Auguste Rodin's 1905 watercolor

Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) is perhaps best remembered for his monumental bronze sculpture but during the last two decades of his life, he created many lyrical drawings and watercolors. They offered a spontaneity and freedom not seen in his earlier work, which led critics to dub them instantanés. Others called them immoral and several exhibitions were closed by the police. In 1905, Harry Kessler, director of the Weimar Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe was forced to resign after purchasing several for the museum’s permanent collection.

For Americans, their first chance to see these drawings was January 1908, when Edward Steichen arranged an exhibit at his New York gallery 291. It was a high point of that art season, second only to the over-hyped Macbeth galleries show of “The Eight”.

Rodin famously credited Michelangelo for freeing him from academism. Man Ray wrote in his autobiography “Rodin’s unanatomical watercolor sketches of nudes pleased me immensely and justified my abandon of academic principles.” [Self Portrait (Boston, 1963): 18].

The Graphic Arts division is fortunate to hold a small Rodin collection. A finding aid to the collection of prints, drawings, and watercolors can be found at:
In addition, Princeton owns a small collection of Rodin manuscripts, including fifty letters, cards, telegrams, and notes, of which about half are in the hand of the sculptor. A finding aid to this collection is at: