Auguste Rodin

This article is about the artist and sculptor, Auguste Rodin. See, Rodan, for an article about the monster.

Auguste Rodin (November 12, 1840November 17, 1917) was a French sculptor.

Born Franois-Auguste-Ren Rodin, in Paris, France, he stands at the culmination of the figurative tradition in sculpture, as after him sculptors increasingly turned towards abstraction.

One of his early works, The Age of Bronze, created during his years in Belgium, looked so realistic that the sculptor was accused of surmoulage (taking plaster moulds from the live model).

Rodin struggled to clear his name and in 1880 was awarded the commission to create a portal for the planned Museum of Decorative Arts. Although the museum was never built, Rodin worked nearly all his life on his major work, The Gates of Hell, depicting scenes from Dante's Inferno in high relief.

Many of his best-known sculptures, like The Thinker (Le Penseur, originally titled The Poet), representing the poet Dante), The Three Shades (Les Trois Ombres), and The Kiss (Le Baiser) were designed as figures for this monumental landscape of eternal passion and punishment, and only later presented as works in their own right. Other well-known works derived from The Gates are: the Ugolino group, Fugitive Love, The Falling Man, The Sirens, Fallen Caryatid Carrying her Stone, Damned Women, The Standing Fauness, The Kneeling Fauness, The Martyr, She Who Once Was the Beautiful Helmetmaker's Wife, Glaucus, Polyphem.

Through his method of marcottage, he used the same sculptural elements time and time again, under different names and in different combinations.

Instead of copying traditional academic postures, Rodin preferred to work with amateurs models, street performers, acrobats, strong men and dancers. In his atelier, the models walked around freely while the sculptor made quick sketches in clay, which were later fine-tuned, cast in plaster, and forged into bronze or marble. Rodin was fascinated by dance and spontaneous movement; his John the Baptist shows a walking preacher, displaying two phases of the same stride simultaneously.

The Gates of Hell, .
The Gates of Hell, Muse Rodin.

In 1883, Rodin agreed to supervise Alfred Boucher's sculpture course during his absence and so met the 18-year-old sculptress Camille Claudel. Rodin fell in love with his talented pupil, and Claudel recognized her chance to be tutored by the greatest sculptor talent of her time, who was just breaking through to fame. They became a creative and intimate couple. Claudel inspired Rodin as a model for many of his tragic love couples and assisted him during his work on another important commission, The Burghers of Calais (Les Bourgeois de Calais).

Although they shared an atelier at a small old castle (68 Boulevard dItalie, Paris), Rodin refused to give up his ties with Rose Beuret, his loyal companion during his years of poverty in Belgium and mother of their son Auguste-Eugne Beuret, born January 18, 1866. He never fulfilled a contract with Claudel to give up all contact with other women, and marry her. After nearly 15 years, the couple parted. Claudel went her own artistic way, but found herself isolated.

Rodin, commissioned to create a Monument to Victor Hugo in the 1890s, dealt extensively with the subject of artist and muse, reflecting the various aspects of his stormy and complex relationship with Claudel in The Poet and Love, The Genius and Pity, The Sculptor and his Muse. Like many of Rodin's public commissions, the Mounument to Victor Hugo met resistance because it did not fit conventional expectations. The 1897 plaster model was finally cast in bronze in 1964.

His Monument to Balzac, exhibited at the 1898 salon at the Champ des Mars showing the writer in his morning frock, was repudiated as well. After the frustrating experience, Rodin did not finish any public commissions. Instead, after 1903 he had his most successful works enlarged to monumental dimensions.

As France's best known artist, he had a large staff of pupils and craftsmen working for him. He created a number of society portrait busts, especially for wealthy American collectors, and began presenting fragmentary sculptures, which in his opinion contained the essence of his artistic statement, like Meditation without Arms, Iris, Messenger of the Gods or The Walking Man.

During his last creative years, Rodin concentrated on small dance studies (ca. 1915), and produced numerous erotic drawings, sketched in a loose way, without taking his pencil from the paper or his eyes from the model. An exhibition of these drawings in Weimar in 1906 caused the so-called Kessler scandal, and Harry Count Kessler was dismissed as curator of the Weimar Museum.

On January 29, 1917, Rodin finally married Rose Beuret, who died two weeks later.

Auguste Rodin died on November 17, 1917. A cast of The Thinker was placed next to his tomb in Meudon, le-de-France, France.


Rodin's bust of , bronze, (-), which he gave to the  in .
Rodin's bust of Balzac, bronze, (1891-1892), which he gave to the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1914.

The Muse Rodin in Paris was founded to administer and exhibit the huge body of work (over 5,000 plaster items, over 1,000 bronze sculptures, ca. 8,000 drawings, and as many photographs) Rodin left to the French government by several deeds of donation, shortly before his death. A part of this collection is shown at Htel Biron, much of it displayed in an outdoor garden. The most of plaster collection is kept at Villa des Brillants in Meudon, a suburb of Paris, where Rodin lived and worked during the last decades of his life.

With his works, Rodin also transferred the rights of reproduction to the Muse Rodin. According to French Law (Decree Nr. 81.255 of 3 March 1981), only 12 copies of each work can be issued as an original edition. Although the copyrights to Rodin's work expired in 1987, 70 years after the artist's death, according to French law the Muse Rodin still exerts the droit moral (moral right), to prevent damage to the artist's good name by copies of inferior quality.

One of Rodin's 1889 sculptures was used by the rock band Black Sabbath as the cover art for their 1987 album of the same name, The Eternal Idol.

Locations of Rodin sculpture

External links

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