Short Biography of Auguste Rodin
Although he was rejected three times into the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Rodin would attain international fame and forever be considered by many as the Michelangelo of his time. He alone inspired a distinct style of sculpture and art that held true to the roots of western art – the perfection of the human figure.
Born to a police inspector in Paris, Rodin knew by the age of ten that he wanted to be an artist. He attended the School of Decorative Arts in Paris and studied literature and history simultaneously. He began a freelance practice of decorative and ornamental work. Upon the death of his sister, he decided to join a Christian group, but moved on to pursue his life in art, studying under Antoine Louis Barye.
Rodin then worked with Carrier-Belleuse for over five years and traveled together studying the art of Europe. The two then separated and Rodin began studying more his interest of the human figure under A. J. Rasbourg. It was in Italy, however, that Rodin’s imagination and true artistic genius surfaced. He saw the works of Donatello and Michelangelo and was inspired to create one of his most renowned masterpieces, the Age of Bronze. The piece caused uproar and was filled with controversy. It looked too real for anyone to believe. The piece was later purchased by the state.
Upon his return in 1883 to Paris, Rodin supervised a course in sculpture when he met the young 18-year old Camille Claudel. The two were described as “more than passionate” and were both the opposite’s muse. Claudel worked as Rodin’s model in a number of pieces, one of the most important named Thought. Rodin, however, wouldn’t fully commit to her and the two later separated.
He then began working on his rendition of St. John, which included his Walking Man. While working in bronze, he also began working in ceramics, where he released a number of sketches and engravings to the public. At this time, his fame was growing so much that the French government decided to commission him to design the doorway to the Museum of Decorative Arts, called the Gates of Hell. Considered Rodin’s most famous work that matched his previous endeavors was a statue originally called The Poet, but later titled The Thinker, commissioned by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. It represented an age of intellect, reflection, imagination, and ironically, an age of satire.
Rodin also completed several commissions for private and government portraits. This included one of Victor Hugo, James Whistler, Napoleon, and even George Bernard Shaw. Many claim that Rodin’s work in sculpting was analogous to the movement of impressionism of the time -- space should be freeing and not limiting. However, others argue that his work is too rigid and exact to be considered impressionistic.