Auguste Rodin


thinkerWorld-renowned sculptor Auguste Rodin was born François-Auguste-René Rodin on November 12, 1840, in Paris, France, to mother Marie Cheffer and father Jean-Baptiste Rodin, a police inspector. Rodin had one sibling, a sister two years his senior, Maria.

Due to poor vision, Rodin was greatly distressed at a young age. Attending the Petite École, he was unable to see figures drawn on the blackboard and, subsequently, struggled to follow complicated lessons in his math and science courses. Unaware of his imperfect eyesight, a dejected Rodin found comfort in drawing—an activity that allowed the youngster to clearly see his progress as he practiced on drawing paper. (He was nearsighted.) Soon, Rodin was drawing frequently, wherever he could, and whatever he saw or imagined.

hellBy age 13, Rodin had developed obvious skills as an artist, and soon began taking formal art courses. While completing his studies, however, the aspiring young artist began to doubt himself, receiving little validation or encouragement from his instructors and fellow students. Four years later, at age 17, Rodin applied to attend the École des Beaux-Arts, a prestigious institution in Paris. He was gravely disappointed when the school denied him admission, with his application rejected twice thereafter.

Rodin held a career in the decorative arts for some time, working on public monuments as his home city was in the throes of urban renewal. The sculptor also joined a Catholic order for a short time, grieving over the death of his sister in 1862, but he ultimately decided to pursue his art. By the mid-1860s he'd completed what he would later describe as his first major work, "Mask of the Man With the Broken Nose" (1863-64). The piece was rejected twice by the Paris Salon due to the realism of the portrait, which departed from classic notions of beauty and featured the face of a local handyman. 

Rodin later worked under fellow sculptor Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse and took on a major project assigned to him in Brussels, Belgium. A fateful trip to Italy in 1875 with an eye on Michelangelo's work further stirred Rodin's inner artist, enlightening him to new kinds of possibilities; he returned to Paris inspired to design and create. 

bronzeIn 1876, Rodin completed his piece "The Vanquished" (later renamed "The Age of Bronze"), a sculpture of a nude man clenching both of his fists, with his right hand hanging over his head. A depiction of suffering amidst hope for the future, the work was first exhibited in 1877, with accusations flying that the sculpture appeared so realistic that it was directly molded from the body of the model. 

Rodin died on November 17, 1917, in Meudon, France, passing away months after the death of his partner Rose Beuret. Garnering acclaim for more than a century, Rodin is widely regarded as the pioneer of modern sculpture. With samples of his work found around the world, his legacy continues to be studied and deeply admired by fellow artists, experts, scholars and art connoisseurs, as well as those with an untrained eye. 


The Rodin Museum was opened in August 1919 in a Paris mansion that housed the artist's studio during his final years. After several years of reconstruction, the museum was reopened in 2015 on Nov. 12, Rodin's birthday. With much of its revenue supplied by the sale of bronze casts made from original molds, the space also features unearthed pieces from Camille Claudel, who was Rodin's lover/muse and worked as his assistant for some time. Their relationship is said to have inspired many of the artist's more overtly amorous works, including 1882's "The Kiss."