Auguste Rodin (1840 - 1917) was born on November 12th 1840 in Paris, France. Very few would dispute the statement that Rodin was the greatest genius in the world of sculpture in the late 19th century. There were very few artist who faced the criticism, slander and personal insults during their lifetimes as was given to Rodin likewise there are few artists who have known such personal glory during their carriers. Rodin's sculpture was so powerful and original that he was not understood by those in control of the art world in his day. He was refused admittance into the Ecole des Beaux-Arts three times and was the brunt of many articles criticizing his works. His talent and art were so powerful that despite all of the official disdain he received he was able to overcome these obstacles placed in his path and emerged on the international scene attracting collectors from around the world to his studio seeking his works.
Rodin's youth was spent drawing and sculpting at an early age. He spent much of his time at the Louvre where he met Antoine Louis Barye. After his three refusals of admission to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts the eighteen year old Rodin worked as a craftsman and jewelry maker as well as at other odd jobs. His beloved sister died in 1862 which shook Rodin greatly and he entered the Fathers of the Saint-Sacrement. It was there that he created his second sculpture, a bust of father Piere-Julien Eynard, his first bust being that of his own father. After two years Rodin realized that religion was not his vocation and left to continue working as a craftsman in Paris and set up a small studio in which to sculpt. In 1864 he submitted his plaster mask of L'Homme au nez Casse to the Salon and it was refused entry and it was not until the 1875 Salon that this work, now in marble, was finally admitted. It was in 1875 that Rodin traveled to Italy where he was greatly impressed by the works of Michelangelo whose influence can be seen in many of Rodin's works.
Rodin worked in Belgium for several years as a anonymous sculptor where he created his first true masterpiece L'Age d'Airin and exhibited it at the Paris Salon of 1877. It was not well received at the Salon and provoked many uncomplimentary articles accusing Rodin of copying another work or even a living model because it was so lifelike. Many of the famous artists of the day came to Rodin's defense praising Rodin as a genius and the Government of France would purchase L'Age d'Airin in 1880 as the first of many State acquisitions of his art.
It was in 1880 that Rodin received his commission for the entrance to a newly planned museum on the bank of the Seine, the site was changed to the Louvre and his commission canceled but Rodin continued working on this gigantic work for the rest of his life changing and increasing it in size to finally encompass no less than 186 figures. It would become known as La Porte de l'Enfer (The Gates of Hell). Many of the images in this work were done separately and became some of Rodin's most famous sculptures. Even amid the official criticism of his works his fame spread beyond France to England where he was well thought of. He opened a second studio in Paris and it was there that he first met Camille Claudel who would become his model and companion. In 1884 he received the commission for the Bourgeois de Calais comprising six figures to be installed in Calais, France. It was in 1891 that Rodin received the commission for his most controversial sculpture, that of Balzac. His models of the famous Frenchman, nude, drew enormous criticism and a campaign of outrage and hate of the artist from the French papers for the next 10 years. This finally resulting in another sculptor being given the commission that was installed at the Avenue Friedland in 1902. Rodin refused to sell his Balzac despite many offers from his admirers and it was not until 1939, many years after Rodin's death that his version of Balzac was placed at the intersection of the Boulevards Raspail and Montparnasse and is now viewed as the masterpiece that it truly is.
By 1900 Rodin was so well known that he was allowed his own pavilion at the Exposition Universelle of Paris in that year where he exhibited one hundred and seventy sculptures! The Balzac scandal had made Rodin notorious throughout the world bringing him fortune as well as fame. He was sought after by all of the major museums throughout the world and in 1908 he moved his studio to the ground floor of the 18th century Biron Hotel which he helped save from demolition. It was then that his friends proposed a Rodin Museum and Rodin agreed to donate all of his works to the State if they would let him continue to work and live out his life in the Hotel. His old adversaries in the press opposed this and it was not until 1916 amid the turmoil of the First World War that the museum was established. Rodin died on November 17th 1917 at the hotel where he worked, just one year after the establishment of his museum.
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