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November 12, 2019 4 min read

Auguste Rodin

Born in a working class family on 12th November 1840, François Auguste RenéRodin was a French sculptor. Although his training was traditional, he is considered as Father of Modern sculpture even equated to Michelangelo. His desire for academic recognition, eye for anatomical structures and his genius made him world famous, inspiring sculptors and artists even today. He shifted the focus from mythology and allegory to realism. Individual character, their physicality and expression were the central themes of most of his work. He was criticised during his time for his work and even had to deal with poverty till late1870s, but his dedication helped him win the prestigious Légion d'Honneur.

Personal life:

Rodin was second child of his parents. As a near sighted child, he faced great difficulty in studies and took to drawing as an escape. At the 14 he enrolled in Petite École, a school specialising in art and mathematics. There stress was given on development of personality and drawing from recollections.

He was thrice rejected from the École des Beaux-Arts, which might be due to the prevalent neoclassical taste of the judges. This disheartened Rodin but it is also considered as an escape from the clutches of the Neo classical arts.

Rodin started to earn his living by working as a craftsman. He produced ornaments and decorative objects during this time. He joined catholic order after death of his elder sister in 1862. Head of congregation Peter Julian Eymard recognised his talent and encouraged him to continue with sculpture.

In 1866, Rodin had a child with Rose Beuret, his life long companion whom he married in last years of both of their lives after 53 years of relationship. He had several mistresses during his lifetime.

Working as an assistant of Albert Ernest Carrier Belleuse gave him an opportunity to work on ornamentation of Brussels Stock Exchange. This association ended with them having strained relations.

During his stay in Brussels, he acquired new skills and experience, but due to lack of funds, most of his work was left unseen at that time. In 1875, after getting some money from salons, he, along with Rose, travelled to Italy. The works of Donatello and Michelangelo gave him a new direction. The effect was visible on his later works. Rodin himself claimed thatMichelangelo has freed him from academic sculpture.

He faced criticism for his sculpture ‘The Age of Bronze’, with allegations of sculptural cheating. The effect of this was seen on his later works as they were rarely the size of real life after that.

In 1877, he returned to Paris to his son after six years. Personal hardships still accompanied him.

Death of his mother, his senile and blind father, health issues with his son and no luck with commissions, although his work was artistically acclaimed. In 1880, he joined porcelain factory as designer, a job offered to him byAlbert Ernest Carrier Belleuse.

During this period his artistic influence grew and he was frequently invited to Paris salons. There his work was recognised by various Government Ministers. The meeting with the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Fine Arts gave him the artistic independence he long sought.

He got an opportunity to create a portal for the Museum of Decorative Arts. Although the museum was never build, the advance payment for this project took care of the fiscal constraints he has faced till then. Some of his great works like The Gates of Hell, The Thinker and The Kiss were made during this time.

In 1883, Rodin met Camille Claudel, an 18 year old young sculptor. She is described as woman genius and was an inspiration for many of Rodin’s works. Their affair was turbulent and so intense that caught the eye of the entire nation.Camilleended the intimate relationship between them in 1892. Due to the gender biased censorship and lack of support form her family, she was still dependent on Rodin for funds. It is alleged that because of this Rodin was able to to take credit of the work of Camille. The relationship finally ended in 1898 when Camille suffering nervous breakdown and was institutionalised. She spent rest of her life in captivity.

By 1900s, Rodin had become one of the most famous artists of his time, with his work being exhibited throughout Europe and United States. Such was his popularity that in 1908 king Edward VII of England visited his workshop.

Rodin wished to give permanence to his work, so he negotiated with the French Government to designate Hotel Biron as future Musee Rodin in exchange for his entire collection. This museum still has most of Rodin’s works.

Important works:

Rodin had attained expertise in movement and anatomy. It is said that models used to roam in his studio while he was making their sketches, sometimes even without picking up the pencil and with eyes constantly on the model.

Some of the most famous work of Rodin are The Age of Bronze, The Gates of Hell, The Thinker and The Kiss.

The Age of Bronze was initially known as The Vanquished. The structural anatomy was so precise that it was alleged that a live model was used to create the cast. Rodin described it as a man arising from nature. The sculpture depicted a man who is suffering and yet has hope for the future.

The Gates of Hell is an unfinished sculpture on which Rodin worked for almost four decades. Originally it was to be similar to the gates of Paradise by Lorenzo Ghiberti, but the visit to London and works of Dante and William Blake inspired Rodin so much that he transformed the gates so that they reveal a universe of convulsed forms tormented by love pain and death.

The Thinker was used as the Rodin’s epitaph according to his desire. It was even used as Google Doodle on the 172th birthday of Rodin.

In the gardens of the Rodin museum, Paris, France.In the gardens of the Rodin museum, Paris, France.

The Kiss is one of the most famous sculpture of Rodin. Such was its popularity that Rodin got a contract to produce smaller copies in bronze. It is said that it was inspired by Camille Claudel.