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(1840 – 1917), France

Auguste Rodin Biography

Auguste Rodin is considered to be the first ever modern sculptor. He was immensely popular—and controversial—in his time, and skilled in disseminating his many sculptures.

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Early Years

Born into a working class family, Rodin began to sketch at ten. Between 14 and 17, he went to a Petit École to study painting and observational drawing. At 27, he tried to get into an École des Beaux-Arts, but was rejected. He tried twice again and was still rejected. In 1864, he began to work as a stonemason. He was not conscripted for the Franco-Prussian War because he was short-sighted.

After working for the studio of sculptor Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse making ornaments for staircases, rooftops, and doorways, Rodin went to Brussels in 1871 to carve the external decorations for the city stock exchange. He then travelled to Italy in 1875 for two months, and after being inspired by Michelangelo and Donatello, decided to become a freelance sculptor. On his return to Paris with his partner Rose Beuret, his 1877 life-sized figure Bronze Age attracted attention, not least because he was accused of cheating by casting from life.

When Carrier-Belleuse became director of a Sevres porcelain factory, Rodin was offered a job as its designer. Through this, he became more widely known and various government ministers got to meet him. Edmond Turquet, the undersecretary for the Ministry of Fine Arts, commissioned Rodin in 1880 to make the complicated Gates of Hell for a museum that was planned to be built, but wasn't. Many of the components Rodin created later became famous when reconfigured as individual sculptures.

The memorial commissions increased and by 1900 Rodin was world-famous for two types of sensual sculpture: the translucent white and smooth marble works and the shiny, dark bronze sculptures with rougher surfaces.

Rodin liked to model his figures in clay on a rotating table. He then organised assistants to carve them in marble or sandcast in bronze.

Auguste Rodin Artworks

Auguste Rodin produced a large number of expressive busts, figures, torsos, and fragments in cast bronze, carved marble, drawings, and watercolour sketches.

Marble Forms

With his glowing marble sculptures, Rodin usually left areas of unpolished, rough marble untouched, as if the smooth naked human form was emerging alive from a raw, mineral bed.

Some works, like The Kiss (1882) and The Thinker (1904), were made in bronze, marble, plaster, and stone.

Bronze Developments

Rodin's embrace of a baroque expressiveness and turbulent emotion via twisted bodies, contorted postures, rippling muscles, and large hands and feet was for some shocking, as was his incorporation of repeated forms within the one bronze sculpture—like in The Gates of Hell (1880—1917) or its detail The Three Shades (1886). He also sometimes made limbs, heads, and other parts separately, so when casting he could recombine these elements. As part of a move away from naturalism, Rodin deliberately left surface traces of the bronze casting process, such as not removing air bubbles, as seen in Man's Torso (1877). He also exposed the processes of throwing lumps of clay together, rather than smoothing over the joins. Sometimes, he would cut through them with a sharp knife, not replacing the missing pieces, creating 'disruptive' flat planes as seen in Flying Figure (1890—1991).

Between 1883 and 1892, Rodin had an affair with Camille Claudel, his model, who became an accomplished sculptor herself.

Commissions

Rodin produced many commissons over his lifetime. These include The Burghers of Calais (1884—1889), Monument to Balzac (1892—1897), and Monument to Victor Hugo (1897).

Exhibitions

Auguste Rodin has been featured in recent solo and group exhibitions. Solo exhibitions include The EY Exhibition: The Making of Rodin, Tate Modern, London (2021) and Rodin and the Art of Ancient Greece, The British Museum, London (2018).

Group exhibitions include Monet and Boston: Legacy Illuminated, Museum of Fine Art, Boston (2021).

Rodin's sculptures are held in many major collections around the world, including the Rodin Museum, Paris; Musée d'Orsay, Paris; the Louvre, Paris; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Rodin Museum, Philadelphia; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

John Hurrell | Ocula | 2021

Auguste Rodin
featured artworks

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Amour qui passe by Auguste Rodin contemporary artwork sculpture
Auguste Rodin Amour qui passe, c. 1896-1901 Bronze with green patina
38.2 x 22.5 x 32.7 cm
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Femme nue allongée by Auguste Rodin contemporary artwork works on paper, drawing
Auguste Rodin Femme nue allongée, c. 1908 Graphite and stump on wove paper
19 x 31.2 cm
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Eternel printemps, second etat, premiere reduction by Auguste Rodin contemporary artwork sculpture
Auguste Rodin Eternel printemps, second etat, premiere reduction, 1905-1907 Bronze with brown-black patina
66.2 x 83 x 41 cm
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DE SARTHE
Le Penseur, petit modèle, variante avec base arrondie by Auguste Rodin contemporary artwork sculpture
Auguste Rodin Le Penseur, petit modèle, variante avec base arrondie, c. 1905 Bronze
38 x 21 x 28.4 cm
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DE SARTHE
Eternel Printemps, premier état, taille originale-variante type C by Auguste Rodin contemporary artwork sculpture
Auguste Rodin Eternel Printemps, premier état, taille originale-variante type C, c. 1887 - 1894 Bronze with dark brown patina
67.2 x 54.8 x 36.3 cm
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DE SARTHE
Néréides, agrandissement dit aussi Trois sirènes, grand modèle ou La Vague by Auguste Rodin contemporary artwork sculpture
Auguste Rodin Néréides, agrandissement dit aussi "Trois sirènes, grand modèle" ou "La Vague", 1981 Bronze with a dark black patina. Created in 1887
42.8 x 45.3 x 32.3 cm
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Frère et soeur by Auguste Rodin contemporary artwork sculpture
Auguste Rodin Frère et soeur, 1903 Bronze with black and green patina
38.7 x 17 x 18.2 cm
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Danaïde, petit modèle, version type III by Auguste Rodin contemporary artwork sculpture
Auguste Rodin Danaïde, petit modèle, version type III, Designed in 1885, cast iron between 1920 and 1925 Bronze with shaded black brown patina
22.4 x 37.4 x 26.1 cm
Not for sale
Dumonteil Contemporary
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Auguste Rodin
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