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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