(1840 - 1917)
August Rodin was a French sculptor who is generally considered the father of modern sculpture. (1) He enjoyed international critical acclaim and financial success during the decades around the turn of the twentieth century. Rodin deftly modeled clay to create highly expressive figures and figural fragments with scintillating surface textures that were cast in bronze and carved in marble by assistants and associates, as was typical of the studio practice of his day. (2) His mature work is contemporary with the French Impressionists, European Expressionists, Cubists, and early abstract artists, but he never produced non-representational art. Rodin remained committed to figurative art throughout his career, utilizing allegories, myths, religion, and reality as his subject matter.
Although he never gained admission to the Ecole de Beaux Arts, France’s official art academy, Rodin apprenticed with and assisted several reputable sculptors in his youth and achieved success with "The Age of Bronze" (1875-76), a life-size male nude depicted with such startling realism that critics claimed it was cast from life. As Rodin’s acceptance by the official art establishment and the general public grew, he received important commissions for public sculptures including the "Burghers of Calais" (1884-1895) and the "Gates of Hell" (1880-1917).
(1)See Albert E. Elsen, Rodin (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1963); Elsen, ed. Rodin Rediscovered (Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 1981); John L. Tancock, The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin: The Collection of the Rodin Museum, Philadelphia (Philadelphia: David R. Godine and Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1976); Ruth Butler, ed., Rodin in Persective (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1980); Butler, Rodin: The Shape of Genius (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993); Antoinette Le Normand-Romain, The Bronzes of Rodin: Catalogue of Works in the Musée Rodin, 2 vols. (Paris: Musée Rodin, 2007); Roberta K. Tarbell and Bernard Barryte, eds., Rodin and America: Influence and Adaptation, 1876-1936 (Stanford, CA: Cantor Arts Center, 2011); and Jeanne L. Wasserman, ed. Metamorphoses in Nineteenth-Century Sculpture (Cambridge, MA: Fogg Art Museum and Harvard University Press, 1975).
(2) Le Normand-Romain, 18, emphasized, “with few exceptions, he remained in control of the casting of his works.” She also said, 18, “in each bronze he thus saw an original, unique work, even if his popularity led him to multiply the number of casts he made of it—particularly after 1900 when, because of the increasingly numerous exhibitions of his sculptures, the demand never stopped growing.” She also wrote, 27, “It was physically impossible for the sculptor to supervise all the bronzes he sold, but if his founders were negligent, he never forgave them. He trusted them to do the work correctly, but if he discovered they were not worthy of his confidence, he never call upon their services again.”