Rare Film of Sculptor Auguste Rodin Working at His Studio in Paris (1915)

In the past few days we’ve fea­tured a series of remark­able lit­tle films of French artists Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claude Mon­et and Edgar Degas. Today we wrap things up with just one more: a rare glimpse of the great sculp­tor Auguste Rodin.

The footage was tak­en in 1915, two years before Rod­in’s death. There are sev­er­al sequences. The first shows the artist at the columned entrance to an uniden­ti­fied struc­ture, fol­lowed by a brief shot of him pos­ing in a gar­den some­where. The rest of the film, begin­ning at the 53-sec­ond mark, was clear­ly shot at the pala­tial, but dilap­i­dat­ed, Hôtel Biron, which Rodin was using as a stu­dio and sec­ond home.

The man­sion was built as a pri­vate res­i­dence in the ear­ly 18th cen­tu­ry, and served as a Catholic school for girls from 1820 until about 1904, when it became ille­gal for pub­lic mon­ey to be used for reli­gious edu­ca­tion. When the last of the nuns cleared out, the rooms of the Hôtel Biron were rent­ed out to a diverse group of peo­ple that includ­ed some notable artists: Jean Cocteau, Isado­ra Dun­can, Hen­ri Matisse and Rain­er Maria Rilke, who served for a time as Rod­in’s sec­re­tary. It was Rilke’s wife, the sculp­tor Clara West­hoff Rilke, who first told Rodin about the place in 1909.

Rodin first rent­ed four rooms on the main floor, but was alarmed when he learned of plans to sell the prop­er­ty off in pieces to devel­op­ers. So he made a deal with the gov­ern­ment: In exchange for bequeath­ing all his works to the French state, the sculp­tor was allowed to occu­py the man­sion for the rest of his life, and after he died, the estate would become the Musée Rodin.

By the time actor Sacha Gui­t­ry and his cam­era­man arrived to film this scene from Ceux de Chez Nous, or “Those of Our Land,” Rodin was the sole occu­pant of the Hôtel Biron. The film shows the 74-year-old artist walk­ing down the weed-cov­ered steps of the man­sion and work­ing inside, chip­ping away at a mar­ble stat­ue with a ham­mer and chis­el. When Rodin was asked once about how he cre­at­ed his stat­ues, he said, “I choose a block of mar­ble and chop off what­ev­er I don’t need.”

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Comments (11)
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  • My great applause for your won­der­ful effort at bring­ing the rare movie of Rodin.It’s my first time here,is it a subscription/membership site?How can I view the movies?I am an artist.

  • Mike Springer says:

    Hel­lo Nsikak,
    Thanks for your com­ment. Every­thing here is free. If you look along the right side of the page you’ll see var­i­ous cat­e­gories for easy brows­ing, includ­ing one for art. We have quite a few art-relat­ed videos on file.

  • Arlene Burd says:

    This amaz­ing footage is a trea­sure. I found it by chance, and wish more peo­ple could be made aware of it. I’ll do my part. Thank you.

  • Bulbul Islam says:

    This is an amaz­ing win­dow for the lovers of literature,film,music etc etc…

  • Farabi says:

    what an amaz­ing video! Lov­ing this site :)

  • Sharon Carmont says:

    These films are sub­lime. I’m in tears at the dogged deter­mi­na­tion of these old men to cre­ate their beau­ti­ful art at what­ev­er per­son­al cost; Rodin with chips of mar­ble in his beard and no eye pro­tec­tion, Renoir with his claw­like hands clutch­ing his paint­brush­es, Mon­et paint­ing his beloved nympheas while mourn­ing his wife and son. Thank you for shar­ing.

  • Sean kane says:

    won­der­ful films ..per­haps for­wards a use for a long-stand­ing idea of mine to use lip read­ing in appro­pri­ate lan­guage to deci­pher what is being said in numer­ous vari­ety of old silent films .…

  • Iris Borgers says:

    Lets not for­get to mehtion Camille Claudel here!!

  • Iris Borgers says:

    men­tion ‘typo’

  • Hytu says:

    Thank you! this sounds very inter­est­ing! It seems that «Ceux de Chez Nous» fea­tures oth­er famous old French artists (eg. Camille St Saëns, Sarah Bern­hardt, Edmond Ros­tand).

    >not avail­able in France
    ffs the movie is from 1915, this can’t be copy­right any­more…

  • Esther Luttrell says:

    I am writ­ing a char­ac­ter into my new nov­el (Mid­night on Min­gus Moun­tain) who sculpts in mar­ble, but before I can ful­ly devel­op the char­ac­ter I must learn the “lan­guage” and so I watched your films. Fab­u­lous! Won­der­ful! I now not only know the lan­guage, but the names of tools and I have a visu­al of how an artist goes about giv­ing life to his his cre­ation. Bet­ter than a hun­dred arti­cles I might have read on the sub­ject! So very grate­ful. Thank you!

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