@TuesdayPause | #GoDiscover post by Kristin.
Pause for a moment and ask yourself, “when did I last visit the Cleveland Museum of Art?” (You’re not from northeast Ohio? When did you last visit the art museum nearest you?)
If you have visited recently, I applaud you. For me…it had definitely been a while.
Why don’t we take advantage of the gems in our midst?
Is it time…(or a seeming lack of it)…routine…to-do lists…Netflix binges…lack of creativity…forgetfulness…too much effort…ruts?
CMA has more to offer than can be enjoyed in a single visit; a quick scan of its website makes that readily apparent. But that’s a good thing! Make it a point to visit yearly, or quarterly, or whenever a rotating exhibit or special event suits your fancy.
What immediately captured my interest when perusing CMA’s webpage was the museum’s special centennial tribute, Rodin—100 Years (exhibit dates: 9/1/2017–5/13/2018). So that was my first destination upon arriving, and my focus in this post.
CMA has joined with museums across the U.S. and Europe as a participating member of Rodin100—an international series of installations, travelling exhibits, and programs (#Rodin100)—to commemorate 100 years since the death of the famed French sculptor, Auguste Rodin (1840–1917). The museum has not only dedicated space to honor the master sculptor here in Cleveland, it has also shared some of its collection, containing over 40 works, with other museums to enable an even broader audience.
What is the most famous work on display at CMA’s #Rodin100 exhibition?
While the 100 Year celebration is a limited engagement (and I do recommend taking the time to go see it before it wraps up on May 13th), Rodin’s The Thinker has actually been on display at CMA for a century now—a fact that I did not know.
The monumental figure, forever stilled in deep contemplation, was installed on the steps of the south entrance of CMA shortly after it was acquired by the museum in 1917. I didn’t know this despite having visited the museum a number of times since moving to the area a decade ago—you see, I always enter from the north side of the building.
Is it possible that I’m the only resident of northeast Ohio that didn’t know this?
Boy, I hope not. Then, again…I hope so.
Despite my own personal embarrassment, I would be thrilled to learn that everyone who lives close by not only knows this cool Cleveland fact, but they have also taken the time to pause on the steps below to ponder the question, what is he thinking about?
Whether or not you were aware of the statue’s obscurely prominent presence at CMA, did you know the rest of the story that surrounds this well known bronze Penseur?
Did you know that The Thinker has been cast multiple times and in multiple sizes? In fact, CMA has three castings of the statue (72 inches, 27 inches, and 14 inches).
Did you know that Rodin’s most famous statue did not begin as the solo figure that we now recognize as The Thinker?
In the original masterwork, titled The Gates of Hell, Rodin (commissioned by the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris) set out to create a visual depiction of the characters in hell from Dante’s epic poem, The Divine Comedy (1321). The 27-inch figure we now recognize as The Thinker was actually fashioned to depict Dante himself, contemplating the hellish scene below; and this bronze element was called, at that time, The Poet. Over time, a number of the individual pieces from the complex Gates of Hell sculpture became well known of their own accord, but none so famously as The Poet/The Thinker.
Its popularity is demonstrated by its proliferation—globally, there are 25 casts of the 72-inch version (twelve on display in the United States / twelve in other countries throughout the world). Of those, only ten casts were completed during Rodin’s lifetime. The monumental (72 inch) bronze statue that graces the south entrance of CMA is not only one of those ten, but it is also one of the very last casts supervised by Rodin himself.
Clevelander Ralph T. King purchased it directly from Rodin in 1916, and then donated it to CMA early in 1917, the year of Rodin’s death and not long after the museum opened to the public on June 6, 1916. Thank you Mr. King.
The story of CMA’s The Thinker grew even more interesting on March 24, 1970, when it was attacked under the cover of darkness in what was considered an act of terrorism, “possibly in protest to the Vietnam War or the perceived elitism of the US government,” according to information from CMA’s website, Clevelandart.org.
Though no arrests were ever made, police suspected that the radical left political group, the Weather Underground, carried out the bombing. No one was hurt in the blast that sent The Thinker toppling to the ground, but the bronze base upon which he sat was obliterated and the pensive figure’s feet were literally blown off, leaving his bronze calves curled back above his ankles.
After lengthy discussion, it was decided that The Thinker should be hoisted back to his perch without restoration—his blasted legs forever a sad reminder of the impact of extremism.
So here’s the thing…
A week ago today, I knew none of this—and, perhaps, you didn’t either. Well…now we both know. The statue that is often imitated, even by our young kids, has been sitting on the south steps of the Cleveland Museum of Art since 1917, patiently waiting to share its story with us.
But here’s something else I learned during my visit—the pleasure of simply stepping out into the expansive atrium from the museum’s north entrance, or of sitting with a coffee and cookie amongst the Case Western University students that pop in to study or socialize. When you go (and I hope you do), be sure to leave yourself sufficient time to just sit, or casually stroll, and enjoy the ambiance of this setting.
So today I encourage you to take five minutes to consider CMA, or another place close to your home that you’ve always wanted to visit or that you’ve enjoyed in the past but haven’t been back since who knows when?
Why not pause…and #GoDiscover?
What to Know Before You Go
Location: 11150 East Blvd, Cleveland, Ohio (in University Circle)
Hours: Tue/Thu/Sat/Sun 10am–5pm | Wed/Fri 10am–9pm | closed Mon
Cost: General Admission is always free (fees apply for some special exhibits/events)
Parking: CMA lot (past north entrance on the left) | $10 ($6 for museum members)
- Bring quarters. Metered parking available on nearby side streets for 75 cents/hour (2-hour max). I spent 9 quarters ($2.25) and took one trip back out to my car to feed the meter. Worth it? You decide.
- Consider joining a docent-guided tour—offered every day at 1 pm. Topics vary.