Rodin’s The Kiss will embrace art lovers passions
- Credit: Tate / Tate Images
Rodin’s The Kiss, rare nudes by John Constable along with work by Maggi Hambling and Henry Moore will make Ipswich one of the country’s leading art centres this autumn. Arts editor Andrew Clarke previews a groundbreaking new exhibition
Christchurch Mansion is staging a once in a lifetime landmark exhibition, Kiss & Tell: Rodin and Suffolk Sculpture. Destined to be one the most important exhibitions outside London this autumn – the historic Ipswich tourist destination will be playing host to Rodin’s classic sculpture The Kiss along with a collection of other high profile works from the borough’s extensive archive as well as loans from The Tate, The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge and Norwich Castle Museum.
This major exhibition focuses on the story behind The Kiss. Who were the entwined lovers? How many versions did Rodin create? Why was the sculpture covered up for so long?
Curator Emma Roodhouse said that the rare appearance of this sensual 19th century sculpture outside London would be a jumping off point to examine other images and works of sculpture dealing with desire, love and devotion.
These will include several Rodin sculptures on loan from the Tate, including portrait sculptures of French novelist Honoré de Balzac and two more of Rodin’s sculptures inspired by movement and dance.
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There will also be many unseen sculptures from the Ipswich collection which will be put on display for the first time along with a wall of nudes and life drawings made by John Constable and will be displayed together, as a collection, for the first time alongside the Rodin sculpture.
There will also be an opportunity to find out about Suffolk sculptors who have been inspired by The Kiss including works by Elizabeth Frink and Maggi Hambling.
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Emma Roodhouse said: “Auguste Rodin’s marble lovers depicted in The Kiss are taken from Dante’s Inferno from The Divine Comedy. This is a monumental artwork and is a significant piece in the history of sculpture.
“The Kiss and The Thinker are two of his most famous works and both were originally incorporated into ‘The Gates of Hell’, a monumental piece commissioned to be the entrance for a Decorative Arts Museum, which was never built. Rodin later took many of the figures included in The Gates of Hell and made them into works of art of their own.”
Emma said that she was keen to explore Rodin’s own artistic roots and interests as well as the tragic tale of the adulterous lovers, which is explored through an illustrated edition of The Divine Comedy and a line-engraving depicting their plight by Romantic poet William Blake.
“The sculpture was scandalous when it was first unveiled because the woman was not passive. She was an active participant in the scene, she was leaning into the man and encouraging him.”
There will be a number of depictions of the body in its natural state and in movement, through sculptures and life drawings from the Ipswich collection, including works by Pre-Raphaelite sculptor Thomas Woolner, Ellen Mary Rope, Henry Moore, Maggi Hambling along with moulds of works by Michelangelo as well as a piece by Picasso and a bronze maquette of Pierre De Wissant, one of the figures from Rodin’s The Burghers of Calais.
In addition to the exhibition itself there will be a number of artist-led workshops including drawing the figure, a Rodin study day and the curator’s introduction tour.
Kiss & Tell: Rodin and Suffolk Sculpture runs from November 24 to April 28 at Christchurch Mansion, Ipswich.