Auguste Rodin (1840–1917) briefly made his home and studio in the Hôtel Biron, a grand 18th-century mansion that now houses a museum dedicated to his work. He died rich and famous, but many of the sculptures that earned him a place in art history were originally greeted with contempt by the general public, which was unprepared for his powerful brand of sexuality and raw physicality. The reaction to this museum’s new look is markedly different. It’s finally emerged from a three-year, tip-to-toe renovation that has seen everything from the building and grounds to Rodin's sculptures themselves restored and re-presented. The reputed cost was €16 million; the overall effect is nothing short of dazzling. Most of Rodin's best-known sculptures are in the gardens. The front one is dominated by The Gates of Hell (circa 1880). Inspired by the monumental bronze doors of Italian Renaissance churches, Rodin set out to illustrate stories from Dante's Divine Comedy. He worked on
the sculpture for more than 30 years, and it served as a "sketch pad" for many of his later works. Look carefully and you can see miniature versions of The Kiss (bottom right), The Thinker (top center), and The Three Shades (top center). Inside, look for The Bronze Age, which was inspired by the sculptures of Michelangelo: this piece was so realistic that critics accused Rodin of having cast a real body in plaster. In addition, the museum now showcases long-neglected models, plasters, and paintings, which offer insight into Rodin’s creative process. Pieces by other artists, gleaned from his personal collection, are on display as well—including paintings by van Gogh, Renoir, and Monet. Antiquities Rodin collected (and was inspired by) have been removed from storage and given their own room. There's also a room devoted to works by Camille Claudel (1864–1943), his student and longtime mistress, who was a remarkable sculptor in her own right. Her torturous relationship with Rodin eventually drove her out of his studio—and out of her mind. In 1913 she was packed off to an asylum, where she remained until her death. An English audio guide (€6) is available for the permanent collection and for temporary exhibitions. Tickets can be purchased online for priority access (€1.30 service fee). If you wish to linger, the lovely Café du Musée Rodin serves meals and snacks in the shade of the garden's linden trees.