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Auguste Rodin

[roh dahn'] best known for a sculpture that was originally part of a door

Auguste Rodin

François-Auguste-René Rodin was born in Paris, France, on November 12, 1840. He began his art studies by attending A.L. Barye's classes. Between 1864 and 1870, he was employed in the studio of Carrier-Belleuse, where he learned the skills necessary to be being a sculptor.

Finding nothing to do in Paris, Rodin went to Brussels, Belgium, in 1870, where from 1871 to 1877 he worked as the colleague of Belgian artist Van Rasbourg on the sculpture for the outside and the caryatids for the interior of the Bourse; in 1875, he exhibited Portrait of Garnier. In 1877 he contributed to the salon The Bronze Age, which was cast in bronze for the salon of 1880 and was later moved to the Luxembourg. Between 1882 and 1885 he sent to the salon busts of Jean-Paul Laurens (1882), Carrier-Belleuse (1882), Victor Hugo (1884), Dalou (1884), and Antonin Proust (1885).

In 1880, Rodin was commissioned by the French government to create a large sculptural door for the Museum of Decorative Art in Paris. The Gates of Hell would become the most elaborate of his works, despite it remaining unfinished at the time of his death. Inspired by Dante's Inferno, the massive work features the poet himself seated at the top, while at his feet, in undercut relief, is the writhing crowd of the damned. The lower part consists of two bas-reliefs, in their midst two masks of tormented faces. Above the door three men cling to one another in an attitude of despair. Rodin later developed many of the figures into independent sculptures, including two of his most well-known works -- The Thinker and The Kiss (1886).

The Gates of Hell
The Gates of Hell

The Thinker
The Thinker

The Kiss
The Kiss, 1886, Musee Rodin, Paris

While working on The Gates of Hell, Rodin executed a statue of Bastien-Lepage for the town of Damvillers; a Monument to Claude de Lorrain, representing the Chariot of the Sun drawn by horses, for the town of Nancy; and, The Burgesses of Calais (1884-1886), depicting them surrendering the keys of the town and imploring mercy, for the city of Calais.

The Burgesses of Calais
The Burgesses of Calais

In 1890, Rodin withdrew from the old Society of French Artists and exhibited in the New Salon the bust of his friend Puvis de Chavannes (1892), Contemplation and Caryatid, both in marble, and the Monument to Victor Hugo (1897), intended for the gardens of the Luxembourg. In 1898, Rodin exhibited two very dissimilar works, a marble group representing Paolo Malatesta and Francesca da Rimini, and a sketch in plaster for a Statue of Balzac. The statue, a commission from the Society of Men of Letters, was received with vehement dissensions and the society withdrew the commission and gave it to the sculptor Falguière. In response, Rodin exhibited a bust in bronze of Falguière, as well as one of Henri Rochefort.

In 1900, the city of Paris erected at its own expense a building in which almost all of Rodin's works were to be exhibited, including the still unfinished Gates of Hell and the Balzac statue. Also exhibited were many of Rodin's designs, studies and water-color drawings, as well as many of his unfinished works and rough sketches of future works. In 1904, Rodin became president of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Engravers, succeeding American artist James McNeill Whistler.

Auguste Rodin died on November 17, 1917, and was buried at Meudon, Île-de-France.

SEE ALSO
James McNeill Whistler

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This page was last updated on 07/27/2017.