Auguste Rodin’s story recalls the archetypal struggle of the modern artist. He was born in obscurity and, despite showing early promise, rejected by the official academies. He spent years laboring as an ornamental sculptor before success and scandal set him on the road to international fame. By the time of his death, he was likened to Michelangelo. His reputation as the father of modern sculpture remains unchanged, and in recent years the wider exhibition of his many drawings has also elevated his reputation as a draughtsman. However, his many intimate – some have suggested exploitative – drawings of his models have altered the nature of the traditional respect paid to this eminent artist. Rodin stripped away many of the narative references to classical myth that were still attached to academic sculpture in the late nineteenth century and placed a new stress on the dignity of simple human moments. The fame of works such as The Kiss (1884), The Thinker (1880), and The Age of Bronze (1876) has transformed such depictions into paragons of high art, yet until Rodin’s age, such sculpture’s importance and novelty was not appreciated. Instead of representing gods or muses, he sculpted lifelike figures in distinctly modern attitudes of love, thought, and proud physicality. Rodin’s achievement as a sculptor was to find a way to make the brute materiality of sculpture express the fleeting mobility of the modern individual. To achieve this, he abandoned the polished and idealized figures of academic sculpture and produced rougher, more unfinished surfaces, which better expressed restlessness, corporeality, and movement. While this often suggests psychological agitation, it also evokes the constant motion characteristic of life in modern times. Rodin’s work process often encouraged him to reuse compositions in different ways. Most famously, figures that appear in his The Gates of Hell were often rendered at later dates, created separately and at different scales. But Rodin would also represent the same figure multiple times in the same sculpture or fragment figures into individual body parts like hands or arms. All of these processes were encouraged by his very unclassical approach to composition, and they produced strange and jarring effects.
Bronze with dark brown patina
Bronze à pâtine brune foncée
Height: 9 5/8 in – 24.5 cm
Conceived in 1884 and in this reduced size in 1898; this bronze version cast circa 1905
L. Maillard, Etudes sur quelques artistes originaux. Auguste Rodin statuaire, Paris, 1899, pp. 121-22.
G. Grappe, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1927, no. 69 (another cast illustrated p. 42).
I. Jianou & C. Goldscheider, Rodin, Paris, 1967, p. 96.
R. Descharnes & J.F. Chabrun, Auguste Rodin, Lausanne, 1967, p. 96 (another cast illustrated pls. 56-57).
J.L. Tancock, The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin, Philadelphia, 1976, no. 32b (another cast illustrated pp. 241-247).
A.E. Elsen, Rodin Rediscovered, Washington, 1981, p. 68 (large clay version illustrated fig. 313).
A. Le Normand-Romain (ed.), The Bronzes of Rodin, Catalogue of Works in the Musée Rodin, vol. I, Paris, 2007, p. 334 (another cast illustrated).
Bronze with brown patina
Bronze à pâtine brune
Height: 23 5/8 in – 60.2 cm
Conceived in 1886 and cast between 1914 and 1918
G. Grappe, Catalogue du Musée Rodin, Paris, 1927, nos. 91-92 (marble version illustrated, p. 47).
G. Grappe, Le Musée Rodin, Paris, 1947, p. 142 (marble version illustrated, pl. 71).
C. Goldscheider, Rodin: sa vie, son oeuvre, son héritage, Paris, 1962 (marble version illustrated).
A.E. Elsen, Rodin, New York, 1963, p. 62 (another cast illustrated, p. 63).
B. Champigneulle, Rodin, London, 1967, pp. 157 and 282, nos. 78-79 (marble version illustrated, pp. 162-163).
R. Descharnes and J.-F. Chabrun, Auguste Rodin, Lausanne, 1967, p. 130 (marble version illustrated, p.131).
I. Jianou and C. Goldscheider, Rodin, Paris, 1967, p. 100 (marble version illustrated, pls. 54 and 55).
L. Goldscheider, Rodin Sculptures, London, 1970, p. 121, no. 49 (marble version illustrated).
J.L. Tancock, The Sculpture of Auguste Rodin, Philadelphia, 1976, p. 77, no. 151 (marble version illustrated).
J. de Caso and P. Sanders, Rodin’s Sculpture: A Critical Study of the Spreckels Collection, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, 1977, pp. 148-153, no. 22 (another cast illustrated, p. 150).
N. Barbier, Marbres de Rodin, Collection du Musée, Paris, 1987, pp. 184-187 and 258, no. 79 (marble version illustrated, pp. 185 and 187).
A. Le Normand-Romain, Le Baiser de Rodin/The Kiss by Rodin, Paris, 1995 (another cast illustrated, figs. 2 and 7; marble version illustrated, fig. 3).
A. Le Normand-Romain, Rodin, Paris, 1997, p. 49 (terracotta version illustrated, p. 48).
A. Pingeot, “Rodin au Musée du Luxembourg” in La Revue du Musée d’Orsay, autumn 2000, pp. 67-70 and 74, no. 11.
R. Butler, “Auguste Rodin” in European Sculpture of the Nineteenth Century: The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue, 2001, pp. 326-330.
A.E. Elsen, Rodin’s Art: The Rodin Collection of the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for the Visual Arts at Stanford University, New York, 2003, pp. 214-215, fig. 167 (another cast illustrated).
R. Masson and V. Mattiussi, Rodin, Paris, 2004, p. 40 (marble and terracotta versions illustrated, pp. 41-42).
A. Le Normand-Romain, The Bronzes of Rodin: Catalogue of Works in the Musée Rodin, Paris, 2007, vol. I, p. 162, no. S.2393 (another cast illustrated, pp. 158-162; marble version illustrated, p. 163).
Bronze with brown and green patina
Bronze à pâtine brune et verte
Height: 20 5/8 in – 52.4 cm
Conceived in 1894; this bronze version cast between 1906-1918
London, The Grosvenor Gallery, From the Human Form, April-May 1968, no. 55.