Auguste Rodin, French, 1840-1917.
Rodin is considered the precedent of modern sculpture for his rejection of traditional treatment of sculpture and preference for realism. Although he respected traditional sculpture, he was never accepted at the École des Beaux-Arts, and much of his work was shrouded in controversy. After his rejection from the academy and the death of his sister, Rodin prepared to take his vows at the Society of the Blessed Sacrament, but Father Pierre-Julien Eymard encouraged him to follow his dream of becoming a sculptor. By the 1880’s and 1890’s, Rodin’s career really began to pick up, and he received commissions from a variety of people, although his work continued to be controversial (he was once accused of casting the figure for The Age of Bronze from life).
Rodin usually didn’t care to create the fantastic and mythological beings or religious figures that were always so popular with critics and academics. Instead, he created more realistic figures with a great variety of emotion, from the damned and resigned expressions of the Burghers of Calais to the touching tenderness of his famous The Kiss. He sculpted many portraits, busts of significant French people like Romantic writer Victor Hugo and playwright Honore de Balzac. In his older years, he published a book on the Gothic cathedrals of France, and donated all of his unpurchased artwork to the French government, which later became the Rodin Museum.