Passion at Work

from 15 October 2008 to 22 February 2009

Rodin and Freud as Collectors

The Rodin Museum is organising an exhibition of the collections of antiquities that had  belonged to Rodin and Freud. The Freud collection, kept at the Freud Museum of  London, is presented for the first time in France. The objective is to shed new light on  the close links between the work of these two men and their passion for antiquity.

A shared passion: the gods of Antiquity

It was in the middle of the 1890s that Freud in Vienna and Rodin in Paris started their collections.  Their passion never slackened from that moment onwards. Numerous archaeological excavations  were carried out during that period, and art objects circulated freely, making it easy to acquire  works and constantly enrich collections. The obsessive presence of statuettes in the consulting  room of the psychoanalyst echoed the multitude of antiquities that gradually invaded the villa of  the sculptor in Meudon. When Rodin died in 1917, he left over 6000 antiquities behind him,  while Freud possessed no less than 3000 when he passed away in 1939. 

A collection rich with meaning 

The exhibition will display a selection of antiquities of various origins - Egypt, Greece and  Rome - and will highlight the works of major importance. Thanks to an exceptional loan from  the Chiaramonti Museum of the Vatican, La Gradiva, a source of inspiration for Freud and a  whole generation of authors and artists after him, will be included among the works presented.  The two collections have many similarities, but the main focus will be the relationship Rodin  and Freud maintained with antiquity. These objects were far from being mere pieces of stone  for these two personalities. “Saxa loquuntur”, Freud was fond of saying, for in fact these stones  speak a language that needs to be deciphered and translated. Vestiges and fragments are traces  of a past that is invariably present, and completely open to exploration. “It is real flesh”, Rodin  used to say, revealing the first stirrings of an adoration for his “gods”, his “treasures”. A large  number of documents from that period, including letters and photographs, will illustrate this  profoundly original relationship with antiquity. 

Passion at work: the studios 

The collection became central to the work in progress of both men. At this point, antiquity  merged into creation, giving birth to hybrid and mysterious works. The assemblages of Rodin  provide an excellent example of this process. As for Freud, he too worked on assemblages, on  “associations”, and he was able to discern a form of psychoanalysis in archaeology: “Similar to  archaeology in that it probes the earth, psychoanalysis must unearth, stratum after stratum, the  psyche of the patient, in order to dig up treasures buried in the innermost depths”. In the  exhibition, La Gradiva testifies to the elaboration of the psychoanalytic research undertaken by  Freud. 

Rilke, Lou Andréas-Salomé, Zweig, Marie Bonaparte, Romain Rolland 

All these famous personalities now form a chain of links between Rodin and Freud. Although the  two collectors never actually met each other, they frequented the same circles, between Paris and  Vienna, among the intelligentsia of the 1900s. Among other links, Rainer Maria Rilke will be  mentioned because of his role in disseminating the work of Rodin in Vienna, as well as Marie  Bonaparte, who introduced the research conducted by Freud to Paris. The exhibition will examine these leading figures, who contributed to making the work of Rodin and Freud known,  from a completely new angle. The circuit will conclude with a presentation of the library of both  men.

Curator of the Exhibition: Bénédicte Garnier