Unlikely as it seems, Auguste Rodin's super-famous white marble clinch, otherwise known as The Kiss, was once housed in the quiet country town of Lewes on the edge of the Sussex downs. It is probably one of the most famous sculptures in the country, yet its history was a rather sad one until John Rothenstein, the then director of the Tate Gallery, saved it for the nation in the early 1950s.
It first came to Lewes through the enthusiasms of a wealthy American named Ned Warren - a man with a highly developed taste for Greek antiquities and nice looking young men - who made Lewes House his home in the early 1900s. Warren commissioned his own version which was lent to the town hall at the outbreak of WWI. Local prudery prevailed and the rude bits were draped, and then, in 1917, the sculpture was returned to Lewes House where it remained in the stables until Warren's death in 1929. Put up for auction but failing to meet the reserve, The Kiss spent a few years in various public galleries until Rothenstein finally stepped in, and it found the permanent home that it deserves.
Thanks to the goodwill of the Tate, as well as the V&A and the Musee Rodin who have lent another dozen works on supporting themes, it has returned to Lewes for the summer as the centrepiece of a small, but nicely chosen exhibition that should shed a little new light on a work that we think we know so well.
'Rodin in Lewes', Town Hall, High St, Lewes, East Sussex (01273 484010) to 30 Oct
Richard InglebyReuse content