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November Wed 14, 2012
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Auguste Rodin, considered the father of modern sculpture, was born on November 12, 1840 and died on November 17, 1917 (172 and 95 years ago respectively). He began drawing and painting when he was fourteen, then sculpting. His work was revolutionary in his time.He often started with a mythological or traditional idea, but then rendered it extremely realistically. This style was not always appreciated by his contemporaries. Rodin refused to change, however, and was poor for much of his life, focusing on ornamentation and decorating instead of monumental sculptures, until he gained fame around 1900.His sculptures are deeply gouged, rough, and express a great depth of emotion, shown in every detail of the contorted bodies and furrowed brows. They are textured and make great use of the play of light and dark. He was inspired by his stay in Italy as a young man, and his study of Michelangelo. He said, “It is Michelangelo who has freed me from academic sculpture”.His most famous work, The Thinker (1879-1889), depicts a man in deep contemplation, probably grappling with a great inner conflict. The man’s muscles are taut with compressed energy, his brows are furrowed and his toes are gripping the rock on which he sits. He is often used to represent Philosophy and intellect. The statue was originally part of a commission to create The Doors of Hell, with the thinking man seated at the top of the doors, thinking about the fate of those below him, but then was used as an inspiration for the free standing sculpture that has captured the minds of so many.Many of his works are unfinished, but Rodin considered these to be full sculptures. He liked to depict fragments of a person, using even an arm or leg to express the emotion of the person. One example of this is the Walking Man, a body without arms or a head.Rodin’s fragments, as well as his expressiveness and stark realism, contributed greatly to the evolution of modern art, to its abstraction and expression of emotions and despair. He freed sculpture from the traditional forms and methods. Rodin is now considered one of the most important sculptures of history and certainly of the modern era. See photos of Rodin’s works starting on the next page.
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