Auguste Rodin – Virtual Tour
Auguste Rodin (1840 – 1917) is considered the father of modern sculpture. He possessed a unique ability to model a complex and deeply pocketed surface in clay.
Rodin’s most original work departed from traditional themes of mythology and allegory, he modeled the human body with realism and with personal character and physicality.
Many of his most notable sculptures were criticized during his lifetime. However, by 1900 he was a world-renowned artist and remained one of the few sculptors widely known outside the arts community.
Virtual Tour of Auguste Rodin
- Eternal Springtime
- Two Hands
- The Cathedral
- The Hand of God
- The Thinker
- The Gates of Hell
- The Hand from the Tomb
- The Sirens
- Young Mother in the Grotto
- Colossal Head of Saint John the Baptist
- The Secret
- The Thinker
- The Burghers of Calais
- The Kiss
- Orpheus and Eurydice
- The Three Shades
Highlights Tour of Auguste Rodin
“Eternal Springtime” by Auguste Rodin was modeled in clay during the same period as “The Kiss” in 1884. This sculpture depicts a pair of lovers caught in a floating embrace.
Their outstretched and graceful limbs are in sharp contrast to the compact, inward-focused sculpture of “The Kiss.” Museum: Rodin Museum, Philadelphia
“Two Hands” was modeled by Auguste Rodin. A plaster version of this sculpture is inscribed “Hands of Rodin and Rose Beuret”, which suggests that these clasped hands are the hands of Rodin, the sculptor, and his lover.
Rodin stated that he felt an: “intense passion for the expression of the human hands.” During his career, he modeled thousands of hands as small clay studies.
For Rodin, the hand and the interplay of hands within groups of figures were expressive components of his sculptures. Rodin imbued hands with a range of emotions, from anger and despair to compassion and kindness.
He kept many hand clay studies in his studio where he would contemplate them as sculptural forms in space. Museum: Rodin Museum, Philadelphia
“The Cathedral” was modeled by Auguste Rodin and depicts two right hands whose fingers are about to touch. The sculpture creates an intimate space between the hands.
The “Cathedral” was produced many times by Rodin, in stone and bronze and every time one element stayed the same, the sculpture is made up of two right hands, each belonging to two different individuals.
This masterpiece was entitled “The Ark of the Covenant” before being named “The Cathedral”.
In the “Two Hands” plaster version there is an inscribed “Hands of Rodin and Rose Beuret”, which suggests that these hands are the hands of Rodin, the sculptor, and his lover. Museum: Rodin Museum, Philadelphia
The Hand of God
“The Hand of God” was modeled by Auguste Rodin and it attempts to compare the art of sculpture to the divine process of creation.
The sculpture depicts a right hand, emerging from the earth, holding a lump of clay from which two struggling emergent figures are being modeled.
In this sculpture, Rodin depicts the metaphor of God’s hand, cradling the material, from which male and female emerge.
The work presents Adam and Eve entwined in fetal positions and emerging from a lump of earth cradled in God’s hand. Rodin said: “When God created the world, it is modeling; he must have thought …”. Museum: Rodin Museum, Philadelphia
“The Thinker” by Auguste Rodin was originally conceived for his monumental bronze portal entitled “The Gates of Hell” (1880-1917).
The figure was intended to represent Italian poet Dante pondering “The Divine Comedy”, his epic classic of Paradise and Inferno. Initially, this masterpiece had several other names including “The Poet”.
In 1889, Rodin exhibited the sculpture independently of The Gates, giving it the title “The Thinker” and in 1902 he embarked on these larger versions. It has since become one of his most recognized masterpieces.
It has been cast in bronze in three different sizes, including this one of the original medium-sized sculpture of “The Thinker”.
There are various sculptures of “The Thinker” around the world. They are all usually placed on a stone pedestal.
The nude male figure sitting on a rock with his chin resting on one hand, deep in thought is often used as an image to represent philosophy. Museums: Rodin Museum, Philadelphia, The Legion of Honor, Cleveland Museum of Art
The Gates of Hell
The Gates of Hell is a sculptural group created by Auguste Rodin that depicts a scene from “The Inferno” from Dante Alighieri’s book the Divine Comedy.
The sculpture was commissioned in 1880; it became Rodin’s life work as he continued to work on and off on this project for 37 years, until his death in 1917.
Many of the characters were modeled and cast separately as stand-alone art sculptures. This is one of the reasons Rodin took so long with this masterpiece.
Many of the original small-scale sculptures used on the Gate were enlarged and reworked and became stand-alone works of art of their own. Examples include: “The Thinker”. “The Kiss”, “Eternal Springtime”, “Adam” and “Eve”
The Hand from the Tomb
“The Hand from the Tomb” was modeled by Auguste Rodin, who modeled thousands of hands as small clay studies.
Rodin experimented with different approaches to imbue the hands he sculptured with emotions ranging from anger and despair to compassion and kindness.
He kept many hand clay studies in his studio where he would contemplate them as sculptural forms.
For Rodin, the hand and the interplay of hands within groups of figures were expressive components of his sculptures. Museums: Rodin Museum, Philadelphia
“The Sirens” modeled by Auguste Rodin, depicts sea nymphs from Greek mythology who lured sailors to their destruction through their enchanting song.
In Greek mythology, the Sirens were dangerous creatures, who with their enchanting music and voices, caused shipwrecks on the rocky coast of their island.
The Sirens were the companions of young Persephone, and they were given wings by Demeter to search for Persephone when she was abducted.
After failing to find Persephone, Demeter cursed the Sirens for failing to intervene in the abduction of Persephone. Museum: Rodin Museum, Philadelphia
Young Mother in the Grotto
Auguste Rodin modeled young “Mother in the Grotto” in 1885, and the plaster sculpture was exhibited under the title “Woman and Love”. Several versions in bronze and marble were made during Rodin’s lifetime.
The woman and child theme was evident in Rodin’s early body of work during the mid-1880s. This sculpture represents maternal love in a mythological theme; the baby and the young woman were both sentimental and spiritual.
In the later periods of his career, the subject of maternal love is much less prevalent in Rodin’s work as compared to the theme of love between man and woman. Museum: Rodin Museum, Philadelphia
Colossal Head of Saint John the Baptist
“Colossal Head of Saint John the Baptist” was modeled by Auguste Rodin in 1879 and is just one of the multiple depictions of Saint John the Baptist’s image in both full-body sculpture and head sculpture.
Rodin described how the idea of Saint John the Baptist was inspired by an Italian peasant who offered him his services as a model.
Rodin stated: “As soon as I saw him, I was filled with admiration; this rough, hairy man expressed violence in his bearing… yet also the mystical character of his race. I immediately thought of a Saint John the Baptist, in other words, a man of nature, a visionary, a believer, a precursor who came to announce one greater than himself. …. I immediately resolved to model what I had seen.” Museum: Rodin Museum, Philadelphia
“The Secret” was modeled by Auguste Rodin and depicts an unknown object hidden by two palms. The secret is keeping the palms forever apart but close enough for the fingers to touch.
The two hands are the right hands of two separate people. The sculpture creates an intimate space between the hands and is considered a companion piece to sculpture “The Cathedral”.
In another sculpture of “Two Hands“, there is an inscription in the plaster version: “Hands of Rodin and Rose Beuret”, which suggests that these hands are the hands of Rodin, the sculptor, and his lover.
Was this also the case for this sculpture about a secret? Museum: Rodin Museum, Philadelphia
The Burghers of Calais
“The Burghers of Calais” by Auguste Rodin is one of his most famous sculptures.
It commemorates a historical incident during the Hundred Years’ War, when Calais, a prominent French port on the English Channel, was under siege by the English for over a year and was forced to surrender.
The victors offered to spare the city, if six of its leaders would surrender themselves and walk out wearing nooses around their necks, carrying the keys to the town and castle.
One of the wealthiest of the town leaders volunteered, and five other burghers volunteered to join him. It is this moment when the volunteers leave the city gates that this sculpture depicts.
Rodin captured the poignant mix of defeat, heroic self-sacrifice, and willingness to face imminent death.
Museums: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, DC, National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo, Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California, Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, Rodin Museum in Philadelphia
“Balzac” by Auguste Rodin was created as a memorial to the French novelist Honoré Balzac. According to Rodin, the sculpture aims to portray the writer’s persona and not a physical likeness.
The work was commissioned in 1891 but the full-size plaster model which came under criticism and was rejected by the writers’ association.
Rodin moved it instead to his home, and today the artwork is considered the first truly modern sculpture. Casts and various studies of the statue can today be found in many museums. Museum: Rodin Museum, Philadelphia
“Eve” by Auguste Rodin is a smaller version of the bronze statue initially created for “Gates of Hell” and which has become one of Rodin’s best-known sculptures of the female figure.
Eve stands awkwardly in trying to cover her body, she appears to be crouching, as she draws her left leg in to hide. The depiction captures the agonized moment of shame through the perception of nakedness after the fall into sin.
Her left-hand makes a gesture, as if in protection against a blow. Museum: Musée Rodin, Paris
Adam by Auguste Rodin represents the Adam named in the opening chapters of the Book of Genesis and in the Quran for the first man created by God.
The Bible also uses the name “Adam” in a collective sense as “mankind” and individually as “a human”. Rodin’s Adam references the work of Michelangelo in art and sculpture.
The right arm with the pointing finger is taken from the painted figure of Adam on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. The left-arm references the dead Christ of Michelangelo’s sculpture of the Pietà.
This sculpture suggests the beginning of life and the end of life and can be interpreted as the sum of an individual’s experience and emotional life. Museum: Art Gallery of Western Australia
“The Kiss” by Auguste Rodin is a marble sculpture of an embracing couple. Initially, it was created to depict the 13th-century Italian noblewoman immortalized in Dante’s Inferno who falls in love with her husband’s younger brother.
Having fallen in love while reading the story of Lancelot and Guinevere, the couple is discovered and killed by the husband. In the sculpture, the book can be seen in the man’s left hand.
The lovers’ lips do not actually touch in the sculpture, suggesting that they were interrupted and met their demise without their lips ever having touched.
When critics first saw the statue in 1887, they suggested the less specific title “The Kiss”, and this is now the title of this masterpiece. Museum: Musée Rodin, Paris
Orpheus and Eurydice
“Orpheus and Eurydice” by Auguste Rodin depicts the ancient Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice.
Rodin shows Eurydice’s spirit floating in the underworld as Orpheus hesitates and turns to see if his beloved is following.
An instant later Eurydice will vanish as Orpheus broke Hades’s rule, to not look at his wife until they reached the light.
This carved sculpture is the only marble example of this Rodin composition. Museum: Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET
The Three Shades
“The Three Shades” by Auguste Rodin was produced in plaster by Auguste Rodin in 1886 for his monumental sculpture “The Gates of Hell.” Then he had them enlarged to create an impressive independent group in 1904.
The downward thrust of their left arms and their heads conveys despair as they gaze down at the spectators. The Three Shades seem to be inviting the viewer to witness the drama of sin and damnation unfolding below them on The Gates.
He made several individual studies for the Shades before finally deciding to put together three identical figures gathered around a central point. The Shades are three separate casts of the same figure that has been rotated into different positions.
The angle at which the heads fall downward is so exaggerated that the necks and shoulders form an almost horizontal line. They were created for the top of The Gates looking down on the viewer.
Museum: Rodin Museum, Philadelphia, North Carolina Museum of Art, Musée Rodin, Legion of Honor, San Francisco, Museo Soumaya, Mexico.
- Name: François-Auguste-René Rodin
- Born: 1840 – Paris, France
- Died: 1917 (aged 77) – Meudon, France
- Nationality: French
Auguste Rodin, the father of modern sculpture
Events during Rodin’s Lifetime
- Auguste Rodin was born in Paris
- Claude Monet was born in Paris
- Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published the Communist Manifesto
- The death of Honoré de Balzac
- Charles Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species
- United States Civil War
- Suez Canal opens
- Statue of Liberty was Dedicated
- Eiffel Tower construction concludes
- Sigmund Freud publishes The Interpretation of Dreams
- First Paris Metro opens during the Paris World’s Fair
- The first major exhibition of Pablo Picasso’s artwork in Paris
- 1914 – 1918
- World War I
- Albert Einstein publishes his General Theory of Relativity
- Rodin dies
Auguste Rodin: Re-shaping the French Sculptural Imagination
Quotes by Auguste Rodin
“True artists are almost the only people who do their work for pleasure.”
“The main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live. Be a man before being an artist!”
“Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.”
“The human body is first and foremost a mirror to the soul, and its greatest beauty comes from that.”
“I invent nothing, I rediscover.”
“The more simple we are, the more complete we become.”
“I choose a block of marble and chop off whatever I don’t need.”
“People say I think too much about women, yet, after all, what is there more important to think about?
“Love your calling with passion; it is the meaning of your life.”
“Patience is also a form of action.”
“Art is contemplation. It is the pleasure of the mind which searches into nature and which there divines the spirit of which nature herself is animated.”
“The artist must create a spark before he can make a fire and before art is born, the artist must be ready to be consumed by the fire of his own creation.”
“To the artist, there is never anything ugly in nature.”
“Art is the pleasure of a spirit that enters nature and discovers that it too has a soul.”
“Sculpture is the art of the hole and the lump.”
“Patience is also a form of action.”
“Man’s naked form belongs to no particular moment in history; it is eternal and can be looked upon with joy by the people of all ages.”
“I am like a moon that shines on an immense, unknown sea where ships never pass.”
“To any artist, worthy of the name, all in nature is beautiful, because his eyes, fearlessly accepting all exterior truth, read there, as in an open book, all the inner truth.”
A Tour of Artists and their Art
- Duccio (1255 – 1319)
- Sandro Botticelli (1445 – 1510)
- Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519)
- Albrecht Durer (1471 – 1528)
- Michelangelo (1475 – 1564)
- Raphael (1483 – 1520)
- Titian (1488 – 1576)
- Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525 – 1569)
- Paolo Veronese (1528 – 1588)
- El Greco (1541 – 1614)
- Caravaggio (1571 – 1610)
- Peter Paul Rubens (1577 – 1640)
- Georges de La Tour (1593 – 1652)
- Nicolas Poussin (1594 – 1665)
- Diego Velázquez (1599 – 1660)
- Rembrandt (1606 – 1669)
- Pieter de Hooch (1629 – 1684)
- Johannes Vermeer (1632 – 1675)
- Élisabeth Sophie Chéron (1648 – 1711)
- Canaletto (1697 – 1768)
- Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732 – 1806)
- Francisco Goya (1746 – 1828)
- Jacques-Louis David (1748 – 1825)
- Caspar David Friedrich (1774 – 1840)
- J.M.W. Turner (1775 – 1851)
- Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780 – 1867)
- Eugène Delacroix (1798 – 1863)
- Rosa Bonheur (1822 – 1899)
- John Everett Millais (1829 – 1896)
- Frederic Leighton (1830 – 1896)
- Édouard Manet (1832 – 1883)
- Edgar Degas (1834 – 1917)
- Paul Cézanne (1839 – 1906)
- Auguste Rodin (1840 – 1917)
- Claude Monet (1840 – 1926)
- Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841 – 1919)
- Berthe Morisot (1841 – 1895)
- Henri Rousseau (1844 – 1910)
- Mary Cassatt (1844 – 1926)
- Elizabeth Thompson (1846 – 1933)
- Gustave Caillebotte (1848 – 1894)
- John William Waterhouse (1849 – 1917)
- Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890)
- Frederick McCubbin (1855 – 1917)
- John Singer Sargent (1856 – 1925)
- Tom Roberts (1856 – 1931)
- Lovis Corinth (1858 – 1925)
- Georges Seurat (1859 – 1891)
- Gustav Klimt (1862 – 1918)
- Edvard Munch (1863 – 1944)
- Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864 – 1901)
- Rupert Bunny (1864 – 1947)
- Wassily Kandinsky (1866 – 1944)
- Arthur Streeton (1867 – 1943)
- Franz Marc (1880 – 1916)
- Goyō Hashiguchi (1880 – 1921)
- Amedeo Modigliani (1884 – 1920)
- Artists and their Art
Rodin: From the Age of Bronze to the Gates of Hell
“I invent nothing, I rediscover.”
– Auguste Rodin
Photo Credit: After George Charles Beresford [Public domain]