(1840-1917) French sculptor. He is considered the greatest of his day. He freed sculpture from the idealizing conventions of the time by his realistic treatment of the human figure, introducing a new boldness of style and expression. Examples are Le Penseur/The Thinker 1880 (Musée Rodin, Paris), Le Baiser/The Kiss 1886 (marble version in the Louvre, Paris), and The Burghers of Calais 1884–86 (copy in Embankment Gardens, Westminster, London).
Rodin failed the entrance examination for the Ecole des Beaux Arts, and never attended. He started as a mason, began to study in museums, and in 1875 visited Italy, where he was inspired by the work of Michelangelo. His early statue The Age of Bronze 1877 (Musée Rodin, Paris) was criticized for its total naturalism and accuracy. In 1880 he began the monumental bronze Gates of Hell for the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs in Paris (inspired by Ghiberti’s bronze doors in Florence), a project that occupied him for many years and was unfinished at his death. Many of the figures designed for the gate became independent sculptures. During the 1890s he received two notable commissions, for statues of the writers Balzac 1893–97 (Musée Rodin, Paris) and Victor Hugo 1886–90 (Musée Rodin, Paris). He also produced many drawings.