Rodin Museum, Paris…The Paintings

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Munch the thinker
Munch scream

I could not bear to include these paintings in with the sculptures on my post concerning the Rodin museum, so I thought I would include them in a separate post. The painting above is by Edvard Munch, the Norwegian painter made famous by “The Scream”, seen to the right.

There is no evidence of Rodin and Edvard Munch (1863-1944), the most important Norwegian artist and etcher of his generation, ever having met. Yet the sculptor’s work greatly influenced the painter’s production, and today the Musée Rodin is still the only French museum to own a canvas by Munch.


Rodin Museum, Paris...The Blue train

The painting above is known as “The Blue Train” by Vincent Van Gogh done in 1888. There is no evidence that Rodin and Van Gogh ever met but his secretary for a year, poet Ranier Maria Rilke (one of my favorite poets, this will give me an excuse to do a post on Rilke) was very aware of Van Gogh. In October 1907, while he was in Paris, a friend lent Rilke a portfolio of forty reproductions of van Gogh’s work. Rilke studied them thoroughly, and “gained such joy and insight and strength from them” that he felt the intensity of the artist’s presence over his shoulder, “that dear zealot in whom something of the spirit of Saint Francis was coming back to life.” Van Gogh wrote “the best way to know God is to love many things” and “how very fundamentally wrong is the man who does not realize he is but an Atom!”

Rodin’s friendships and tastes led to him surrounding himself with works by the Naturalists (Théodule Ribot, Alfred Roll, Jules Bastien-Lepage, Fritz Thaulow…) and Symbolists (Eugène Carrière, Charles Cottet…). While the Neo-Impressionists, the Nabis and the Fauves are not represented in his collection, the sculptor did, however, purchase three Van Goghs (including Père Tanguy, late 1887), Renoir’s Nude in the Sunlight, and Monet’s Belle-Île, which are true masterpieces. Through a series of exchanges made with his friend of almost 20 years, Rodin also owned eight paintings by Eugène Carrière, who shared the sculptor’s fondness for unfinished works.

Rodin Museum, Paris...The Harvestors

The painting seen above is “The Harvesters” by Vincent Van Gogh. The horizon is placed high in the picture, allowing us to focus on the field of wheat. The train seen in the distance contrasts sharply with the pastoral harvesting of wheat. The entry of progress and modernity into rural landscapes and occupation is a shared theme among impressionist painters.


Purchased from Amédée Schuffenecker, after 1905, this painting was particularly treasured by the sculptor: “Van Gogh and Renoir are the two greatest painters of our time,” he confided to Canudo. “The former’s landscapes, the latter’s nudes, have been so glorified that one should learn a great deal from their art…” (Canudo, 1913).


John Coltrane wrote a beautiful and well known song, “Blue Train” based on the Van Gogh “Blue Train” painting. He may not have been a painter but he certainly had an appreciation for artists in general and the struggle to create. In a letter from June 1962, Coltrane expressed just how much he admired Vincent Van Gogh:

I was reading a book on the life of Van Gogh today, and I had to pause and think of that wonderful and persistent force—the creative urge. The creative urge was in this man who found himself so much at odds with the world he lived in, and in spite of all the adversity, frustrations, rejections and so forth—beautiful and living art came forth abundantly… if only he could be here today.
Truth is indestructible. It seems history shows (and it’s the same way today) that the innovator is more often than not met with some degree of condemnation; usually according to the degree of departure from the prevailing modes of expression or what have you. Change is always so hard to accept. We also see that these innovators always seek to revitalize, extend and reconstruct the status quo in their given fields, whatever is needed. Quite often they are the rejects, outcasts, sub-citizens etc. of the very societies to which they bring so much sustenance. Often they are people who endure great personal tragedy in their lives. Whatever the case, whether accepted or rejected, rich or poor, they are forever guided by that great and eternal constant—the creative urge. Let us cherish it and give all praise to God.