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The Works of Auguste Rodin Analysis

Renowned, yet controversial 19th century French sculptor Auguste Rodin infused new life and direction into a dying art. His bronze and marble sculptures depicted the liveliness of spirit in inner human beings in two unique styles. ‘The Age of Bronze’ and the nude of St. John the Baptist gained him recognition as well as criticism claiming he used plaster casts of living models. The criticism persisted despite his protests of having undertaken exhaustive learning of anatomy.

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Rodin’s other masterpieces include ‘The Gates of Hell,’ ‘Eternal Spring,’ ‘The Burghers of Calais’ and ‘The Monument to Balzac.’ He also created outstanding portrait sculptures of many famous personalities. Sadly, Rodin’s genius and contribution to art was only recognized after his death in 1917.

Auguste Rodin was born on 12 November 1840 in France. He is credited with not only being one of the most famous and highly productive sculptors of the 19th century, but also with infusing new life and sense of purpose {albeit while also generating many public controversies} to an art that was dying.

Breaking away from the norms of 19th century academic conventions, Rodin believed that beauty in art can be manifested by correct depiction of the inner being of human beings. Concentrating on the liveliness of the human spirit, his raw and energetic sculptures succeeded in representing the most important features of human experience whether heroic, anguished, sad or sexually arousing. Rodin frequently resorted to slight alteration of human anatomy shape, poses or actions in order to represent movement and deep human emotions in a better fashion. He preferred to use either bronze or marble for his sculptures.

His works reflect one of two typical styles: the first displays an intentional roughness of form and meticulously carried out surface modeling, while the second is characterized by a polished surface and sensitivity of form.

Rodin began producing his sculptures from 1858. The most noteworthy among his early creations is ‘The Man with the Broken Nose’. He first gained recognition in 1876 for his sculpture ‘The Vanquished’ {later re-named as ‘The Age of Bronze’}. The statue was that of a young male nude. Rodin created it with such extreme realism that it created public controversy sparked off by art critics accusing him of using plaster casts of a live model to create the statue. The same controversy surfaced again when Rodin produced another masterpiece in 1880 this time of a nude St. John the Baptist.

The statue, like ‘The Age of Bronze’ was so physically realistic that critics refused to believe that plaster casts of a live model had not been used. Rodin’s many protests and explanations that his great and unique ability to sculpt figures with extreme realism was due to his exhaustive studies in anatomy that he did in tandem with his education and training in sculpture at the reputed school ‘Ecole Imperiale Speciale de Dessin et de Mathematiques’ under such imminent teachers as Antoine Louise Barye, fell on deaf ears as his critics stubbornly refused to change their opinion of him and his work.

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Rodin’s next masterpiece was a series of sculptures that were used to depict scenes from Dante’s ‘The Inferno’ on the monumental bronze doors of the Museum in Paris in 1880. Rodin created the sculptures as components for the work named ‘The Gates of Hell.’ His sculptures featured Adam, Eve, ‘The Kiss’, Ugolino and ‘The Thinker’. While these figures went into creating ‘The Gates of Hell,’ they are also viewed as individual masterpieces, each portraying Rodin’s own concept of humanity’s tortured progress.

The next great Rodin production was ‘Eternal Spring’ in 1884 that is widely appreciated as an admirable study of youthful passion. ‘The Burghers of Calais’ that followed in 1895 is a sculpture that involved a large-sized bronze collection of figures each characterized by significant psychological differences. ‘The Monument to Balzac’ that Rodin sculpted in 1898 was his favorite sculpture; featuring an outstanding depiction of the great French novelist and playwright’s spirit, Rodin always considered it as his best work.

Rodin also gained a good reputation as a portrait sculptor. He created sensational portrait sculptures of famous personalities of his time such as French poet, novelist and playwright Victor Hugo in 1885, English playwright George Bernard Shaw in 1906 and Roman Catholic Church leader Pope Benedict XV in 1915.

Rodin died on 17 November 1917. Sadly, the genius of the man who is widely acknowledged as second only to Michelangelo in all-time greatness was appreciated only after his death. Also acknowledged only after his death was the fact that his work formed a crucial connection between old fashioned and modern sculpture. Rodin’s works and style became a source of inspiration for a large number of latter-year sculptors like Henry Matisse, Constantin Brancusi and Henry Moore. Today, most of Rodin’s works are on display at 3 Rodin Museums in the world – one in Paris and two in Philadelphia and California in the United States.

References used

Auguste Rodin. 2006. Web.

Auguste Rodin. 1999. Web.

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