Located at 22nd Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway (four blocks east of the Philadelphia Museum of Art), the Rodin Museum is the legacy of one of Philadelphia's most prodigious and philanthropic collectors. Jules Mastbaum (1872-1926), owner of a chain of movie theaters, assembled his extraordinary holdings of sculpture and drawings by Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) in just four years (1923-1926). Mastbaum commissioned the gifted Beaux-Arts architects Paul Cret and Jacques Gréber to design a suitable building and garden for a site on the new Benjamin Franklin Parkway, but died before he could see the realization of his dream. The Rodin Museum opened its doors in 1929, and has been cared for and administered since 1939 by the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The Rodin Museum represents one of the most important collections of 19th-century sculpture anywhere in the world, as well as being one of the most distinguished museums devoted to the work of a single artist. Second in scope only to the holdings of the Museé Rodin in Paris, it consists of 127 bronzes, marbles and plasters representing every aspect of the artist's career and all his major projects. Treasures at Philadelphia's Rodin Museum include a cast of The Burghers of Calais (1884-95), as well as The Thinker (1902-04), which greets visitors outside the Museum's entrance on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The Gates of Hell (1880-1917), a monumental work that was cast in bronze for the first time at Mastbaum's request, guards the entrance to the Museum.
In March 1997, a one-month project to renovate and restore the Rodin Museum was completed, which included the creation of a new Visitor's Center and updated Museum Store. The beauty of Mastbaum's intention and the Cret-Gréber design are emphasized through careful treatment of all surfaces of the Museum, and further modernizations in keeping with the building's integrity are in the planning stages. Missy Maxwell, of Susan Maxman Architects, has overseen the recent renovation of the Rodin Museum as well as designing the installation of Rodin and Michelangelo: A Study in Artistic Inspiration and The Hands of Rodin: A Tribute to B. Gerald Cantor (at the Philadelphia Museum of Art from March 27 through June 22, 1997).