The Hands of Rodin: A Tribute to B. Gerald Cantor, a major traveling exhibition of over 50 bronze sculptures, will be on view at the Brooklyn Museum of Art July 18, 1997–September 28, 1997. This exhibition spans a period of approximately four decades, during which Auguste Rodin (1840–1917) produced hundreds of studies of hands. Some of these eventually became parts of such major works as The Monument to Balzac (1891–97), The Kiss (1886), and The Burghers of Calais (1884–89); others were refined into some of Rodin’s most powerful small-scale sculptures, documenting Rodin’s interest in the fragment as an independent form.
The Hands of Rodin: A Tribute to B. Gerald Cantor was organized by the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It was initially conceived by B. Gerald Cantor, the noted Rodin collector and philanthropist. Mr. Cantor died on July 3, 1996, and this exhibition now serves as a memorial to his distinguished collecting career. B. Gerald Cantor, with his wife Iris, assembled the world’s largest and most comprehensive private collection of the work of Rodin. The Cantors have been major benefactors of the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Among their many important gifts to the Museum were 58 Rodin sculptures that are permanently installed in the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Gallery, located in the fifth-floor Rotunda. The exhibition will complement these acclaimed works by Rodin.
The exhibition is made possible by the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation.
At fourteen, Auguste Rodin entered the École Impériale de Dessin in Paris, where he learned to work in clay with a nude model as his reference. There he began to study the intricate form of the hand, along with human anatomy in general. Through diligent work and a possibly unique intuition about the mechanics of the body, Rodin mastered the modeling of a hand, skillfully replicating its musculature and infinite variety of positions. During this period he also studied by drawing ancient fragments of sculpture in museum collections.
Rodin was also aware of the psychologically expressive nature of the hand. He once said: “I have always had an intense passion for the expression of the human hands. There are times when they succumb to destiny. There are times when they seize the void and, molding it as a snowball is molded, hurl it in the face of Fate.” He modeled thousands of unattached hands and championed the use of the bodily fragment as an independent and complete work of art.
Fascinated and challenged by the idea of representing the body in art, Rodin departed in style and subject matter from academic tradition. Eventually his work gained acceptance. In the late 19th century, he received a number of important commissions that led to the creation of such masterpieces as The Gates of Hell, The Burghers of Calais, and a monument to Victor Hugo for the Panthéon. During his lifetime, Rodin achieved an unprecedented level of international fame and respect. At the peak of his career, Auguste Rodin was considered the greatest sculptor since Michelangelo.
The exhibition is divided into several thematic categories: Divine Hands, Hands of Tribulation, Hands of Creation, and Afflicted Hands. Highlights include The Cathedral (1908), in which Rodin placed two forms of the same right hand together, evoking the arches of a Gothic cathedral, and The Hand of God (1898). Other works, such as Large Clenched Right Hand (circa 1885), illustrate Rodin’s interest in the dramatic sense of pain or anger conveyed by hands afflicted with diseases such as arthritis. Several undated studies of hands exemplify the fast and sketchy way in which Rodin often attempted to capture the fluid and gestural nature of hands. The show will also include several larger pieces that incorporate earlier studies of hands, such as The Burghers of Calais and Hand of the Devil Holding Woman.
The Hands of Rodin: A Tribute to B. Gerald Cantor consists of works from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Collection at the Los Angeles Count Museum of Art, as well as works loaned by such institutions as the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Maryhill Museum of Art in Washington, the Stanford University Libraries, and the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation. The exhibition opened at Los Angeles County Museum of Art and traveled to the Philadelphia Museum of Art before coming to Brooklyn; it will also go to The Museum of Art at Brigham Young University, The Arkansas Arts Center, and the Portland Art Museum.
The nationally touring exhibition is sponsored by the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation, which was established in 1978 by the Cantors to fund the visual arts as well as medical, educational, and cultural institutions and programs in the U.S. and abroad. The Foundation is dedicated to sharing the works from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Collection through the donation of works to institutions around the world, the endowment of galleries and sculpture gardens, the support of scholarship[s] and the organization of special traveling exhibitions.
The coordinating curator at the Brooklyn Museum of Art is Elizabeth Easton, Associate Curator of European Painting and Sculpture. An illustrated brochure, published by The Cantor Foundation, will accompany the exhibition.
July 15, 1997:
On Thursday, July 17, at 6 p.m., noted philanthropist Iris Cantor will join 1200 guests at a preview opening of The Hands of Rodin: A Tribute to B. Gerald Cantor, an exhibition of works of the artist Auguste Rodin (1840–1917). Focusing on Rodin’s sculptures of the human hand, the exhibition comprises 55 bronze sculptures. Some of these sculptures later became parts of the artist’s monumental works such as The Monument to Balzac, while others were refined into some of Rodin’s most powerful small-scale works.
The exhibition was initially conceived by B. Gerald Cantor, the noted Rodin collector and philanthropist. Mr. Cantor died on July 3, 1996, and this exhibition serves as a memorial to his distinguished collecting career. B. Gerald Cantor, together with his wife, Iris, assembled the world’s largest and most comprehensive private collection of the work of Rodin. The Cantors have been major benefactors of the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Among their many important gifts to the Museum were 58 Rodin sculptures that are permanently installed in the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Gallery, located in the fifth-floor Rotunda. The exhibition will complement these acclaimed works by Rodin.
Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1995 - 2003. 1997, 140.