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Auguste Rodin

Sculptor / Artist

Born: 12 November 1840
Birthplace: Paris, France
Best known as:

The sculptor who did The Thinker

Name at birth: François-Auguste-René Rodin

Auguste Rodin is France's best known sculptor and the creator of one of the most famous statues in the world, The Thinker. He began drawing and painting when he was a teenager, but failed three times to get into France's most prestigious art school. Instead he went to work as an artisan, doing commercial decorative work in Brussels from 1864 to 1875. Rodin exhibited The Age of Bronze in Paris in 1877, and its realism caused a sensation; he was accused of making the cast from a real person. A few years later, however, the French government bought the piece, beginning a close relationship with the artist. Rodin was commissioned to make a set of bronze gates for a new art museum, and he spent the rest of his career creating individual pieces to go with The Gates of Hell. The museum didn't materialize, but some of the pieces originally intended for it became world famous -- such as The Thinker and The Kiss (in Rodin's lifetime, The Gates of Hell was only a full-size plaster model). Many versions of his sculptures exist, including The Burghers of Calais, installed in Calais in 1895 and in London in 1913. By the beginning of the 20th century, the prolific Rodin was world famous and a national hero of France. He married lifelong companion (and mother of his son) Rose Beuret in January of 1917, just two weeks before she died and just 11 months before he died. Rodin was enormously influential during the 20th century and is one of the few Western sculptors recognized by non-artists.

Extra credit:

Auguste Rodin's long relationship with Rose Beuret withstood many difficulties, including a fifteen-year relationship he had with sculptor Camille Claudel... In the late 1890s, Rodin was commissioned to do commemorative statues of Victor Hugo and Honore de Balzac. He did Hugo nude and Balzac in a draped gown, and both pieces were considered too risqué and rejected... His last name is pronounced "ro-DAN".

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