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Many people travel great distances to see the works of masters like Auguste Rodin, whose pieces are routinely shown in premier museums like New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Rodin Museum in Paris. The David McCune International Art Gallery at Methodist University and Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Foundation have arranged to make Rodin’s works available for viewing in Fayetteville. The exhibit Rodin: Portraits of a Lifetime, Selections from the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Collections opens with a reception from 6 -9 p.m. on Feb. 11. The exhibit is open until May 7. The opening reception features Executive Director of the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Foundation Judith Sobol as the guest speaker. She will speak at 7 p.m. The reception and the exhibit are both open to the public. 

“I am confident that viewers will find this show’s 17 bronze Rodin sculptures to be a stunning installation featuring works that span the artist’s long career,” Art Gallery Director Silvana Foti explained. “The exhibition includes Rodin’s famous depictions of writers Victor Hugo and Honore de Balzac; of the musician Gustav Mahler; and of the artist Claude Lorrain. Also included in the show is a photographic portrait of Rodin by Edward Steichen.”

Francois-Auguste-Rene Rodin was born in  Paris in 1840. Well-known for his works “The Thinker” and the uncompleted “Gates of Hell,” Rodin didn’t blossom as a sculptor until later in life. As a youngster, he struggled in school. He was nearsighted but did not realize it. He turned to drawing as a way to ease his academic frustrations. By the time he was a teenager, Rodin was taking formal art classes. His confidence still suffered though, and when he was 17 he applied to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts only to be rejected not once, but three times. 

It was a trip to Italy in 1875 where Michelangelo’s work reignited Rodin’s artistic passion. In 1877, Rodin’s sculpture “The Vanquished,” which was later renamed “The Age of Bronze” premiered. The sculpture is of a nude man with clenched fists. The work was so realistic that some accused Rodin of using molds directly from the model’s body. By his 40s, Rodin had become established as an artist creating pieces like “The Three Shades,” The Old Courtesan,” and “The Thinker.” He died Nov. 17, 1917. Rodin is considered a pioneer in the world of modern sculpture.

The David McCune International Art Gallery provides an intimate space for patrons to enjoy the exhibit.  “Art students everywhere study Rodin,” Foti said. “I was fortunate to see Rodin sculptures in museums in Europe and large U.S. cities, and it’s nothing short of amazing that a gallery in Cumberland County will have the opportunity to exhibit his work.”

Since opening its doors in 2011, the David McCune International Art Gallery, housed in the William F. Bethune Center for Visual Arts at Methodist University, has hosted several exhibits featuring nationally recognized artists. Last year saw “Picasso: 25 Years of Edition Ceramics from the Rosenbaum Collection” at the gallery and fall 2013, the featured exhibit was “Igneous Expressions,” which featured the works of contemporary glass artists including Harvey Littleton, John Littleton, Kate Vogel and Mark Peiser. 

The Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Foundation supports the arts through exhibitions and other programs that recognize and show appreciation for visual and performing arts. The foundation also supports medical institutions that focus on biomedical research and clinical care, especially those that focus on women’s healthcare.

Exhibit hours are on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., on Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. The gallery can arrange “touch tours” for groups of visually impaired visitors. Admission is free. Find out more at http://www.davidmccunegallery.org or by calling 425-5379.

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