Auguste Rodin

French Sculptor Artist

François-Auguste-René Rodin (1840 - 1917)
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I have long admired the sculpture, drawings and prints created in the studios of the artist Auguste Rodin.
Rodin by Troubetskoy
(Portrait of Rodin created by Paolo Troubetskoy).
In my early teenage years, I picked out a biographical novel about Rodin mainly because of the sexy title -- Naked Came I. As I read though, I became quite intrigued with the artist's passion and Bohemian lifestyle. When I made it to Paris a couple years later, I stopped at the Rodin museum. Since then, I have visited his works of art whenever convenient.
He was an excellent speaker and communicator, despite not having earned a degree or masters in communications.
This page and its photos are my personal creation.
I have read both Frederic V. Grunfeld's Rodin: A Biography and the definitive biography Rodin: The Shape of Genius by Ruth Butler.
I highly recommend the books, such as Rodin on Art and Artists, that are based on Rodin's own words.

While I still appreciate Rodin's great talent, I have also realized that many of his rivals also had great artistic genius. French Impressionism was invented in a period when men with feet of clay were able to rise above political turmoil using unusual creative energy and imagination.

I have visited the Rodin museums in Paris and Philadelphia. Rodin's masterwork is generally considered to be the Gates of Hell sculpture on which he laboured for more than 15 years. (French name: Les Portes de l'Enfer). It was originally planned for the same Paris Exposition for which the Eiffel Tower was constructed. I am privileged to have seen four of the eight copies which have been cast. Many of Rodin's most famous works such as The Kiss and The Thinker were preliminary studies for this massive work.



Following, you will find a general view of the Gates at Stanford
along with three close-up pictures from the side panels.
(Please click on the small thumbnail photos to see the full effect)
Gates of Hell, Side close-up Gates of Hell, Side close-up Gates of Hell, Side close-up Gates of Hell, Side close-up

In some respects, Rodin spent his life communicating with women and adoring women. His greatest admirers and scholars were female. He emphasized sensual nature over reason. I think that the story of his long suffering and faithful wife -- Rose Beuret -- would make an excellent movie or novel.

This sculpture shows Rose as young, proud and defiant warrior.

From the viewpoint of Rodin's friends she was a non-entity. A grey shadow serving meals and cleaning house; but she was also the rock who stood by his side for more than 50 years. I have an image in my mind of her loving attention as she bathed and maintained Rodin's clay figures during the dark winters of war and rebellion during the late 1800's.

(In 2008 I see that Ruth Butler has written a book that I will have to read: Hidden in the Shadow of the Master: The Model-Wives of Cezanne, Monet, and Rodin).

Rodin Sculpture Bellona
In 1998 I started working in the San Francisco area. I found much local Rodin Art.
Stanford University Cantor Arts Center (Palo Alto, California) has a fine art collection including a large outdoor Rodin collection. Their Rodin Sculpture Garden has about a dozen Rodin bronzes which were organized by the late Professor Albert Elsen. The works there were donated by the late B. Gerald Cantor, who along with his wife, was the foremost private collector, and perhaps more important, public donor of Rodin's works in the world. (See www.cantorfoundation.org). The crown jewel of the Stanford collection is a new casting of the Gates of Hell. It was originally displayed at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. in 1981.
Bernie Cantor was the wealthy founder of Cantor Fitzgerald. He died in 1996 but the Foundation continues to manage and distribute his collection.
Cantor Fitzgerald is the leading bond trading firm that lost almost 700 employees in the World Trade Center attack.
NY Metropolitan Rodin 1 NY Metropolitan Rodin 2

The Cantors also donated the Rodin sculptures at New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Met has a fine indoor copy of the Burghers of Calais.

NY Metropolitan Orpheus

The Met Museum had this small marble masterpiece which illustrates the story of Orpheus and Euridyce.

Paris Hotel Biron interior Paris Hotel Biron exterior

In Paris, just around the corner from the Hotel d'Invalides, is the Hotel Biron. This Musée Rodin was the final town home of Mr. Rodin. It contains his personal art collection which included a few fine Van Gough's and several portraits of Rodin by other artists.

Paris Hotel Biron Fenaille Paris Hotel Biron Diane

One thing that struck me during my Year 2000 trip was that "great art" can include pretty or mundane subjects. Surely some of Rodin's sweet early work is just as "great" as his more monumental later work. This marble Diane is from 1875 while Madame Fenaille is an 1898 terra cotta. In his final years many of his portraits seemed to have been created for money rather than passion.

Paris Hotel Biron The Kiss

After 1900 much of his personal passion went into detailed pencil sketches of his model lovers. His famous passionate sculpture from this period seems to be designed primarily for its popular appeal.

Balzac sculpture outside Hotel Biron

In the Paris area, the second Musée Rodin is in the suburb of Meudon. On the grounds are Rodin's home -- from 1898 until his death in 1917 -- and a large studio/museum. Rodin and his wife are buried there under an enlarged version of The Thinker. The museum contains the original plasters of many of his greatest works. Other works by Rodin are on display in the house and on the grounds. It is only open May until October.

Balzac sculpture at Stanford

My favourite Rodin sculpture is the Balzac in the courtyard of The National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia... but these examples are the grounds of the Hotel Biron and a small copy at Stanford.

Burghers of Calais The front of the British Parliament buildings is a magnificent setting for the Burghers of Calais. An observer might wonder of the feelings of the original French burghers who are now captured in such an English setting. The scene portrayed in bronze captures the town burghers as they surrendered to an invading English army.

San Francisco Legion Honor
In San Francisco, the beautifully situated Palace of the Legion of Honor has an excellent collection.
SF Legion Honor
Their Rodins were mainly collected and donated by Adolph B. and Alma Spreckels. One shows the Three Shades that are also found at the top of The Gates.
Rodin Saint John Walking
In the collection is a standing St. John the Baptist Preaching.
Los Angeles County Rodin Burgher Los Angeles County Rodin

During my 1999 visit to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art I found their indoor Rodin collection closed for some re-construction. The outdoor sculpture garden was still open. This is yet another Cantor donation. Sculptures there include a Gate's of Hell torso and the Jean de Fiennes figure from the Bhurgers.

Rodin himself wrote several interesting books and he drew a prolific number of pencil action sketches.

LA County Art Falguiere LA County Art Carrier-Belleuse

It is interesting to compare Rodin's work with that of his contemporaries. This terra cotta damsel is from the studios of Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse where Rodin worked for several years.

The defiant lady on the cannon was created by Jean-Alexandre-Joseph Falguiére.


If you appreciate this page, you might also enjoy the art on display at my New York, Paris 2000 and Art 2000 pages.

Here are some Rodin web links
There is an excellent 26 minute online video about the Gates of Hell from the French Educational Canal Educatif à la Demande. It is an excellent video which made me think about the differences between the 1889 version and the more abstract 1900 version.
The Philadelphia Rodin Museum.
The Musée Rodin in Paris has an official web site which presents the 'official' view of the artist's works.
Some excellent photos are provided by the Fine Arts Department of Boston College.
(Boston seems to be a secret Rodin centre. Ruth Butler's book mentioned that most of the Art Museum of Boston Rodin collection was in storage).
ArtCyclopedia has a complete list of links to a vast amount of Rodin information.
There is an extensive Rodin photo collection at the Artchive.
And, to show that some people are far more dedicated and fanatical than I am, the Rodin-Web.org seems to list every collection of Rodin art, every Rodin book, every Rodin exhibit, etc.
The Coubertin Foundry did the "lost wax" bronze cast of the Gates which I saw at Stanford. This process provides precise rendering of the original plaster. Since this 1981 casting they have produced two more for Shizuoka, Japan and Seoul, South Korea. All the outdoor Rodins at Stanford were cast at least fifty years after Rodin's death.
I note that their web site mentions creation of "castings" and not creation of art works. They do state that "each step of the casting process is thus planned and executed in collaboration with the artist"; which is fairly difficult when the artist died ninety years before.
A sculptor's works can be reproduced long after his death with reasonable accuracy. Rodin himself rarely carved the actual marble works attributed to his studio. The casting process was farmed out to a factory operation. In some instances, hundreds of legitimate copies were made. Many copies, castings and reproductions of his work are still being made.
For a few hundred dollars you can buy your very own bronze Thinker. For an even more budget price you can purchase a Durastone copy. (This material is commonly used for sinks and construction products).
We are entering an interesting age when digital techniques can exactly reproduce a painter's brush strokes or a sculptor's chisel; and new laser printing techniques are commonly used to produce large scale photographs almost indestinquishable from their hand-made cousins.
Is a reproduction of a work of art still "art"?
Rodin would commonly create a small study in clay that his assistants would reproduce in a larger size.
More workers would make plaster casts and then many years later the foundry would make even more casts in bronze.
I remain confused as to the exact point where art and craft diverge.
There is a great blog by Gary Arseneau which details the many ways that a bronze casting of plaster molds of a sculptor's work -- signed long after his death -- should properly be termed as reproductions or even fakes instead of as original works of art.
Except for the cost of materials, a bronze casting given an posthumous authenticity by a French museum, has about as much claim to be an artist's original as does one of those $100 Durastone castings.
In 2010 the Rodin Museum in Paris flexed its muscles to claim a "copy" of "The Thinker".
I wonder on what logic their bureaucrats selected the arbitrary number of copies that seperate fake and real?
This page remains the most popular on my web site. I remain eager to read your feedback, suggestions and comments. Make note though, that I am just a simple Canadian with a camera, a computer and an appreciation for visual art. I am neither an art academic nor an art expert.

Corrections, useful comments and interesting opinions are always welcome.
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