(French, 1840–1917) is renowned as one of the foremost French sculptors of the 19th century, celebrated for his expressive and modern depictions of the human form in bronze as well as other materials. Rodin was born in Paris, and studied decorative arts and sculpture intensely at the Petite École while still in his youth; although he wished to continue his practice, he was rejected by the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts three times by the age of 18. He began creating works commercially to help support his family, and after the death of his sister at a young age, briefly joined a religious order. There he was encouraged to return to what he was most passionate about—painting and sculpting—and he eventually returned to creating work commercially by day and pursuing his own work by night in the 1860s.
During these early years, he often used his lifelong partner Rose Bueret as a model, in addition to creating other figurative sculptures such as Man with a Broken Nose
in bronze, which were rejected by the Salon. Rodin traveled to Rome in the 1870s, where he was inspired to create works with more classical subject matter. Upon his return to Paris he created several polemical works, such as Saint John the Baptist
, which incited controversy for its portrayal of a saint as an unidealized nude. In 1880, Rodin received a commission from the French Ministry of Fine Arts to create The Gates of Hell
, a monumental bronze work that eventually lead to the creation of many of his later sculptures, including The Thinker
and The Three Shades
. Rodin’s reputation grew throughout the 1880s, and his production and workshop expanded as he made more freestanding sculptures and bronze busts of friends and acquaintances from Parisian high society. Rodin’s later monumental series, including the moving narrative of the The Burghers of Calais
created on commission for the town of Calais, France, and his portraits of Balzac, confirmed his status as a sculptor with uniquely expressive abilities. In 1900, an entire pavilion at the Paris World’s Fair exhibited his work, and during the final years of his life he had as many as 50 assistants helping him complete the high number of commissions he received. He died just outside of Paris in 1917. Today his work can be found in the collections of the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia, the Cantor Center in California, the Musée Rodin in Paris, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Tate in London, among many other institutions.