Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Balzac by Auguste Rodin

"Balzac" by Auguste Rodin - - Rodin Museum, Philadelphia

Balzac by Auguste Rodin

“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.

Rodin met with varying degrees of disapproval from the organizations that sponsored his commissions. As one of the founders of modern sculpture, he did not set out to rebel against tradition. Rodin was schooled traditionally, and he had a skilled artisan’s approach to his work, additionally he did want recognition. Ultimately, Rodin did gain the support from essential sources that propelled him towards fame. In 1939, nearly 22 years after Rodin’s death the model was cast in bronze for the first time and placed on the Boulevard du Montparnasse, Paris France. Today casts and various studies of Balzac by Auguste Rodin can be found in many museum or art gallery collections around the world.

Honoré de Balzac

Honoré de Balzac (1799 – 1850) was a French novelist and playwright. Balzac is regarded as one of the founders of realism in European literature. He is renowned for his multi-faceted complex characters. Even inanimate objects were imbued with subtle characteristics such as the city of Paris, which takes on many human qualities in his writings. His writing influenced many famous writers, as well as philosophers.

Auguste Rodin

Auguste Rodin is generally considered the father of modern sculpture; he possessed a unique ability to model a complex and deeply pocketed surface in clay. Many of his most notable sculptures were criticized during his lifetime. Rodin’s most original work departed from traditional themes of mythology and allegory, he modeled the human body with realism and with individual character and physicality. By 1900, he was a world-renowned artist and remains one of the few sculptors widely known outside the arts community.

Did you know?

  • The model of the sculpture was cast in bronze for the first time 22 years after Rodin’s death?
  • Rodin took seven years to finish the work, as he became fascinated with Balzac’s work during his research into the character and personality of Balzac.
  • Contemporaries such as Paul Cézanne, Toulouse-Lautrec and Claude Monet supported Rodin during the process of rejection by the writers’ association.
  • Balzac’s work influenced many writers, including Émile Zola, Charles Dickens, Gustave Flaubert, and Henry James.
  • Many of Rodin’s public commissions met with resistance because they did not fit conventional expectations. Initial rejections and criticism included the following works:  Monument to Victor Hugo, Balzac and The Burghers of Calais.


  • Title:                  Balzac
  • Artist:                Auguste Rodin
  • Year:                  Modelled in clay – 1887; Cast in bronze – 1925
  • Place of Origin: France
  • Material:            Bronze Casting
  • Museum:           Rodin Museum

Auguste Rodin


“I invent nothing, I rediscover.”
– Auguste Rodin


Photo Credit: JOM