Born in different centuries and on opposite sides of the
Atlantic, the choice to juxtapose the two artists may at first
Much of Mapplethorpe's work includes monochrome nudes of male
models — often his lovers — while Rodin is celebrated as a
pioneering modern sculptor of the second half of the 19th
Century whose masterpieces include "The Thinker" and "The Kiss."
Despite the artists' differences, exhibition curator Helene
Pinet said there were valid reasons for bringing the two
together under one roof in a show that has just opened at the
"We put them together because they were both passionate about
the human body," Pinet told Reuters TV. "Both of them expressed
it, one in photography and the other in sculpture, and as it
happens they developed a common vocabulary."
The similarity of form is striking. Echoes of Rodin's celebrated
"The Walking Man" — which lacks arms and a head — are found in
Mapplethorpe's study "Michael Reed," which presents a man
walking with his arms and head shrouded in shadow.
Pinet stressed that Mapplethorpe never was known to have talked
about Rodin, an early champion of photography and an avid
But with a classical education and a good friend who was a
curator at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, home to an
important Rodin collection, he must have been aware of the
sculptor, she said.
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Though the relationship is clear, the differences are also
"Mapplethorpe is a photographer who is obsessed with symmetry,
geometry, he takes charge of absolutely everything, the light,
nothing is improvised in his works," Pinet said.
"With Rodin it's the exact opposite, straight away there's something
very sensual. He models his works, he works in clay, and he does it
with experimentation," she added.
The creative layout of the exhibit, with Rodin's sculptures encased
in clear glass cabinets interspersed with Mapplethorpe's photos,
encourages viewers to see how two artists represent the
human form in similar yet contrasting ways.
The American's works have often courted controversy, thanks to their
explicit representation of sexuality and race. Pinet said that Rodin,
too, was criticized by the artistic establishment for the realism of
Rodin and Mapplethorpe, one straight and one gay, shared an artistic
interest in sexuality, which was also reflected in colorful private
lives. Mapplethorpe had numerous relationships with his models, as
The exhibition, which runs through September 21, takes place at the
same time as a more far-reaching Mapplethorpe retrospective at
Paris's Grand Palais. Both benefit from loans from the Robert
(Editing by Alexandria Sage and Angus MacSwan)
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