The private secretary of Auguste Rodin | Rainer Maria Rilke, 1902


In the summer of 1902, Rainer Maria Rilke left his wife, Clara, and daughter, Ruth, and went to Paris, where he worked for a time as the private secretary of Auguste Rodin.

On August 1, he wrote to Rodin: 
Your art is such … that it knows how to give bread and gold to painters, to poets, to sculptors: to all artists who go their way of suffering, desiring nothing but that ray of eternity which is the supreme goal of the creative life.”


On September 2, 1902, the day after first making Rodin's acquaintance, Rilke wrote to his wife Clara describing the meeting:


"Yesterday, Monday afternoon at three o'clock, I was at Rodin's for the first time. Atelier 182 rue de l'Universite. I went down the Seine. He had a model, a girl. Had a little laster plaster object in his hand on which he was scraping about. He simply quit work, offered me a chair, and we talked. He was kind and gentle. And it seemed to me that I had always known him. That I was only seeing him again; I found him smaller, and yet more powerful, more kindly, and more noble. That forehead, the relationship it bears to his nose which rides out of it like a ship out of harbor...that is very remarkable. Character of stone is in that forehead and that nose. And his mouth has a speech whose ring is good, intimate, and full of youth. So also is his laugh, that embarrassed and at the same time joyful laugh of a child that has been given lovely presents. He is very dear to me. That I knew at once."


  Rilke, Rose Beuret, Auguste Rodin >




This fine letter from one of the greatest German poets was the starting point of Rodin’s relationship with the Hôtel Biron, which would lead to the founding of the museum, in 1916. Rainer Maria Rilke was not yet 30 when he met Rodin in 1902. From the outset, he devoted himself to the man who had just been proclaimed the latest master sculptor. Rodin’s genius, combined with his rare capacity for work and instinctive originality, so fascinated Rilke that he made him his mentor. He constantly sought to translate Rodin’s poetic creations into words.


In 1905, so as to help the writer financially, Rodin invited him to stay at Meudon in exchange for some secretarial work, before abruptly dismissing him eight months later. Deeply hurt by Rodin’s overly cantankerous attitude towards him, Rilke nevertheless remained attached to the sculptor’s oeuvre, while his “intellectual admiration” fortunately prompted him to forget this misunderstanding.

Rainer Maria Rilke, Letter to Rodin, 31 Aug. 1908

It was Rilke who happened to find the Hôtel Biron, then divided into rented apartments, in 1908. He moved in and immediately told Rodin how charming it was. A few weeks later, Rodin installed his studio there for the rest of his life. ( Musée Rodin)


My dear friend, you should see the beautiful building and the room I live in since this morning. The three windows open to an abandoned garden where, from time to time, you can see innocent rabbits jumping through the trellises like in an old painting.


Rilke in his workroom at Hôtel Biron, 
Paris, during the time he was writing 
The Notebooks of Malte Laurid Brigge. >


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