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Only Paris has more Rodin sculptures than Stanford; the university's garden displays 20.

Only Paris has more Rodin sculptures than Stanford

Larger-than-life bronze figures appear to walk, talk, weep, and recline atop concrete pedestals in a new 1-acre garden at Stanford University. The B. Gerald Cantor Sculpture Garden presents 20 of Auguste Rodin's sculptures in a formal outdoor setting similar to ones where these figures stood during the artist's lifetime.

Including some 130 pieces housed in Stanford's adjoining art museum, the university now has the world's second-largest collection of Rodin sculpture, and one of the largest outdoor displays of this artist's work. Only the Musee Rodin in Paris has a more extensive or distinguished assemblage of his public art.

The garden is open to the public, free, 24 hours daily. Drop by for a leisurely stroll before a football game, or visit when twilight enhances the play of highlights and shadows.

Rodin's work is best known for bridging the gap between traditional and modernist philosophies of public art. Before Rodin, public sculpture was intended to elevate, delight, and educate viewers. His notion was that public sculpture should express the artist's personal values and celebrate life as well as art.

Crowning the garden at the north end, the Gates of Hell is Rodin's greatest public work. The French government commissioned the piece in 1880 to front a proposed museum of decorative arts (never built). Although completed in plaster by 1900, the portal was never cast in bronze before Rodin's death in 1917. It has since been cast five times; the fifth casting stands in the Stanford garden, flanked by Adam and Eve, as the sculptor intended.

Four individual burghers from the Monument to the Burghers of Calais have stood in and near the Stanford quad (1/4 mile south of the sculpture garden) for two years; a fifth is in the garden. Rodin created the monument to honor those 14th-century heroes of Calais who offered to be executed by the English king in exchange for ending their city's long siege. Rodin portrayed them saying their farewells and preparing for death.

Other pieces currently on display portray such cultural giants as painters Claude Lorrain and Bastien Lepage, monuments rarely seen outside France. Nearby, the Spirit of Eternal Repose is mounted on a 10-foot column, as Rodin intended.

The garden is connected by a new entrance to the B. Gerald Cantor Sculpture Gallery in the museum of art. Docents lead free tours of the garden and gallery at 2 P.M. Wednesdays and Saturdays. The gallery, a two-story rotunda, is open (free) from 10 to 5 Tuesdays through Fridays, 1 to 5 weekends. Brochures explaining bronze casting and Rodin's sculpting methods are also available inside the rotunda (10 cents).

From U.S. Highway 101, turn west at the University Avenue exit and continue through downtown Palo Alto to the campus (University becomes Palm Drive). At Museum Way, turn right. The garden is on the museum's south side.

Photo: Despairing burgher, one of six created in 1884 for French city of Calais, elicits campus visitor's close inspection

Photo: Writhing figures on Rodin's Gates of Hell, completed in 1900, reflect artist's own view of hell. The 21-foot-tall masterpiece crowns Stanford's new Rodin sculpture garden (left)

Photo: Sandstone arches frame bearded burgher of Calais in History Corner of outer quad
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Publication:Sunset
Date:Oct 1, 1986
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