Rodin's sculpture

The Kiss leaving Cheltenham's art gallery

This is the extraordinary story of how Auguste Rodin's sculpture The Kiss, now in The Tate Modern, was for six years in the 1930s in Cheltenham's art gallery.

This most famous version of The Kiss was commissioned by E.P. Warren, a wealthy Bostonian who ran a major art collecting business in Lewes, East Sussex. The price was £1,000 and it arrived in Lewes in 1904.

In 1914 Warren offered to lend The Kiss to the town of Lewes for public display. Shortly after its installation, local puritans launched a campaign to have the statue draped and screened from public view - under the leadership, it is said, of a local spinster headmistress, Miss Fowler-Tutt. It was obviously felt to be inappropriate to have such an erotic statue in full view in a room where young soldiers were billeted. In 1917 the statue was returned to Lewes House, a Georgian house where Warren ran his business. The sculpture was consigned to the stable block.

In 1929, after Warren's death, The Kiss was put up for auction but failed to reach its reserve price. A few years later it was offered by the beneficiary of Warren's will, to any provincial gallery that would pay the costs of transport and insurance. The offer was taken up by Cheltenham in 1933, where it stayed for six years before being loaned to the Tate.

In 1952 the Tate Gallery staged a public appeal to buy The Kiss for the nation. Even then, the sculpture was considered somewhat risqué. Today, The Kiss is an iconic work of art, one of the most popular and most famous exhibits in the Tate Gallery.

The text on this page is adapted from a press release by Lianne Jarrett Associates for a millennium exhibition of The Kiss and other sculptures by Auguste Rodin in 1999 at Lewes, East Sussex.