Since the turn of the century, Berlin’s Nationalgalerie has shown several key works by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) like The Thinker, The Age of Bronze, and Man and his Thought. To mark the 100th anniversary of Rodin’s death, Alte Nationalgalerie will present a special exhibition focusing on the small bronze statue Man and His Genius, which up until now has received relatively little attention. This work from around 1896, showing a man and a small female genius emerging from him, emblematizes artistic inspiration.
The small sculpture is closely tied to the work of two important writers: on the one hand Rainer Maria Rilke, who in his writings contributed to Rodin’s popularization in Germany, for example with the poem “Nike” inspired by this sculpture. On the other, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, who discovered the plaster version in 1900 on his trip to Paris and immediately commissioned its casting in bronze. For twenty years, Man and His Genius stood on Hofmanstahl’s desk as a source of inspiration at his home in Rodau near Vienna. When Hofmannstahl found himself in financial difficulties, his friend Rilke arranged to have the bronze sold to the Swiss collector Werner Reinhart. From there it made its way later to the collection of Berlin’s Nationalgalerie.
Imperfection and the fugacity of thought shape Rodin’s work, raising the question of the artistic signature and the openness of artistic interpretation. Rilke and Hofmannsthal were greatly inspired by Rodin, as is shown by their works and the history of the small bronze sculpture.
The exhibition “Rodin – Rilke – Hofmannsthal. Man and His Genius” presents Rodin’s masterpieces from the collection of Berlin’s Nationalgalerie, several loans from Paris’ Musée Rodin and Bremer Kunsthalle, along with several manuscripts, letters, and photographs from the estates of Rilke and Hofmannstal. This show, curated by Maria Obenaus and Ralph Gleis, provides a new perspective on Rodin’s oeuvre: the sculpture Man and His Genius becomes the point of departure for a reflection on inspiration in the arts that can also be seen in the prints of Eugène Carrière and Max Klinger.