Skip to main content
Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

This program is sold out.
Email to get on the Wait List.

Don’t miss out on future programs like this.
As a Smithsonian Associates member, you will receive ticket-buying priority.

Rilke and Rodin: A Friendship and a Clash of Egos

Evening Program with Book Signing

Thursday, January 11, 2018 - 6:45 p.m.
Code: 1H0306
Auguste Rodin (left) and Rainer Maria Rilke (right)

When Rainer Maria Rilke accepted a commission early in his career to write a brief biography of Auguste Rodin, he had no idea the extent to which it would alter the course of both his life and his art. Author Rachel Corbett examines the vibrant creative world of Paris at the turn of the 20th century as she discusses the connection between the genesis of Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet and his largely forgotten friendship with the sculptor.

The two were almost polar opposites: Rodin in his sixties, notoriously carnal, revered; Rilke in his twenties, delicate, unknown. Nonetheless, they fell into an instantaneous friendship and worked closely together as master and disciple for the next few years, as Rodin showed Rilke how to become the writer he wished to be.

Their relationship was one of deep affection, as well as that of outsize egos pushing the boundaries of their bond—which led to their estrangement and an eventual reconciliation. Corbett places Rilke and Rodin in the context of the ideas and artistic movements that marked the birth of modernism and explores how their unlikely friendship influenced and defined their individual approaches to leading an artist’s life.

Corbett is the author of You Must Change Your Life: The Story of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin. Her writing has appeared in the New Yorker, New York Times, Art Newspaper, New York magazine, among other publications.

Her book, You Must Change Your Life: The Story of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin (W.W. Norton & Company) is available for sale and signing.

World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1/2 credit


S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)