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Auguste François René Rodin Edit Profile

artist , sculptor

François Auguste René Rodin was a French sculptor. Although Rodin is generally considered the progenitor of modern sculpture, he did not set out to rebel against the past. He was schooled traditionally, took a craftsman-like approach to his work, and desired academic recognition, although he was never accepted into Paris's foremost school of art.


Rodin was born on November 12, 1840 into a working-class family in Paris, the second child of Marie Cheffer and Jean-Baptiste Rodin, who was a police department clerk.


He studied drawing under Horace Lecoq de Boisbaudran and modeling under the sculptor Jean Baptiste Carpeaux at the School of Decorative Arts in Paris (1854 - 1857).

Rodin continued as a decorator by day and at night attended a class given by the animal sculptor Antoine Louis Barye. Simultaneously Rodin studied literature and history at the Colle‧ge de France. Rejected three times by the École des Beaux-Arts, he supported himself by doing decorative work for ornamentalists and set designers.


Also in 1864 he completed his Man with a Broken Nose, a bust of an old street porter, which the Salon rejected. That year he entered the studio of Carrier-Belleuse, a sculptor who worked in the light rococo mode of the previous century. Rodin remained with Carrier-Belleuse for six years and always spoke warmly of him. In 1870 he and his teacher went to Brussels, where they began the sculptural decoration of the Bourse. The next year they quarreled, and Carrier-Belleuse returned to Paris, while Rodin completed the work under A. J. van Rasbourg.

In 1875 Rodin went to Italy, where he was deeply inspired by the work of Donatello and of Michelangelo, whose sculpture he characterized as being marked by both "violence and constraint. "

Rodin originally entitled the piece the Vanquished, then called it the Age of Bronze.

Lacking not only moral and sentimental overtones but a head and arms as well, the Walking Man was an electrifying image of forceful motion.

Derived partially from some of Donatello's late works, it was based on numerous poses of the model in constant motion.

Rodin raised the very act of walking into a subject worthy of concentrated study. Rodin's interests continued to broaden.

The project, called the Gates of Hell after Dante's Inferno, occupied Rodin for the rest of his life, and particularly in the next decade, but it was never finished.

The Gates were cast in their incomplete state in the late 19206.

For Rodin, the study of the human figure in a variety of poses indicative of many emotional states was a lifelong preoccupation.

In the St. John the artist caught the prophet at the moment when he was moved deeply, gesturing automatically by the strength of the idea he was presenting.

The gestures of Rodin's figures seem motivated by inner emotional states.

In his bronze Crouching Woman (1880 - 1882) an almost incredibly contracted pose becomes something beyond a mere mannerism.

The pathos and horror of the subject accord with the romantic sentiments of the time.

One of the figures clutches his head, another exhorts his companion, an older man walks stoically ahead.

Each of the burghers is individualized, even while they all move ahead to a common purpose.

The group was finally installed in 1895.

From the late 18806 Rodin received many commissions from private individuals for portrait busts and from the state for monuments commemorating renowned people.

Most of the state commissions exist in the state of models, such as the monument to Victor Hugo (begun 1889), which was to have been placed in the Panthéon in Paris, and the monuments to James McNeill Whistler, Napoleon, and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes.

Among Rodin's portrait busts are those of George Bernard Shaw, Henri Rochefort, Georges Clémenceau, and Charles Baudelaire. In the Head of Baudelaire (1892), as in his other portraits, Rodin went beyond mere verisimilitude to catch the inner spirit.

Baudelaire's face looks ahead with rapt attention, and the eyes seem to be transfixed upon something invisible.

"In 1891 the Societé des Gens de Lettres commissioned Rodin to do a statue of Honoré de Balzac, a work that was subsequently rejected.

It was not until 1939 that this work was placed at the Raspail-Montparnasse intersection in Paris.

Here, too, Rodin went beyond the external appearance of the subject to catch the inner spirit.

As is seen in a bronze of 1897, Balzac, wrapped in his dressing gown, is in the throes of inspiration.

Details and articulations of the body are not indicated, all the better to call attention to the haughty yet grandiloquent pose of the inspired writer. Almost single-handedly Rodin inaugurated the modern spirit in sculpture by freeing it from its dependence upon direct representation and conceiving of sculptural masses as abstract volumes existing in space.

After 1900 he knew intimatelymany of the great men of his time, and his apprentices included Antoine Bourdelle and Charles Despiau.

In 1916 Rodin bequeathed his works to the state.

Gates of Hell and Related Compositions

The Gates of Hell was conceived in the tradition of the great portals of Western art, such as Lorenzo Ghiberti's Gates of Paradise in Florence.

Rodin was unable to plan the Gates as a total organized design, and they remained a loose federation of groups.

Yet certain of the isolated figures or groups of figures, when enlarged and executed separately, became some of Rodin's finest pieces: Three Shades (1880), Crouching Woman (1885), the Old Courtesan (1885), the Kiss (1886), and the Thinker (1888).

The Thinker on the upper lintel of the Gates regards the debauchery and despair in the sections below.

The Thinker was formally inspired by Michelangelo's terribilita', and the motif of the right elbow crossed over the left thigh derives from Michelangelo's Medici tombs.

In this piece Rodin conceived of man as beset by intellectual frustrations and incapable of acting: the figure is self-enclosed, completely introverted. The Three Shades on the top of the portal also derives from Michelangelo, especially from the figures of the Slaves, but instead of repeating the inner torment of Michelangelo's figures, they seem beset by languor and utter despair. The Kiss was derived from one of the pairs of intertwined lovers on the Gates.

The over-life-sized marble figures, sitting on a mass of roughhewn marble, seem to emerge out of the unfinished block in the manner of Michelangelo.

But the surfaces of the bodies of the lovers are soft and fluid and suggest the warmth of living flesh.

As seen in the Kiss, Rodin was capable of unabashed eroticism. The Old Courtesan, based on a study of an aged Italian woman, may have been inspired by a poem of François Villon.


  • During his lifetime, Rodin was compared to Michelangelo, and was widely recognized as the greatest artist of the era. In the three decades following his death, his popularity waned with changing aesthetic values.

    The French order Légion d'honneur made him a Commander, and he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Oxford.


  • Artists

    Donatello, Michelangelo


In 1864, Rodin began to live with a young seamstress named Rose Beuret, with whom he would stay – with ranging commitment – for the rest of his life. The couple had a son, Auguste-Eugène Beuret.

Jean-Baptiste Rodin

Police department clerk

Marie Cheffer

Rose Beuret


Maria Rodin

Auguste-Eugène Beuret