January 27, 2004, AP Worldstream, "Traveling exhibit takes one man's love to the people," by Kurt Kelly, Associated Press Writer,
Dateline: TULSA, Oklahoma
It was a most unfashionable love affair---the up-and-coming Wall Street broker falling for the works of a French sculptor who had long been out of vogue.
But from B. Gerald Cantor's first sight of "The Hand of God" in 1945, Auguste Rodin gripped him. What Cantor called his "magnificent obsession" grew big enough to share.
Now, Tulsa's Philbrook Museum of Art is one of the last stops scheduled in a decade-long tour of Rodin works from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation.
The Cantors started the foundation in 1978 to share what they had built into the world's largest private Rodin collection. Two traveling exhibitions have appeared in more than 150 locations worldwide, often those farthest from mainstream museum cities.
"Bernie Cantor said, 'I can't take it ... to the grave with me, so I really want people to see it,'" said Judith Sobol, the foundation's executive director.
For curator James Peck, it is a thrill to bring Rodin icons such as "The Thinker" and "The Kiss" to audiences who know them but may never have seen them up close.
With more than 60 bronzes on display, the exhibition reveals an artist who struggled with rejection long after foundries were turning out hundreds of copies of his works to meet market demand.
Rodin was inspired by Michelangelo and yet his works were radical for their time.
The handyman next door served as the model for "Mask of a Man With a Broken Nose," Rodin's version of John the Baptist appears nude and emaciated, some of the martyrs in "The Burghers of Calais" seem to have second thoughts.
It would have been more accepted in the late 1800s to put one martyr stoically atop a pedestal instead of grouped together grappling with the burden of their sacrifice, Peck said.
Rodin liked to break the body apart, too, revealing torsos that look plucked from a Greek ruin or arthritic hands drawn back like cobras about to strike. In "The Cathedral," two hands gracefully intertwine to form an arch.
"He saw great expressiveness in hands," Peck said. "The hand has always been the conduit, especially for sculptors."
Skilled craftsmen took the works Rodin created in clay and replicated them in plaster, stone and ultimately metal. Most of the bronzes in the show were cast after Rodin's death in 1917 but under an agreement the sculptor had made with the French government before he died, Peck said.
Many of the works in the exhibit were cast in the latter half of the last century.
When Cantor was building his Rodin collection in the 1950s and 1960s, he was blissfully unaware that the sculptor had fallen out of style, he said.
The Cantors collected about 750 large and small-scale sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs and memorabilia. More than 450 works have been distributed to museums, including Philbrook which has four Rodin works in its permanent collection.
The exhibit "A Magnificent Obsession, Sculpture From the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation" opened Sunday and appears in Tulsa through March 28. It will travel to Buffalo and Utica, New York, and then on to Canada through 2005.
"Then we may give it a rest," Sobol said.
The pieces need to be examined for possible conservation work, and the foundation's board is rethinking shipment abroad in light of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, she said.
The foundation's second, smaller traveling Rodin exhibition is booked through 2007, she said.
Cantor, the founder of the international securities firm Cantor Fitzgerald, died in 1996. The bond trading firm lost two-thirds of its workers in the attacks on the World Trade Center.
KELLY KURT, Associated Press Writer. "Traveling exhibit takes one man's love to the people." AP Worldstream. 2004. HighBeam Research. (October 3, 2010). http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P1-89874803.html