I just returned from my honeymoon in France with my beautiful wife Ramona. One of the things that struck me on our travels there was a small exhibition we saw at the Musée Rodin in Paris, titled Rien Que Vous et Moi (“Nothing Except You and Me”). It focused on the friendship between the great sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) and the great painter Claude Monet (1840-1926). (Rodin was born on November 12, 1840, two days before Monet.)
One of the interesting points the exhibit made was the boost given to the artists by two of the most prominent French art critics of the time, Gustave Geffroy (1855-1926) and Octave Mirbeau (1848-1917). Geffroy and Mirbeau both wrote extensively about the two artists and were credited with introducing Monet and Rodin to each other – resulting in a lifelong friendship between the artists, exchanges of artwork (“Belle-Ile,” above, was given by Monet to Rodin and is now the collection of the Rodin Museum), and numerous letters between Rodin and Monet. The critics were also responsible for introducing the artists to the renowned Georges Petit Gallery in Paris, where they presented a two-man show in 1889.
I thought this really highlighted the importance of writers to an artist’s career. What we as artists really need is not exposure en masse but better, well-thought out and carefully selected exposure. With the advent of the internet, blogs, etc., everyone can now have their say – so it takes a skilled writer with something to say – writing about something worth hearing about – to cut through the din. Cheers to all those out there doing that.
The grounds at the musée have Rodin’s monumental works interspersed throughout; also, one room is dedicated to the work of Camille Claudel (1864-1943), probably Rodin’s greatest student (with whom he also had a stormy relationship). Did you know that Rainier Maria Rilke (1875-1926), the great German poet and writer, worked in another room as Rodin’s secretary for a period?!? The Musée Rodin is definitely worth a visit on your next trip to the City of Lights.