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Auguste Rodin

Bronze sculptor 1840 - 1917

Auguste Rodin was born in Paris, France, on November 12, 1840. Unlike many famous artists and sculptors, Rodin didn't become widely established until he was in his 40s, but his work has had a huge impact on modern art today.

Due to poor vision (he was short-sighted), Rodin was distressed at a young age. While studying at the Petite Ecole, he was unable to see figures drawn on the blackboard and subsequently, struggled to follow complicated lessons in his science and math courses. Completely unaware of his poor eyesight, Rodin found some comfort in drawing, as this activity allowed him to clearly see his progress as he practised on drawing paper. Soon, he was drawing wherever and whenever he could; no matter if it was something he'd seen or imagined.

By the age of 13, Rodin had developed serious skills as an artist and soon began taking formal art classes. While completing his studies however, he became disillusioned and began to doubt himself, receiving little validation or encouragement from his tutors or fellow students. Four years later, at the age of 17, he applied to attend the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, a prestigious institution in Paris. The school denied him admission however, and then a further two times when he reapplied.

For the next few years, Rodin held a career in the decorative arts, working on public monuments as Paris was in the throes of urban renewal. In 1862, grieving over the death of his sister, he joined a Catholic order for a short time, but ultimately decided to follow his dreams and pursue a career in art. By the mid 1860s, Rodin had completed what he would later describe as his first piece of major work; the 'Mask of the Man with the Broken Nose'. Unfortunately for Rodin, this piece was twice rejected by the Paris Salon due to the realism of the portrait, as it featured the face of a local handyman rather than the classic notions of beauty that were the norm at the time.

He later worked under fellow sculptor Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse before taking on a major project assigned to him in Brussels, Belgium. However, it wasn't until a fateful trip to Italy in 1875 that his inner artist was truly stirred. Examining Michelangelo's work opened his mind up to new kinds of possibilities and allowed him to return to Paris with a real desire to design and create.

In 1876, he completed his piece entitled 'The Vanquished', a sculpture of a nude man clenching both of his fists, with his right hand hanging over his head. Known as a depiction of suffering amidst hope for the future, this work was first exhibited in 1877, with accusations flying around that the sculpture was so realistic that it was directly molded from the body of the model.

As he entered his 40s, he was able to further establish his distinct style with a controversial list of works. With a large team assisting him in the final casting of sculptures, Rodin went on to create an array of famous works, including 'The Burghers of Calais', a public monument made of bronze portraying a moment during the Hundred Year's War between France and England in 1347. The piece, which includes six human statues, depicts a war account during which six French citizens from Calais were ordered by Edward III of England to abandon their homes and surrender themselves, barefoot and bareheaded, wear ropes around their necks and hold the keys to the town and the caste in their hands to the King, who was to order their execution thereafter.

In the following years, he created many other famous sculptures, including the iconic 'The Thinker', the 'Three Shades', 'The Old Courtesan' and 'Man With Serpent'. Sadly, he passed away in 1917, just months after the death of his parner Rose Beuret. He is widely regarded as the pioneer of modern sculpture and his legacy continues to be studied and admired by fellow artists, experts, scholars and art connoisseurs alike.

 

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