, are also held in the museum’s collection, including his most famous sculpture, The Thinker—now an iconic emblem of the Legion of Honor. In addition to Rodin’s bronzes, the museum holds a wide spectrum of his plasters, models, fragments, and works on paper making the Legion one of the most comprehensive holdings of Rodin’s work in the United States.
For more information on the Legion’s collection see the catalogues The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin at the Legion of Honor (San Francisco: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 2017) and Klimt & Rodin: An Artistic Encounter (San Francisco: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and DelMonico Books/Prestel, 2017).