Auguste Rodin (born François-Auguste-René Rodin; November 12, 1840 – November 17, 1917) was a French artist, most famous as a sculptor. He was the preeminent French sculptor of his time, and remains one of the few sculptors widely recognized outside the visual arts community.
Although Rodin is generally considered the progenitor of modern sculpture, he did not set out to rebel against the past. He was schooled traditionally in Paris’s École des Beaux-Arts system, took a craftsman-like approach to his work, and desired academic recognition. Sculpturally, he possessed a unique ability to model a complex, turbulent, deeply pocketed surface in clay.
Many of Rodin’s most notable sculptures were roundly criticized during his lifetime. They clashed with the predominant figure sculpture tradition, in which works were decorative, formulaic, or highly thematic. Rodin’s most original work departed from traditional themes of mythology and allegory, modeled the human body with realism, and celebrated individual character and physicality. Rodin was sensitive to the controversy about his work, but did not change his style, and successive works brought increasing favor from the government and the artistic community.
From the unexpected realism of his first major figure—inspired by his 1875 trip to Italy—to the unconventional memorials whose commissions he later sought, Rodin’s reputation grew. By 1900, he was a world-renowned artist. Wealthy private clients sought Rodin’s work after his World’s Fair exhibit, and he kept company with a variety of high-profile intellectuals and artists. He married his life-long companion, Rose Beuret, in the last year of both their lives. His sculpture suffered a decline in popularity after his death in 1917, but within a few decades his legacy solidified.