British Museum

Rodin and the Art of Ancient Greece

“I invent nothing, I rediscover.”

— Auguste Rodin

A discovery of how ancient Greek sculpture inspired Rodin to set a radical new direction for modern art.

In 1881 the French sculptor Auguste Rodin visited London for the first time. On a trip to the British Museum, he saw the Parthenon sculptures and was instantly captivated by the beauty of these ancient Greek masterpieces.

Like many archaeological ruins, the Parthenon sculptures had been broken and weathered over centuries, but Rodin took inspiration from the powerful expression that they conveyed through the body alone. He even removed the heads and limbs from his own figures to make them closer to the broken relics of the past. By doing so, he created a new genre of contemporary art – the headless, limbless torso.

A hundred years after his death, this major exhibition featured original plaster, bronze and marble examples of many of Rodin’s renowned sculptures on loan from the Musée Rodin in Paris. For the first time, they were displayed alongside some of the Parthenon sculptures that so inspired the artist – creating a unique and captivating experience.