Auguste Rodin was a famous sculptor who created iconic works such as “The Thinker.” Born in Paris, he showed artistic promise from his youth but did not achieve fame until his forties. His resolve to capture the human spirit in sculpture opened a new interpretation for the medium. For more about the forefather of modern sculpture, here are the following interesting facts:
1. He had poor eyesight.
- His extreme nearsightedness made it difficult for him to excel at school. He struggled in math and science, as well as reading and writing.
- He found his passion in drawing, where he can easily see what he had created. He took formal art courses, but received little support from the people around him.
2. He faced several rejections as an artist.
- At 17, he applied to the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts thrice, but was refused each time.
- He submitted his first major work, “Mask of the Man With the Broken Nose,” to the Salon. The piece was refused because it depicted the face of a local handyman and eschewed traditional ideals of beauty.
3. He was unsuccessful in other careers.
- At 22, he was grief-stricken by his sister’s death and joined a Catholic order. The father superior encouraged him to return to art.
- At 33, he was drafted into the army during the Franco-Prussian War. He was discharged due to his eyesight.
4. He had two women in his life.
- He married seamstress Rose Beuret one year before their deaths, though they had known each other for decades. They had a son, but Rodin never officially recognized being the father.
- He fell in love with Camille Claudel, his student from a sculpture class. She was his muse for “The Kiss,” another iconic sculpture. Rodin’s refusal to leave Rose ended their relationship.
5. He was commissioned to create a monument depicting an account from the Hundred Years’ War.
- He created six life-sized men, each with a unique expression of tragedy instead of glory. This work came to be known as “The Burghers of Calais.”
- The commissioners disbanded before the sculptures were finished, but Rodin completed them. The monument was unveiled in a joint exhibition with impressionist painter Claude Monet.
6. “The Thinker” was originally part of a larger work.
- He was commissioned to design the entrance for a new museum by the French Ministry of Fine Arts. He created “The Gates of Hell,” with “The Thinker” perched above the doors. It represented man’s intellectual frustrations towards the anguished and depraved figures below.
- The museum was never built and he died before completing “The Gates of Hell.” Large-scale versions of “The Thinker” were made during and after Rodin’s lifetime.
7. In his later years, he lived at the Hotel Biron.
- He was neighbors with several budding creatives at the time, including painter Henri Matisse, dancer Isadora Duncan, and writer Jean Cocteau.
- He used the ground floor as his studio and stopped the hotel from being demolished. After his death, it was converted into a museum in his honor.
Despite the many obstacles he faced, Rodin’s emphasis on human emotions has shaped the art of sculpting. He has left a legacy that makes him recognizable even outside the artistic community.
What’s your favorite Rodin sculpture? How did his works inspire your art?