It was a Saturday afternoon in mid-June. A new class of graduates had just received their commencement address gaining degrees of higher education. Though this place is one of the most prestigious (and expensive!) universities in the United States, Stanford University offer something cultural yet complimentary to those visiting its campus grounds. This museum within the campus grounds at Stanford University exhibiting some of the best sculptures and works of art of renowned artists from around the world.
Auguste Rodin is probably the most famous French sculptor in the world especially during the turn of the 20th century. So famous that several of his bronze sculptures had been recast several times and purchased by art collectors with an insane amount of disposable income for their own personal pleasure, not to mention bragging rights. You can find these statues and studies practically in every museum in the world. One of these would be the Cantor Art Center at Stanford University. Two of Rodin’s most famous works – The Thinker and The Gates of Hell are found here. The Cantor Art Center (also known as the Leland Stanford Jr. Museum) also has a copy of Rodin’s most controversial sculpture The Kiss. Three large galleries at the museum had been dedicated to the works of Rodin exhibiting the studies he created for the Gates of Hell including a huge almost life-size recasting of The Thinker. They needed three galleries and a garden at the museum to display all these because they have a considerable amount of Rodin sculptures in their collection. The full size twin of some of these studies are found at the Rodin Sculpture Garden. At its centerpiece is the finished piece of The Gates of Hell, believed to be the largest sculpture Rodin ever created.
Rodin is not the only famous artist you’ll find at the Cantor Art Center. You will also find the works of other great artists such as Thomas Gainsborough, two works of Pablo Picasso, John Singer Sargent and Georgia O’Keefe.
The building of the museum is impressive. Two galleries on the lower floor is dedicated to the portraits and personal belongings of the founder of the university, Leland Stanford Sr. The inspiration to create the university and the museum came soon after the death of Stanford’s only child, Leland Stanford Jr at the tender age of 16. Leland Jr was a smart boy and an avid collector of various trinkets who once dreamed of one day building and opening his own museum housing his entire collection. But that was not to be. Leland Jr fell seriously ill while traveling through Europe and suddenly died of typhoid in Florence two weeks before his 16th birthday. His death mask is now displayed at this family’s gallery in the museum. Leland Jr is interred with his parents at a mausoleum at the Arizona Garden not far from the museum.
The best part of this museum is that it is open to the public free of charge. It is open from Wednesday to Monday (closed every Tuesday) even to those non-alumni like myself. There is a small café inside and books about the collections available for purchase at the reception desk.
The year Leland Jr died in 1884 his parents were in terrible grief. This year was their version of annus horribilis. Legend has it Leland Sr. was heard saying to his wife Jane, “the world’s children are our children.” A year later the university was established in their son’s memory.Google+