About the book
This new monograph examines the life and works of Auguste Rodin (1840–1917), whose compelling career and legacy continue to captivate audiences, artists and critics alike. As one of the greatest and most prolific sculptors of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Rodin transformed sculpture-making and reinvigorated what was considered to be a dying art form.
Born into a working-class family, Rodin had little formal education in the fine arts and struggled against poverty throughout his career. At an early age, he attended the Petite Ecole, a school for drawing and mathematics, learning skills aimed at the commercial sector. Then, having failed the entrance examinations for the Ecole des Beaux-Arts three times, Rodin supported himself by working for several commercial studios as an assistant for a few years. In 1863, devasted by the death of his beloved sister, Maria, the artist joined a religious community, the Order of the Blessed Sacrament, which was under the direction of Father Pierre-Julien Eymard, who would become the subject of one of Rodin's first sculptures. Realizing that religion was not his calling, Rodin returned to Paris, where he began to work in the studios of Albert Carrier-Belleuse, a fashionable commercial sculptor, who was to have a considerable impact on the art and career of the young sculptor. At this time, Rodin also began to work on his own, creating portraits of his father and studying the works of Rubens.
After a trip to Italy in 1875, Rodin also studied the works of Michelangelo, whose influence was crucial to his development and his determination to be a sculptor. Rodin's signature style of working directly from the model was formed early with his Man with the Broken Nose, which was rejected for the Salon exhibition in 1865, although the marble version was accepted ten years later. Rodin then created The Age of Bronze, the first work in which a sense of his true potential can be seen. The originality of this work was met with resistance, and critics accused Rodin of making a cast from a live model, suspicious as they were of the incredible realism of the statue. In spite of this, Rodin's The Age of Bronze was purchased in 1880 by the French state, who subsequently commissioned the sculptor for the large entrance portal for the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, soon to be called The Gates of Hell. Drawing inspiration from Dante's The Divine Comedy and Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal, Rodin created such masterpieces as The Kiss, The Thinker and The Three Shades, originally parts of The Gates of Hell. Another monumental project, The Burghers of Calais, also demonstrates the sculptor's tendency to play with the relationship between volume and space through the technique of fragmentation and assemblage as Rodin studied every aspect of the work intensively, creating maquettes and sculptures for the heads, hands, feet and the lines of the burgher's robes. Other important works such as Rodin's Monument to Balzac and his portraits of Victor Hugo, among many others, are also examined in detail. In 1910 Rodin was named Grand Officer in the Legion of Honour and became one of the very few artists to achieve such a high status.
This new monograph is a perfect introduction to the work of this original and influential sculptor. The book combines Jane Mayo Roos's scholarly yet accessible text with 200 beautiful photographic reproductions of Rodin's works, from his early drawings to his well-known sculptures. In relating the history of Rodin's sculpture, the author has set the artist's career in the context of the art world of the period and emphasized the ways in which his sculptures differed significantly from the works produced by his contemporaries. In addition, Roos also offers an analysis of the making of sculpture in the nineteenth century, explaining the role mechanical reproduction played in the processes by which marble and bronze sculptures were made at the time, thereby clarifying the existence of posthumous casts.