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Artists Francois-Auguste-René Rodin

Francois-Auguste-René Rodin

French Sculptor

Movement: Symbolism

Born: November 12, 1840 - Paris, France

Died: November 10, 1917 - Meudon, France

Quotes

"To any artist, worthy of the name, all in nature is beautiful, because his eyes, fearlessly accepting all exterior truth, read there, as in an open book, all the inner truth."
Francois-Auguste-René Rodin
"It is the artist who is truthful and it is photography which lies, for in reality time does not stop, and if the artist succeeds in producing the impression of a movement which takes several moments for accomplishment, his work is certainly much less conventional than the scientific image, where time is abruptly suspended."
Francois-Auguste-René Rodin
"Every part of the human figure is expressive. And is not an artist always isolating, since in Nature nothing is isolated."
Francois-Auguste-René Rodin
"In front of the model, I work with the same desire to copy the truth as if I were making a portrait; I do not correct nature, I incorporate myself into her; she leads me. I can work only from a model. The sight of the human form fortifies and nourishes me."
Francois-Auguste-René Rodin

"To any artist, worthy of the name, all in nature is beautiful, because his eyes, fearlessly accepting all exterior truth, read there, as in an open book, all the inner truth."

Synopsis

Auguste Rodin's story recalls the archetypal struggle of the modern artist. He was born in obscurity and, despite showing early promise, rejected by the official academies. He spent years laboring as an ornamental sculptor before success and scandal set him on the road to international fame. By the time of his death, he was likened to Michelangelo. His reputation as the father of modern sculpture remains unchanged, and in recent years the wider exhibition of his many drawings has also elevated his reputation as a draughtsman. However, his many intimate - some have suggested exploitative - drawings of his models have altered the nature of the traditional respect paid to this eminent artist.

Key Ideas

Rodin stripped away many of the narative references to classical myth that were still attached to academic sculpture in the late nineteenth century and placed a new stress on the dignity of simple human moments. The fame of works such as The Kiss (1884), The Thinker (1880), and The Age of Bronze (1876) has transformed such depictions into paragons of high art, yet until Rodin's age, such sculpture's importance and novelty was not appreciated. Instead of representing gods or muses, he sculpted lifelike figures in distinctly modern attitudes of love, thought, and proud physicality.
Rodin's achievement as a sculptor was to find a way to make the brute materiality of sculpture express the fleeting mobility of the modern individual. To achieve this, he abandoned the polished and idealized figures of academic sculpture and produced rougher, more unfinished surfaces, which better expressed restlessness, corporeality, and movement. While this often suggests psychological agitation, it also evokes the constant motion characteristic of life in modern times.
Rodin's work process often encouraged him to reuse compositions in different ways. Most famously, figures that appear in his The Gates of Hell were often rendered at later dates, created separately and at different scales. But Rodin would also represent the same figure multiple times in the same sculpture or fragment figures into individual body parts like hands or arms. All of these processes were encouraged by his very unclassical approach to composition, and they produced strange and jarring effects.

Most Important Art

The Thinker (1880 (bronze cast in 1902))
Although The Gates of Hell was never completed to Rodin's satisfaction in his own lifetime, his work on the project did inspire many other finished works, and The Thinker is the most famous example. Deriving from a figure at the top of the sculpture who gazes with melancholy over the hellish scenes below him, he represents Dante, the author of the Divine Comedy that inspired The Gates of Hell (1899). Highly influenced by Michelangelo, the figure also represents modern, secular man - strong in mind and body, but lonely and doubtful in the position he has created for himself as master of his own universe. Although the seated figure is deeply lost in thought, the dynamic pose gives him a sense of movement. At first glance, the pose appears natural, but in fact the man's right arm on his left knee is twisted in an exaggerated fashion. Over fifty casts were made of this sculpture, which are today scattered throughout the world, making it one of Rodin's most famous works. Rodin also chose The Thinker as his tombstone.
Bronze - Musée Rodin, Paris
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Biography

Childhood

Rodin was born in a poor area of Paris's fifth arrondissement to Jean-Baptiste Rodin, an office clerk in the local police station, and Marie Cheffer, his second wife. Despite Jean-Baptiste's modest earnings, he and Marie attempted to provide a bourgeois upbringing by sending Rodin to a boarding school in Beauvais. He was not a successful student, perhaps in part because of his shortsightedness. In 1854, aged 13, he decided to pursue a career in the arts, attending the École Spéciale de Dessin et de Mathematiques (or "Petite École," to distinguish it from the Grande École des Beaux-Arts), which trained boys in the decorative arts.

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Early Training

Auguste Rodin Biography

After three years of studying drawing and sculpture, Rodin applied to the Grand École. While he passed the drawing competition, he failed three times in the sculpture competition. Most likely, his pursuit of naturalism did not suit the school's academic style. After the third rejection, Rodin resigned himself, at the age of 19, to taking jobs in plaster workshops to create architectural ornaments. Although he disliked working for others, these workshops provided him with a meager living for the next 20 years. In his own time, he continued to make sculptures, including a portrait bust called The Man with the Broken Nose (1863-64). He considered this the best of his work and submitted it to the Paris Salon in 1864, but it was rejected.

In 1866, Rodin met Rose Beuret, who remained his lifetime companion despite his numerous affairs. The same year, they had a son, Auguste-Eugene Beuret, whom Rodin never recognized legally. Professionally, around this time, Rodin found better fortune-filling commissions in the workshop of Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse, a successful commercial sculptor, but the steady work and increased income was disrupted by the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. Rodin served as an officer until the French surrendered in 1871, and then followed Carrier-Belleuse to Brussels.

Mature Period

In 1875, Rodin returned to Brussels after a trip to Florence to see the work of Michelangelo. He created a life-size sculpture of a young officer, which he called The Age of Bronze (1876), and this proved to be the turning point in his career. The Salon accepted the work in 1877, but doubts were raised about its authenticity, and many accused him of casting directly from the model's body. Though Rodin's protests were not acknowledged by most critics, the work was validated when it was purchased by Edmond Turquet, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Fine Arts. Turquet would then commission Rodin to create a monumental bronze doorway for a planned museum of the decorative arts. This project went on to be perhaps Rodin's greatest work, though the planned museum was cancelled, and The Gates of Hell, as the doors came to be titled, were not even cast until after the artist's death.

Auguste Rodin Photo

The years during which Rodin worked on The Gates of Hell coincided with his relationship with Camille Claudel. A young sculptor who joined his studio as an assistant in 1884, Claudel had a tumultuous affair with Rodin that lasted until 1892, though they continued to see each other until 1898. During their time together, Rodin made several erotic sculptures of loving couples. Claudel separated from Rodin when it became clear that he would not leave Rose to marry her.

Paris held a centennial celebration of the French Revolution in 1889, called the Exposition Universelle. For the occasion, Rodin showed 36 works together with Claude Monet at the Gallery of Georges Petit. Almost all of these were figures from, or influenced by, The Gates of Hell. Rodin's style changed after this major exhibit, becoming more spontaneous and loose. His drawings of the female form were simplified and abstracted, while sculptures were often left "unfinished," a smooth face or figure emerging from rough stone.

Late Years and Death

By 1899, Rodin had a large studio with several assistants. His work, however, continued to elicit trouble and scandal. The Burghers of Calais (1889) was nearly refused for its depiction of the city's heroes as dejected victims. Similarly, in 1891, Rodin was commissioned by the Society of Men of Letters to create a memorial for the poet Honore Balzac. Instead of taking 18 month to complete the work, Rodin became infatuated with the topic, and completed the commision in 7 years. The commision was ultimately rejected, and after much controversy, Rodin decided to keep the sculpture for himself.

Rodin's pace slowed down after the sculpture of Balzac, but he had achieved financial success. Several exhibitions around the turn of the century brought him worldwide renown. He exhibited in Belgium and Holland in 1899, and was given his first retrospective in Paris in 1900. Subsequent shows took place in Prague, New York, and Germany. In 1908, Rodin moved to the now-famous Hotel Biron, where he rented rooms alongside other famous tenants such as Isadora Duncan, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Henri Matisse. The Hotel became his new studio and the home of his affair with the Marquise (and later, Duchess) Claire de Choiseul. She exercised great control over his life and the sale of his work for seven years, until she was accused of stealing a box of drawings. Because of her scheming and that of other women around Rodin, friends encouraged him to marry Rose Beuret in January 1917. Rose died two weeks after the wedding, and Rodin passed away in November of that same year.

Legacy

Before Rodin's death, he bequeathed all of his drawings, sculptures, and archives to the state of France to create a museum in the Hotel Biron at Meudon. Yet even without a national museum, his sculptures and drawings would still have had a huge impact on younger artists. Henri Matisse was influenced by the spontaneity of his drawings, while Cubists and Futurists were fascinated by his sense of motion and the fragmentation of his human forms. While Rodin's reputation declined in the decades immediately following his death, his rebellion against academic standards and his vivid expression of the human form planted the seed for a new French sculpture. Today, nearly every large encyclopedic museum owns a casting of one of his sculptures, and exhibitions of his work are held regularly, making Rodin one of the few artists recognizable to the general public.

Influences and Connections

Influences on artist

Artists, Friends, Movements

Influenced by artist

Artists, Friends, Movements

Francois-Auguste-René Rodin
Interactive chart with Francois-Auguste-René Rodin's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
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Artists

Michelangelo
Donatello
Antoine-Louis Barye

Friends

Emile Zola
Octave Mirbeau

Movements

Greek sculpture
Renaissance
Impressionism
Francois-Auguste-René Rodin
Francois-Auguste-René Rodin
Years Worked: 1854 - 1917

Artists

Michelangelo Antonioni
Umberto Boccioni
Raymond Duchamp-Villon
Henri Matisse

Friends

Camille Claudel
Rainer Maria Rilke
Loie Fuller
Judith Cladel

Movements

Post-Impressionism
Expressionism
Cubism
Futurism

Original content written by Julia Brucker

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

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Useful Resources on Francois-Auguste-René Rodin

Books
Websites
Articles
Audio
Videos
The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.
biography
Rodin: The Shape of Genius

By Ruth Butler

Rodin

By Bernard Champigneulle

Rodin: A Biography

By Frederic V. Grunfeld

Rodin: The Zola of Sculpture

By Claudine Mitchell

Rodin at Victoria and Albert Museum

Useful information including timeline of artist's life and his workng methods

Rodin-Web.org

Large website on Rodin

ZoomArt: Rodin

View close-up Rodin works online

Leaving Rodin Behind? Sculpture in Paris, 1905-1914

Musee d'Orsay
March 10, 2009

Being and Becoming: Compact, Heady Show Tries to Suggest How a Sculptor Became a Master

By Deborah McLeod
Baltimore City Paper
August 22, 2007

Born of Hell, Lost after Inferno: Rodin Work from Trade Center Survived, and Vanished

By Dan Barry and William K. Rashbaum
The New York Times
May 20, 2002

Rodin and Michelangelo, Together at Last

By Grace Glueck
The New York Times
April 18, 1997

The French Salon
The French Salon
The French Salon
The Salon was a biannual Paris exhibition that, in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, became the most important regular exhibition in Europe. Initially restricted to members of the French Academy, it was later opened up; however, it remained strongly associated with the Academy's conservatism, and this eventually encouraged artists to exhibit outside of its confines.
ArtStory: The French Salon
Claude Monet
Claude Monet
Claude Monet
Claude Monet was a French artist who helped pioneer the painterly effects and emphasis on light, atmosphere, and plein air technique that became hallmarks of Impressionism. He is especially known for his series of haystacks and cathedrals at different times of day, and for his late Waterlilies.
ArtStory: Claude Monet
Honore de Balzac
Honore de Balzac
Honore de Balzac
Honore de Balzac was a nineteenth-century French novelist and playwright, and is considered among the founders of European literary realism. One of the most prolific writers in history, Balzac carefully documented city life in Paris and the French people (in fictional form) following the end of Napoleon Bonaporte's reign in 1815. Balzac is still considered among the most influential literary figures in modern history.
Honore de Balzac
Henri Matisse
Henri Matisse
Henri Matisse
Henri Matisse was a French painter and sculptor who helped forge modern art. From his early Fauvist works to his late cutouts, he emphasized expansive fields of color, the expressive potential of gesture, and the sensuality inherent in art-making.
ArtStory: Henri Matisse
Cubism
Cubism
Cubism
Cubism was developed by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque between 1907-1911, and it continued to be highly influential long after its decline. This classic phase has two stages: 'Analytic', in which forms seem to be 'analyzed' and fragmented; and 'Synthetic', in which pre-existing materials such as newspaper and wood veneer are collaged to the surface of the canvas.
ArtStory: Cubism
Futurism
Futurism
Futurism
Futurism was the most influential Italian avant-garde movement of the twentieth century. Dedicated to the modern age, it celebrated speed, movement, machinery and violence. At first influenced by Neo-Impressionism, and later by Cubism, some of its members were also drawn to mass culture and nontraditional forms of art.
ArtStory: Futurism
Symbolism
Symbolism
Symbolism
Symbolism is an artistic and literary movement that first emerged in France in the 1880s. In the visual arts it is often considered part of Post-Impressionism. It is characterized by an emphasis on the mystical, romantic and expressive, and often by the use of symbolic figures.
ArtStory: Symbolism
Michelangelo
Michelangelo
Michelangelo
Michelangelo was a Renaissance artist working in Italy in the sixteenth century. Although first a sculptor, he is perhaps best known for his large-scale painted frescos in the Sistine Chapel in Rome.
Michelangelo
Donatello
Donatello
Donatello
Famed Renaissance sculptor Donatello was known particularly for his bas-relief sculptures, which he created primarily in Florence, Italy. His bronze David, commissioned for Palazzo Medici, is one of his most famous works.
Donatello
Antoine-Louis Barye
Antoine-Louis Barye
Antoine-Louis Barye
Paris-born sculptor Antoine-Louis Barye worked in the nineteenth century Romantic period, producing numerous sculptural studies of animals such as "Tiger Devouring a Crocodile" and "Lion of the Column of July."
Antoine-Louis Barye
Emile Zola
Emile Zola
Emile Zola
Emile Zola was a nineteenth-century French novelist, playwright, essayist and political activist. He was also the self-proclaimed leader of literary French Naturalism. As one of the leading cultural figures in France, Zola was close with the likes of Manet and Cézanne, and was the favorite writer of Vincent van Gogh.
Emile Zola
Octave Mirbeau
Octave Mirbeau
Octave Mirbeau
Mirbeau was a French journalist, art critic and novelist. Known for his anarchist views and existential novels, he also supported artists such as Auguste Rodin, Claude Monet, and other Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists.
Octave Mirbeau
Greek sculpture
Greek sculpture
Greek sculpture
Classical sculpture was marked by a focus on the human form. For the first time in human history, Greek art showed the human form nude, poses frozen in action. The surviving sculptures have influenced artists past and present.
Greek sculpture
Renaissance
Renaissance
Renaissance
In the Renaissance, artists rediscovered techniques like rational space, three-point perspective, and plastic forms. Paintings frequently emphasized the human figure, allegory, classical mythology, and Christian themes.
Renaissance
Impressionism
Impressionism
Impressionism
A movement in painting that first surfaced in France in the 1860s, it sought new ways to describe effects of light and movement, often using rich colors. The Impressionists were drawn to modern life and often painted the city, but they also captured landscapes and scenes of middle-class leisure-taking in the suburbs.
ArtStory: Impressionism
Michelangelo Antonioni
Michelangelo Antonioni
Michelangelo Antonioni
Michelangelo Antonioni was an Italian avant-garde filmmaker. He favored themes that focused on the alienation of man in the modern world, and used long, unedited takes in many of his films. His best known work is the 1966 film Blowup, starring David Hemmings and Vanessa Redgrave.
Michelangelo Antonioni
Umberto Boccioni
Umberto Boccioni
Umberto Boccioni
Umberto Boccioni was an Italian painter and sculptor. Like the other Futurists, his work centered on the portrayal of movement (dynamism), speed, and technology. After moving to Milan in 1907, he became acquainted with the Futurists, including the famous poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, and became one of the movement's main theorists.
ArtStory: Umberto Boccioni
Raymond Duchamp-Villon
Raymond Duchamp-Villon
Raymond Duchamp-Villon
Duchamp-Villon and three of the other five Duchamp children, including Marcel Duchamp, became famous artists. Duchamp-Villon was a self-taught French sculptor. He served as a juror in the Salon d'Automne in 1907 and helped promote the Cubist movement. He died in 1916 of typhoid fever.
Raymond Duchamp-Villon
Camille Claudel
Camille Claudel
Camille Claudel
Claudel was a French sculptor who studied at the Academie Colarossi and became Auguste Rodin's studio assistant, muse, model, and lover. She is known for her expressive sculpture, more classical in style than Rodin. Some of her sculptures, including The Mature Age, are autobiographical.
Camille Claudel
Rainer Maria Rilke
Rainer Maria Rilke
Rainer Maria Rilke
Rilke was an Austrian poet and art critic. Inspired by Greek mythology, but also focusing on the human characteristics of the divine, he is considered a transitional figure from traditional to modern poetry. He was friends, and for a time, secretary to Auguste Rodin in Paris.
Rainer Maria Rilke
Loie Fuller
Loie Fuller
Loie Fuller
Fuller was born near Chicago, Illinois, and quickly began a career in the performance arts as a child actress and burlesque dancer. By 1892 she had moved to Paris, where she became known as a pioneer of modern dance and theatrical lighting. Her trademark was the use of undulating fabrics and inventive stage lighting to create a sense of swirling light.
Loie Fuller
Judith Cladel
Judith Cladel
Judith Cladel
Cladel was a French writer, best known as Auguste Rodin's biographer and friend. She promoted his work and exhibitions, and petitioned for the creation of a Musée Rodin.
Judith Cladel
Post-Impressionism
Post-Impressionism
Post-Impressionism
Post-Impressionism refers to a number of styles that emerged in reaction to Impressionism in the 1880s. The movement encompassed Symbolism and Neo-Impressionism before ceding to Fauvism around 1905. Its artists turned away from effects of light and atmosphere to explore new avenues such as color theory and personal feeling, often using colors and forms in intense and expressive ways.
ArtStory: Post-Impressionism
Expressionism
Expressionism
Expressionism
Expressionism is a broad term for a host of movements in early twentieth-century Germany and beyond, from Die Brücke (1905) and Der Blaue Reiter (1911) to the early Neue Sachlichkeit painters in the 1920s and '30s. Many Expressionists used vivid colors and abstracted forms to create spiritually or psychologically intense works, while others focused on depictions of war, alienation, and the modern city.
ArtStory: Expressionism