Rodin and Women: Muses, Sirens, Lovers

“The Kiss,” by Rodin. Photo courtesy of Pepperdine University

Pepperdine University’s Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art will present Rodin and Women: Muses, Sirens, Lovers—Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Collections from Saturday, January 18, 2020 until Sunday, March 29. An opening reception will be held Sunday, January 19 from 3–5 p.m. There is no admission charge and the public is invited to attend.

Auguste Rodin (1840–1917) is considered to be the greatest sculptor since Michelangelo. At the peak of his career, he was the most famous sculptor in the Western world. This collection explores one of the artist’s key passions and features approximately 40 bronzes, depicting women as models, companions, classical and religious ideals, and sources of artistic inspiration. Included are some of his most famous works, such as The Kiss, Eve, and Venus.

“It is especially rewarding to bring Rodin back to the Weisman Museum of Art,” said Michael Zakian, museum director. “In 2001 we hosted Rodin’s Obsession: The Gates of Hell, which looked at how a major commission inspired many of his most popular pieces, such as The Thinker. This exhibition allows us to examine another aspect of his life and work—his fascination with the female form.”

Rodin’s relationships to the women in his life and to the gender’s role in shaping the grand ideals of Western culture were complex. A muse is someone who provides creative inspiration. A siren is a beautiful and seductive female—often a temptress who may lead men astray. Lover refers to the many women who shared Rodin’s life, offering affection, companionship, and support. For Rodin, these roles were often shifting and interchangeable.

Rodin broke with the art of his time by seeing the human body as a vehicle for intense emotion. Rejecting 19th-century academic traditions of perfect, idealized form, he made sculpture with rough, coarse surfaces that convey physical vitality. Using rigorous modeling and anatomical distortions, he was able to capture his immediate, instinctive reactions to his models.

“Rodin believed that art should above all tell the truth, and his truth was rooted in what he called nature and in the contemporary world he saw about him,” said Judith Sobol, guest curator of the exhibition and Curator of Collections and Exhibitions of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation. “In telling this truth, Rodin revolutionized sculpture and brought it out of its past of centuries-old conventions into what today we know as modern art.” 

Rodin and Women: Muses, Sirens, Lovers has been organized and made possible by the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation and was curated by Judith Sobol, their Curator of Collections and Exhibitions. The installation at the Weisman Museum of Art was designed and organized by Museum Director Michael Zakian.

The Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art at Pepperdine University was dedicated in September 1992. For over 25 years, it has showcased historical and contemporary art by nationally recognized artists, focusing on the art of California.


Located on Pepperdine’s main campus at 24255 Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, CA, the museum is open Tuesday–Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and is closed on Mondays and major holidays. There is no admission charge. For more information: (310) 506-4851;


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