The greatest collection of perfect Rodins in the world.— Loïe Fuller
European Sculpture is one of the founding collections of the Legion of Honor. At the core is a series of masterworks by Auguste Rodin formed by Legion founder Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, the most famous of which, The Thinker, has become the emblem of the museum.
With works starting in the Middle Ages, the sculpture collection includes such highlights as della Robbia’s Virgin and Child with Putti from fifteenth-century Florence, Giambologna’s sculpture Astronomy, significant pieces by French sculptors Clodion, Houdon, and Maillol, and a lifelike Spanish polychrome figure of Saint Francis dating from around 1650. The Legion’s sculpture holdings include more than 90 Rodin sculptures made during the artist’s lifetime, including The Thinker, The Three Shades, The Age of Bronze, and studies for The Burghers of Calais, given by Mr. and Mrs. Spreckels. The central placement of these works in the introductory galleries of the museum foregrounds the Legion’s distinction as the home of one of the earliest and most important collections of Rodin sculptures in the United States.
Rodin at the Legion of Honor
The work of sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840–1917) lies at the heart of the Legion’s collection, which was assembled by the museum’s founder, Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, and her husband, Adolph B Spreckels. They gathered what American dancer Loïe Fuller called “the greatest collection of perfect Rodins in the world.” By the time of Mrs. Spreckels death in 1968, the collection included more than 90 sculptural works. The collection extends from the sculptor’s early struggle in the 1860s and 1870s, through years of adverse criticism, to his heyday in the early 20th century. Our holdings contain many of the finest pieces made during the artist’s lifetime, including The Age of Bronze and The Kiss. Pieces relating to Rodin’s most ambitious commissions, The Burghers of Calais and The Gates of Hell, are also in the collection, including his most famous sculpture, The Thinker — now an iconic emblem of the Legion. In addition to bronzes, we hold a wide spectrum of his marbles, plasters, models, fragments, and works on paper, making our collection one of the most comprehensive holdings of Rodin’s work in the United States.
Auguste Rodin, Reductions of the Burghers of Calais, 1886–1888, reduced 1886–1902, cast before 1929. Bronze. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Gift of Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, 1941.34