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Auguste Rodin's Biography

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(Francois) Auguste (Rene) Rodin was born on November 12, 1840 in Paris.

It is an interesting perspective on Auguste Rodin to understand that he had some astonishing contemporaries in the world of art. Pisarro was born in 1830, Manet in 1832, Degas in 1834 and within a space of a couple of years (1839-1841) apart from Rodin himself: Cezanne, Sisley, Monet, Redon and Renoir were born.

Referring to this, Andre Malraux's The Voices of Silence, goes on to state about all these artists:

"Keenness of vision was but a means to an end, that end being the transposition of things seen into a coherent, personal universe."

The early days were not easy. Rodin failed three times to get into the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. It was in 1864 that he produced his first great work, L'homme au nez casse (The Man with the Broken Nose).

Until 1875 Auguste Rodin worked in Paris and Brussels under Barye, Carrier-Belleuse and Van Rasborg.

Then he travelled to Italy and studied Donatello and Michelangelo. A couple of years later (1877) he toured French Cathedrals and in the same year he exhibited at the Paris Salon. So realistic was this work, L'Age d'airain (The Age of Bronze) - a naked male figure in a Michelangelesque style - that some critics accused the sculptor of taking the cast from a living man.

In 1880, Auguste Rodin was commissioned to make a bronze portal for the Mussee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris. Although he never finished this project known as Porte de l'enfer (the Gate of Hell), Rodin later developed many of the 200 nude figures on a larger scale. Amongst those works that were originally designed for Gate of Hell were Le Baisser - The Kiss (1898); and Le Penseur - The Thinker (1904)

The figures were largely influenced by Baudelaire and Dante's Inferno. With regard to The Kiss, critics have commented on the paradox of such a believable rendering of the sensuality of flesh, through the medium of cold inanimate stone

Auguste Rodin received other commissions before the turn of the century but these received a mixed reception. For example, Balzac was rejected by the Society that had commissioned it.

Full recognition arrived with a large exhibition in 1900 in a pavilion outside the Paris International Exhibition.

Whilst many reacted against his work, Rodin influenced a great many artists - not least two of his mistresses, the sculptor Camille Claudel and the artist, Gwen John.

Auguste Rodin died in Meudon near Paris on 17 November 1917. In many ways he is regarded as an artistic bridge between late Romanticism and modern art.

The Telegraph review of Rodin at the Royal Academy provides an interesting insight into the sculptor.

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