Auguste Rodin

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Auguste Rodin (1902)
Signature Auguste Rodin.JPG
Auguste Rodin

François-Auguste-René Rodin [ fʁɑ̃ˈswa oˈgyst ʁəˈne ʁɔˈdɛ̃ ] (born November 12, 1840 in Paris , † November 17, 1917 in Meudon ) was a French sculptor and draftsman. With him the age of modern plastic and sculpture began .


Auguste Rodin came from a conservative family of officials; his father worked in the police administration. At the age of 13, Rodin became a student at the École Spéciale de Dessin et de Mathématiques, known as "Petite École" in 1853. He stayed there until 1857. During this time he tried three times in vain to be accepted as a student at the famous École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Paris to study sculpture. Therefore, he continued his artistic career without any further official training.

When his sister died in 1862, Rodin had a life crisis and joined the Pères du Saint-Sacrement order . But as soon as he entered the order, he was released for his artistic work for all time.

Two years later, Rodin became a student of Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse . He followed his master to Brussels in 1870, but the artistic dispute grew into a tangible dispute, and Rodin separated from Carrier-Belleuse in 1870. From this time on Rodin also received his first artistic recognition through public commissions.

Camille Claudel (1884)

In the years 1875/76 Rodin undertook a study trip to Italy in order to decipher the secret of Michelangelo. In 1877 he returned to Paris, among other things to study France's Gothic cathedrals. The porcelain factory in Sèvres signed Rodin for the years 1879/82. Rodin met Camille Claudel in 1883 . She first became his pupil, later his lover. The separation took place in 1893.

Rodin settled in Meudon in 1894 and gathered a group of young writers and artists around him. "It is you who represents the most glorious, the most perfect embodiment of plastic art in our century," said contemporary prominent art critic Octave Mirbeau about Rodin.

Gwen John: Self-Portrait (1902: Tate Gallery , London)

At the turn of the century, Rodin participated in the early exhibitions of the Pastel Society . At the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900 , 171 of his works were presented in the pavilion Rodin . In 1904 he met the painter Gwen John from Wales , she became his model and his lover for about ten years. In the same year he became President of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers (previously Vice President) , replacing James McNeill Whistler in this position . In 1905/06 Rainer Maria Rilke worked as Rodin's private secretary. In 1907, Rodin installed another studio in the Hôtel Biron in Paris, which can now be visited as the Musée Rodin .

Rodin (1914)

In January 1917, at the age of 76, Rodin married his long-time partner Rose Beuret, who died of pneumonia in February. Auguste Rodin died in Meudon on November 17, 1917. On November 24, Rodin was buried next to his wife Rose in the park of the Musée Rodin de Meudon .

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of death, a 2 euro commemorative coin was issued in February 2017 .


In addition to the Musée Rodin in Paris, the Musée Rodin in Meudon and the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia are dedicated to the life and work of the artist. An extensive collection of his work can also be seen in the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo. The second largest collection of Rodin's works after the Musée Rodin is at Stanford University from the estate of B. Gerald Cantor, who died in 1996 and owned the largest private collection of Rodin's works.



Rodin as a pioneer of modernity

Auguste Rodin, 1893 (photo by Nadar )
Auguste Rodin, 1898
Grave site on the grounds of the Musée Rodin de Meudon

Auguste Rodin is considered to be an important pioneer of modernism , who set new standards, especially in the field of plastic and sculpture, and who influenced the art of his successors in a wide variety of ways. In contrast to other great sculptors of his time (for example Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse ), he opposed the prevailing idealizing academicism and tried new forms of representation without losing sight of tradition. On the contrary, he saw himself and his art as a “bridge between yesterday and tomorrow”. The most important influences are probably the sculptors of ancient Greece as well as Donatello and above all Michelangelo . Rodin's style was tried again and again to classify, among other things as impressionistic ("art of humps and hollows", Rodin), symbolistic or realistic. He was also seen as a pioneer of Expressionism and Cubism .

In particular, the non-finito can be considered an important stylistic feature of many of his works, which should be formative for many future artists. In contrast to, for example, Michelangelo's unfinished works, which were mostly left in this state for reasons such as lack of money or because of his strong doubts about being able to do justice to the original idea in the implementation, Rodin tried to deliberately use this fragmentary as an expressive stylistic device use.

His assemblages, in particular, are extremely modern and far ahead of their time, opening up other contexts of meaning by recombining parts of existing works. His independent drawings and watercolors (in contrast to the work sketches, studies and copies), which are extremely expressive with the most economical means, can also be regarded as quite bold.

A handful of erotic drawings that were exhibited in Weimar in 1906 even led to the resignation of the then director of the Grand Ducal Museum in Weimar, Harry Graf Kessler . This part of his work is far less known than his pictorial work.

The man with the broken nose

The Man with the Broken Nose (L'homme au nez cassé), 1864: With the distinctive head of one of his first works, Rodin broke for the first time with the sleek, frozen ideals of beauty in academic salon art. At first, however, the bust, for which a worker at the Parisian horse market was a model and which at the same time reminds of the facial features of Rodin's great role model Michelangelo, was unsuccessful: it was rejected by the jury of the Parisian salon. Rodin's artistic and commercial success was a few years away. The breakthrough for Rodin came in Germany when the State Art Collections in Dresden purchased the bust for their collection at the beginning of the 20th century.

The citizens of Calais

The citizens of Calais
(Place de l'Hôtel de Ville in Calais)

In 1885 Auguste Rodin received an order from the city of Calais for a memorial to commemorate the six legendary noble citizens of the city who were willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of the city during the English siege of the Hundred Years' War in 1347 .

Rodin's work The Citizens of Calais (Les Bourgeois de Calais) is a prime example of Rodin's innovative, and sometimes even revolutionary, conception of art. Particularly in the monument art of the time, the question of presentation was a central dignity motif of the work. Rodin's design provided for a plinth instead of the usual raised plinth , bringing his citizens back to the ground at eye level, as it were. Often there was talk of the “democratization” of sculpture in general and monument art in particular. It was not until 1895, after several drafts and tough disputes, that its citizens came to the list, but initially only with a marble plinth and elsewhere. It was not until 1945 that the group was placed at ground level in front of the town hall in Calais.

Another striking feature of the group is their all-round visibility, which gives the monumental tradition of monuments a frontal view a runaway. With the individually designed group members, Rodin particularly focused on the hands as the most important means of expression not only for this work. On the one hand the posture of the figures and on the other hand the “speaking” hands full of character clearly illustrate the different feelings of the citizens who are looking towards the victim's death. None of the individually named citizens is deprived of their individuality, although they all appear together as a (albeit quite heterogeneous) community of fate - it is also this balancing act that makes Rodin's work one of his undisputed main works.

The gate of hell

The Gate of Hell (first bronze cast of the portal posthumously 1926, Musée Rodin )

The Gate of Hell (La porte de l'enfer) can probably be seen as the real main and life work of Rodin. As early as 1880, Rodin received an order from the French state to design a bronze portal for the new Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. The design never reached the originally planned execution. Nevertheless, Rodin continued to work on it for almost 37 years, until shortly before his death in 1917, where he was supposed to isolate many figures from their original context and elevate them to independent works of art - the best-known example is certainly The Thinker (Le Penseur).

It was not until posthumously (1926) that the first bronze casting of the gate of hell was made. The original literary inspiration for the work was Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy ; In the course of the editing and revision, other works, especially Charles Baudelaire's The Flowers of Evil , the depiction of the damned figures who lead the existential struggle against the hopelessness and finality of death.

Octave Mirbeau explained: “Rodin let his imagination run wild [...]. This enormous lyrical composition comprises more than 300 characters, each of which embodies a different attitude or sensation, each expressing a form of human passion, pain or curse in a vast synthesis. "

List of works

Striding Man (1877/78)
The Kiss (1886): third copy of the sculpture, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek
1863 Bust of Peter Eymard
1864 The man with the broken nose
1875/76 The Bronze Age
1877 The vanquished
1878 John the Baptist
1877/78 Striding man
1879 Call to arms
1880 Adam or the great shadow
1880 The Thinker
1880/82 Crouching
1881 Eve
1881 The three shadows
1882 Bust of the sculptor Jules Dalou
1884 Fugit amor
1884 Endless spring
1885-89 Monument to the Citizens of Calais
1885 Avarice and lust
1885 The gate of hell
1885 The Danaide
1885 Venus toilet
1885 The one who was once the beautiful helmet maker
1886 Faun and nymph
1886 The kiss
1887 The centauress
1889 The eternal idol
1890-1891 iris
1894 Christ and Magdalena
1895 The fall of an angel
1897 Monument to Balzac (previously several studies, as a nude and clothed)
1902 The Thinker (bronze)
1905 Paolo and Francesca
1906-1911 Hanako cycle, masks and busts after Madame Hanako alias Ōta Hisa
1907 Bust of Helene von Nostitz
1908 La Cathédrale
1909 Monument to Victor Hugo (Vienna, Belvedere )
1909 Torso of a young woman
1910 Dance studies




  • Günther Anders : Homeless sculpture. About Rodin. Edited by Gerhard Oberschlick in connection with Werner Reimann as translator, CH Beck, Munich 1994, ISBN 3-406-37450-6 .
  • Roland Bothner : reason and figure. The story of the relief and Auguste Rodin's gate to hell . W. Fink, Munich 1993, ISBN 3-7705-2795-X .
  • Roland Bothner: Elements of the plastic from Donatello to Brancusi . Heidelberg 2000.
  • Roland Bothner: Auguste Rodin, The Citizens of Calais . Frankfurt am Main / Leipzig 1993.
  • Wolfgang Brückle: From Rodin to Baselitz. The torso in modern sculpture. [Catalog book for the exhibition From Rodin to Baselitz - The Torso in the Sculpture of Modernism in the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart from April 7 to August 19, 2001]. Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern-Ruit 2001, ISBN 3-7757-1034-5 .
  • Dieter Brunner [Ed.]: The upper half. The bust since Auguste Rodin. [published on the occasion of the exhibition of the same name, Städtische Museen Heilbronn, July 9th - October 9th 2005 ...]. Heidelberg 2005, ISBN 3-936921-01-6 (museum edition ), ISBN 3-89904-177-1 (book trade edition ).
  • documenta III. International exhibition ; Catalog: Volume 1: Painting and Sculpture; Volume 2: Hand Drawings; Volume 3: Industrial Design, Graphics; Kassel / Cologne 1964 (In 1964, his works were shown at the documenta III in Kassel in the famous hand drawings department .)
  • Manfred Fath (ed.): Auguste Rodin, Das Höllentor. Drawings and plastic. [on the occasion of the exhibition in the Städtische Kunsthalle Mannheim from September 28, 1991 to January 6, 1992]. Munich 1991. ISBN 3-7913-1162-X .
  • Ralph Gleis , Maria Obenaus (ed.): Rodin - Rilke - Hofmannsthal. Man and his genius . Berlin 2017, ISBN 978-3-95732-297-5 .
  • Otto Grautoff : Rodin, artist monographs, Velhagen & Klasing, Bielefeld and Leipzig, 1911
  • Dominique Jarrassé: Rodin. Fascination of movement. Editions Terrail, Paris 1993, ISBN 2-87939-083-4 .
  • Claude Keisch (Red.): Auguste Rodin. Plastic, drawings, graphics . Berlin 1979.
  • Per Kirkeby : Rodin. La porte de l'enfer. Gachnang & Springer, Bern - Berlin 1985, ISBN 978-3-906127-06-4 .
  • Brygida Ochaim and Julia Wallner : Auguste Rodin and Madame Hanako, catalog for the exhibition in the Georg Kolbe Museum in 2016 with texts by Brygida Ochaim, Julia Wallner, François Blanchetière, Gabriele Brandstetter , Beate Wonde, Wienand, Cologne 2016, ISBN 978-3- 86832-331-3 .
  • Rainer Maria Rilke : Auguste Rodin . Wiesbaden 1949.
  • Rainer Maria Rilke: Auguste Rodin . Leipzig 1920.
  • Auguste Rodin: The cathedrals of France, with Rodin's hand drawings on 32 panels . Justified transfer from Max Brod , Kurt Wolff, Leipzig 1917.
  • JA Schmoll called Eisenwerth : Rodin studies. Personality, works, impact, bibliography. Prestel, Munich 1983, ISBN 3-7913-0353-8 .
  • Josef A. Schmoll-Eisenwerth: Auguste Rodin - the citizens of Calais - work and effect . [Exhibition catalog; Sculpture Museum Glaskasten Marl, November 23, 1997 to March 1, 1998; Musée royal de Mariemont , March 27 to June 21, 1998]. Ostfildern-Ruit 1997.
  • Christiane Wohlrab: Non-finito as a topos of modernity: the marble sculptures by Auguste Rodin . [Berlin writings on art], Wilhelm Fink Verlag , Paderborn 2016, ISBN 978-3-7705-5985-5 .


  • Auguste Rodin (OT: Rodin ), feature film, France, Belgium 2017, director: Jacques Doillon . Rodin: Vincent Lindon , Claudel: Izïa Higelin .
  • Rodin. Pioneer of modernity. (OT: La turbulence Rodin. ) Documentary, France, 2017, 52:05 min., Written and directed: Claire Duguet and Leslie Grunberg, production: arte France, Schuch Productions, RMN-Grand Palais, first broadcast: April 2, 2017 at arte, summary of arte.
  • Divino # inferno. Auguste Rodin and his gate of hell. (OT: Et Rodin créa la "Porte de l'Enfer". ) Documentary, France, 2017, 60:43 min., Book: Zoé Balthus and Bruno Aveillan, director: Bruno Aveillan, production: arte France, Les Bons Clients, RMN-Grand Palais, first broadcast: April 2, 2017 by arte, table of contents by ARD .
  • Camille Claudel . Feature film, France, 1988, 2 hours 26 minutes 42 seconds, director: Bruno Nuytten , a. a. with Madeleine Robinson as mother, Isabelle Adjani as Camille Claudel and Gérard Depardieu as Rodin. The docu-drama received two Oscar nominations in 1990 and won seven of the fourteen categories nominated by the César in 1989.

Web links

Commons : Auguste Rodin  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files


  1. Monika Buschey : October 12, 1886: Auguste Rodin and Camille Claudel sign a contract. In: WDR 3 , ZeitZeichen / NDR Info , October 12, 2011, audio file, 14:45 min., Quote: “Rodin is helpless. Stunned."
  2. ^ The last years. In: Musée Rodin , (English).
  3. Photo: The grave of Auguste Rodin from
  4. Illustration of the coin
  5. Maev Kennedy: Rodin treasures destroyed with 'museum in the sky. In: The Guardian , September 21, 2001.
  6. Honorary members of the Academy of Fine Arts 1808–2014. In: Dresden University of Fine Arts , accessed on April 3, 2017, (PDF; 23 pp., 169 kB).
  7. Axel Burchardt: History of the University of Jena , April 9, 2015: "Auguste Rodin received an honorary doctorate in 1905 - after a scandal in Weimar".
  8. Auguste Rodin: Balzac In: Musée d'Orsay , 2006, (German).
  9. Rodin. In: St. Petersburg Eifman Ballet , accessed April 4, 2017.
  10. Review