Introduction

Auguste Rodin (French, 1840 – 1917) is one of the most famous sculptors in all history. Though controversial in his own time, his name and art has reached unparalleled heights of fame, placing him in the pantheon of great sculptors alongside Michelangelo, Bernini, and Praxiteles. His depiction of the human form was unlike that of any sculptor before him. This has made Rodin’s work popular at great museums and at auction.

Portrait_of_Auguste_Rodin_1896
Auguste Rodin, ca. 1896. Rodin Museum and Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Biography

Born in 1840 in Paris, Rodin’s art career got off to a rocky start when he was rejected from entry into the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1857. Without the academic training of the Ecole, Rodin needed to work hard to attain success. This he did with single-minded devotion, and soon he attained recognition throughout the world. Even so, Rodin’s works were constantly rejected by the French Government, even after he had attained great success and fame, as he departed from the subdued classicism favored by both the government and the artistic establishment. Eventually, however, Rodin was recognized as the genius that he truly was, and his work is regarded as among the best that has ever been carved in marble and cast in bronze. Rodin died in France in 1917, and was buried beside his wife Rose under a copy of The Thinker.

Rodin’s Style

Auguste Rodin’s sculptures, as well as his drawings and prints, show the artist’s highly original and fiercely emotional work. Unlike his Academic contemporaries, who copied ancient sculpture and ascribed to classical ideals of beauty, order, symmetry, and reason in their art, Rodin explored emotions like love, desire, anger, and fear within his works, while highlighting the erotic and, sometimes, even the ugly aspects of his subjects. His figures have broken noses, cavorting in suggestive poses, and contort in positions that preempt The Exorcist. He was fascinated by the darker sides of humanity, basing his masterwork, The Gates of Hell, on the medieval Italian epic, The Inferno, by Dante Aligheri. His sculptures often have a textured, almost unfinished exterior. While this aesthetic was also favored by Michelangelo in the Renaissance (Il Divino called it non finito, “unfinished”), it was certainly viewed as sketchy and not acceptable in Academic sculpture. Rodin did not care, and executed his sculptures in this manner, which is strikingly similar to what Impressionists like Claude Monet (French, 1840 – 1926) did for painting. Rodin, in short, brought the world of sculpture, kicking and screaming, into the modern age.

Jean D'Aire bronze sculpture by Auguste Rodin
Auguste Rodin (after), "Jean D'Aire" from "The Burghers of Calais". Modelled 1884 - 1895, cast ca. mid 20th century. Bronze.

The Sculptures of Rodin

Auguste Rodin’s sculptures are among the most recognizable in the world. The Thinker, taken from his larger Gates of Hell, is perhaps the most well-known of these, with an everyman contemplating existence and the pains of those burning in the Pit below. Unlike a painting, however, bronze sculptures can be reproduced, and Nest Egg Auctions has sold a bronze after an original by Rodin. Jean d’Aire (modeled 1884 – 1895, cast early-mid 20th century) portrays a 14th century French grandee who gave himself to the English king to lift the siege of his home city of Calais. Part of a monument by Rodin entitled The Burghers of Calais, this sculpture shows Jean d’Aire standing defiantly, his robe open and his well-modeled foot and bare leg visible. Around his neck, there is a rope. D’Aire is offering his life for his home city, and the emotional power of this sculpture is abundantly clear.

Drypoint of Antonin Proust by Auguste Rodin
Auguste Rodin, "Antonin Proust". Ca. late 19th - early 20th century. Drypoint on Paper.

The Drypoints and Sketches of Rodin

Rodin also produced sketches as studies for his sculptures, and released drypoints of some of his designs. Nest Egg had the privilege of selling a drypoint by Rodin of the noted French journalist and politician Antonin Proust. This drypoint, executed in red ink, is a powerful rendition of the man, who is shown in profile. Rodin’s Antonin Proust demonstrates Rodin’s mastery of drawing and drypoint as well as sculpture.

Selling Rodin at Nest Egg Auctions

Nest Egg Auctions is always excited to sell works by and after Auguste Rodin. Given his immense influence on the History of Art, and his incredible approach and talent, Rodin’s works humble us and give us a wonderful vision of the pinnacles of human achievement. If you have a bronze or an etching by Rodin, we would love to see it! Please send us a picture, and we would be happy to discuss your masterpiece with you.