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Auguste Rodin
(1840-1917)

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(François) Auguste René Rodin was a French sculptor, who imbued his work with great psychological force, which was expressed largely through texture and modeling. He is regarded as the foremost sculptor of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Rodin was born in Paris on November 12, 1840, the son of a police official. 

He studied art in a free school for artisans and on his own at the Louvre, because he was refused admittance to the École des Beaux-Arts. For many years he worked for other sculptors, including Ernest Carrier-Belleuse, at the same time carrying out studies in anatomy. 

  • France 1937. Auguste Rodin, and in the background his sculpture "The Thinker", modelled 1880. 

France 1937. Auguste Rodin. Expressionism. The artist on the backgroound of his sculpture "The Thinker", modelled 1880.

Fujeira 1971. Air Mail Stamp. Rodin: "The Thinker".

For Rodin, beauty in art consisted in the truthful representation of inner states, and to this end he often subtly distorted anatomy. His sculptures, in bronze and marble, falls generally into two styles. 

The more characteristic style reveals a deliberate roughness of form and a painstaking surface modeling; the other is marked by a polished surface and delicacy of form. 

Rodin's third influential event in 1864 was the creation and submission of his "Man with a Broken Nose" sculpture to the Paris Salon. It was rejected, but eighteen years later, he redid the piece, had it carved in marble, and submitted it to the Salon. This time it was accepted!   

Reminiscing in 1887, Rodin said, "That mask determined all my future work. It is the first good piece of modeling I ever did. From that time I sought to look all around my work, to draw it well in every respect. I have kept that mask before my mind in everything I have done". 

  • Fujeira 1971. Air Mail Stamp. Rodin: "The Thinker". 

Auguste Rodin. "Man with the Broken Nose". (Mask). 1862-63.

Czech Republic 2002. Auguste Rodin. Expressionism. Souvenir sheet.

France 1974. Auguste Rodin. Expressionism. Eurpa Stamp. "The Age of Bronze".

In 1875-76, after an exhilarating trip to Italy and firsthand knowledge of the sculptures of Michelangelo, Rodin completed his first masterwork, "The Vanquished", a young male nude later called "The Age of Bronze".

This sculpture led to the first of numerous public controversies that were to beset Rodin throughout his career. Accustomed to the highly artificial appearance of most 19th-century academic sculpture, the critics of the day refused to believe that Rodin was able to model a figure so realistically without using plaster casts of a live model. This was not the case, but rather a result of his meticulous anatomic studies. 

The sculpture was first shown in Brussels and later in Paris during 1877. The scandal which ensued after its first exhibition established his artistic reputation.

  • France 1974. Europa Stamp. "The Age of Bronze" [L'Age de l'Airain]. 

The exhibition in 1880 of his nude statue, St. John the Baptist, which stressed the human qualities of his subject, increased Rodin’s reputation. In the same year he began work on the Gates of Hell, a sculptured bronze door for the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. The door represented chiefly scenes from The Inferno, the first section of Dante’s Divine Comedy. 

Although Rodin did not complete the "Gates of Hell", he created models, or studies, of many of its component sculptures, all of which were acclaimed as independent achievements. Among these works are "The Kiss", "Ugolino", "The Thinker", "Adam and Eve"; these sculptures came to represent the sculptor's own vision of humanity's anguished progress. 

In 1886 he completed "The Burghers of Calais"; this sculpture is a monumental bronze group in which the historical figures are represented with great psychological differentiation. 

Great Britain 1995. Auguste Rodin. Expressionism. "The Kiss", modelled c. 1884. France 1974. Auguste Rodin. Expressionism. "The Burghers of Calais". modelled c. 1884/85.

Hungary 1981. Auguste Rodin. Expressionism. Stationery "The Kiss".

The Netherlands 1989. Auguste Rodin. Expressionism. "The Kiss".

Here is a Dutch version of "The Kiss".  

In 1989 The Netherlands celebrated the 150th anniversary of Dutch Railways, and this stamp was issued in a set of three different stamps. 

It shows Rodin's "The Kiss" (kissing good-bye !?) with a huge railway clock in the front, to remind the traveller of the time :-)

  • The Netherlands 1989.  "The Kiss". 

Rodin was a highly original sculptural genius but he openly acknowledged his indebtedness to the artists who had preceded him; the masters of ancient Greece and The Renaissance; Phidias, Donatello, Michelangelo. 

He was also intensely interested in Gothic art, the cathedrals of France. After viewing and studying the Magnificent cathedral at Amiens he felt that the basic inspiration came from the voices of nature, from the trees with their strong limbs reaching upward. 

In the two right hands with fingers arching together he probably thought that he had discovered the source and inspiration for the gothic arch, that arch which with repetition and expansion led to the creation of the superb gothic cathedrals. 

The hands are obviously those of separate individuals. A spiritual communication between the two is expressed but the fingers and hands remain slightly separated. Could he, through that separation, have been expressing the aloneness of all human beings, the desire for a complete unification which is hardly ever realized, but so much longed for? 

The stamp is engraved by the French engraver Pierre Albuisson. 

  • Monaco 1991. "La Cathédrale". 

Monaco 1991. Auguste Rodin. Expressionism. "La Cathédrale".

France 1990. Auguste Rodin. Expressionism. "Cambodgienne Assise". Painting 1906.

Rodin was not only a sculptor of public monuments but a tireless artist who produced numerous small and intimate sculptures. 

These works range from highly developed pieces such as "Eternal Spring" (1884) and "The Kiss", two of his most popular studies of youthful passion, to fragmentary studies of limbs and heads. 

He was also much in demand as a portrait sculptor and produced memorable images of many of the most famous men and women of his time, ranging from Victor Hugo (1883) to George Bernard Shaw (1906) and Pope Benedict XV (1915), and of many society figures on both sides of the Atlantic. 

  • France 1990. "Cambodgienne Assise" [Sitting Woman from Cambodia]. Painting 1906. Musée Auguste Rodin, Paris. 

After 1900, Rodin worked mostly on a smaller scale, for example, on studies of ballet dancers (c.1910-12) and on drawings. The outbreak of World War I in 1914 brought him considerable hardship; his health and mental stability gave way rapidly before his death in 1917, shortly after his 77th birthday. 

A number of his works can be found in the Musée Rodin, Paris, and a Rodin museum is located in Philadelphia, USA. A number of his works can be seen at the New Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, who possesses 33 works by Rodin, 15 of which are in bronze, acquired by the Danish brewer Carl Jacobsen (Carlsberg Beer). 

Sources and links:

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