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The Cantor Contribution to Rodin Scholarship

During the last half-century, Iris and B. Gerald Cantor and the Cantor Foundation’s commitment to the art of Auguste Rodin has played a major role in fostering continuing research on the artist’s career and his art.

The most enduring contribution to Rodin studies began in 1969 with Mr. Cantor’s support for Rodin studies at Stanford University.   Under the direction of America’s foremost Rodin scholar, Professor Albert Elsen, the Cantor-supported Rodin Research Fund enabled Ph.D. candidates specializing in the artist and early modern sculpture to pursue research in the United States and abroad.  The Fund provided scholarships, research grants, and travel fellowships.  Recipients of these funds were dubbed “Cantor Fellows.”

These Cantor Fellows now occupy curatorial and professorial positions at major museums and universities, many continuing their Rodin-related research, teaching, and publishing.  The first Cantor Fellow, Kirk Varnedoe (now deceased), was a MacArthur Fellow and Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.  Among the other Fellows are Daniel Rosenfeld, formerly Director of the Colby College Museum of Art; Stephen C. McGough, former Director of the Crocker Art Museum; Joanne Paradise, Senior Collection Curator at the Getty Research Institute; Neal Benezra, Director of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Rosalyn Jamison, editor of Professor Elsen’s extensive  catalog of the Cantor’s Rodin gifts to Stanford;  Joanne Ortel, Professor of Art History at Beloit College; Bette Talvaccia, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Art History at the University of Connecticut, Storrs; and Kenneth Wayne, independent scholar and curator.

“I cannot imagine how I could have done my dissertation without your assistance. Being a … Cantor Foundation Dissertation Fellow was unquestionably an asset to me in gaining access to resources here in France. I was proud to say I had a grant from your foundation…. It would not be an overstatement to say that you are fully responsible for launching my career.”

-Kenneth Wayne, writing as a doctoral student in 1993.

Research by these Cantor Fellows has appeared in numerous publications and has influenced major exhibitions planned and implemented with Cantor support.  One of the most important of these was the 1981 Rodin retrospective, Rodin Rediscovered, curated by Albert Elsen and the National Gallery of Art.

Other Rodin publications and exhibitions to which Cantor funding was important include Rodin: The Shape of Genius, Ruth Butler’s much-lauded authoritative biography of the sculptor; Rodin and Balzac, a publication and touring exhibition (Stanford University); Rodin’s Burghers of Calais, a publication and exhibition (Stanford University); Rodin: The B. Gerald Cantor Collection, a publication and exhibition (The Metropolitan Museum of Art); Rodin: The Cantor Gift to The Brooklyn Museum, a publication and exhibition (Brooklyn Museum of Art); Rodin and Balzac: The Story of a Sculpture, an exhibition (Centro Cultural Consolidado in Caracas, Venezuela); Rodin: The Cantor Foundation, Gift to the North Carolina Museum of Art; and Rodin and America (Stanford University).  Antoinette Romain’s major opus, The Bronzes of Rodin also was published with a grant from the Cantor Foundation.

The Cantors and the Foundation have furthered an appreciation for Rodin’s work by also commissioning large-scale authorized posthumous bronzes using the lost-wax process – the one he preferred – so people could see the sculptor’s work as he intended it to be. For the 1986 exhibition Rodin: Sculpture from the B. Gerald Cantor Collections at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Mr. and Mrs. Cantor commissioned a cast of the Monument to the Burghers of Calais, and for the 1981 exhibition at the National Gallery, Mr. and Mrs. Cantor commissioned a cast of The Gates of Hell. These works had not been cast during Rodin’s lifetime using this preferred method.