Like some artists, Rodin was not an overnight success. Even though he was rejected numerous times from art schools because of his art style, he prevailed in the end. Rodin, like many artists, got their inspiration from other great and famous artists. In Rodin’s case, his inspiration came from Michelangelo. In Rodin’s more famous works, one can see the similarities between the two artists’ artwork.
Rodin’s parents were not wealthy, therefore, he was not able to attend an art school of his choice. His father, however, did send him to Petite ?cole, a training ground for commercial draftsman and practiciens–cutters and finishers of work in stone (Hale 38). At the
age of seventeen, Rodin won his first prize for a clay model and he came in second place for one of his drawings. His teachers at Petite ?cole encouraged him to try for the Grande ?cole des Beaux-Arts (Hale 39). He applied, but was not accepted. Not giving up hope, Rodin applied
two more times, but was rejected. Determined to make a living, he worked for a large commercial designer. It was there, that he created numerous objects with his hands; anything from masks of gods to cupids. This is where he began to see that he had a future in what he loved the most, art.
Even though Rodin was an artist, his career did not take off so soon. When he was 22, his sister Maria died. He anguished so much over her death that he decided to leave his art. He quit everything and decided to enter the Order of the Fathers of the Very Holy Sacrament. While living in the monastery, Rodin confided in Father Eymard, and he was the one that told Rodin to continue sculpting and not to give up. Rodin eventually realized that religion was not his calling and once he had enough money saved up, he moved into his first studio. From that point on, he was fully committed to his artwork. Rodin said that it was so cold in his studio, (he could not afford to have heat) that he would wake up and see parts of his sculptures on the floor.
Since I didn’t have the money to have them cast, each day I lost precious time covering my clay with wet cloths. Despite that, at every turn I had accidents from the effects of the
cold and heat. Entire sections detached themselves?heads, arms, knees, chunks of torso
fell off; I found them in pieces on the tiles that covered the floor… You could not believe
what I lost in that way (Hale 42).
In 1864, Rodin created a masterpiece, something that would change his life forever. He created The Man with the Broken Nose, and with the new creation he said, It determined all my future work (Hale 43). The new sculpture was not found to be worth anything after Rodin tried to enter it in the Salon. So, he took it back home and placed it in a corner for numerous years. One day, one of Rodin’s students saw the lonely bust and asked if he could borrow it to make copy. Rodin did not refuse and when the student, Jules Desbois took it to his classmates at the Grande ?cole, they were astounded. All of Desbois’s classmates stood around with amazement, all asking who created such an antique (meaning that is was old, in a sense of not being used or displayed) masterpiece. Desbois said, ?The man who made it, whose name is Rodin, failed three times to enter the school, and the work you take to be antique was refused by the Salon’ (Hale 45).
In 1866, Rose, his girlfriend, gave birth to a baby boy. He soon had a job with one of the best employers around, Carrier-Belleuse. There, he was a draftsman, molder, finisher and a caster. He eventually left because he had all the money that he claimed he needed. In 1870, he was called to serve in the National Guard, but was released because of his poor vision. By this time, there was no money and Rodin tried to call previous clients that could possibly want some decorating done. All ties were broken after he left the reputable company Carrier-Belleuse.
After months without having any work, Rose left him and Rodin decided to join a partnership with another ex-employee of Carrier-Belleuse. Together, the two men made sculptures and reliefs (sculptural technique where-by figures are carved out of a block of stone, part of which is left to form a background. Depending on the degree to which the figures project, the relief is described as either high or low, Cunningham 494) for a number of building in Brussels. Auguste made a decent living from his commission and he was soon able to do what he always wanted to do; travel to Italy.
In 1875, Rodin was able to afford to move to Italy, where he studied Michelangelo almost immediately. At this point, Italy was probably the best thing that could have happened to Rodin. From the moment I arrived, I began to study Michelangelo…and I believe this great magician will reveal some of his secrets to me… (Hale 50).
Having found his affinity for Michelangelo, Rodin now tackled the problem of how to draw on his example, not just copy from it. He began work on a full-scale figure that,
while showing Michelangelo’s influence, was quite unlike anything Rodin had actually seen
in Italy. The piece, a male nude destined to become famous as The Age of Bronze, was
freestanding, both literally and figuratively, and it signaled the end of Rodin’s 20-year
apprenticeship in art (Hale 50).
When Rodin sculpted The Age of Bronze, he began a
Michelangelesque alternative. Rodin explained that the master arranged the body in the
shape of a console, head bent, thorax incurved and knees at the lower bulge: this shape
results in very deep shadows in the hollow of the chest and under the leg…we notice that
this sculpture expresses the painful withdrawal of the being into himself, restless energy, the
will to act without hope of success, and finally the martyrdom of the creature who is
tormented by his unrealisable aspirations (Lampert 14).
In the later part of this year,
aware that the anniversary of Michelangelo’s birth was being celebrated by special
exhibitions, Rodin aged thirty-five, had set out on foot. His avowed intention was to
discover the secret of movement in Michelangelo. What he brought back was not a full
portfolio of sketches with useful ?secrets’ or even motifs of the Renaissance masters, but a
highly personal, intoxicating memory of what it was like to experience great art (Lampert 12-13).
Early on in the year of 1877, Rodin was accused of being an imposter. The Salon claimed that he had taken a statue and just molded right over it with new material. When Rodin found out what he was being accused of, he rushed to the press and had pictures taken to prove that he was not an imposter, and to prove that the sculpture was not exactly like the human body. Finally, the Salon concluded that it was not the same thing and Rodin said, I have learned how to use it [bronze casting].
Rodin returned to Paris in late1877, when a death occurred in the family. Rodin had lost his mother, and now his father had gone blind and was beginning to turn senile. If that were not enough, his son, from his common-law wife Rose (who had returned), was almost completely retarded. Some say that it is possible that he suffered a head injury when he fell from a two-story window as a young baby. Even though his son was dying, Rodin attempted to give his son drawing lessons, but his son appeared to ignore him.
Throughout Auguste Rodin’s work, one can see the similarities between his work and Michelangelo’s work. One can assume that after one man studies another great man, traits and ideas will shine through the artists’ work.
The Age of Bronze resembles Michelangelo’s Dying Slave by the posture that the two statues share. The two men are twisted in the same fashion, as if they are frozen and sculpted just as the artist saw them. One leg of each statue has its knee bent, both heads are looking forward, and the arm is raised in the air. But there the similarity ends. The Slave is wearing sinking; Rodin’s youth seems on the point of awakening, soon to stride forth with fresh energy (Hale 51).
Rodin’s Crouching Woman resembles many characteristics from Michelangelo’s Crouching Youth. The Crouching Woman, created between 1880-1882, looks as if she has eternal suffering. This is given away by the way her knees are bent, implying that she may be helpless, she wants to be pitied, or she is tired. Without the way the figure is positioned, from first impression, she looks like she is a tribal woman or a woman who works hard and is ready to give in. The tribal woman, uncontaminated by conventional sense of property but not necessarily virginal. Rodin may have been tempted for years to place a model in the pose of Michelangelo’s Crouching Youth (Lampert 57-61). Lastly, squeezing of the breast suggests that she gave birth and is nursing a child(Lampert 205). The similarities between the two statues is easier to see than the differences. Both figures heads are tilted the same way. Both knees are bent and intertwined with her own arms; while one hand holds one foot. Both women have clear muscle definition, but the facial expression is just like the muscle definition, obvious that there are no emotions to show. Lastly, both sculptures are left in an un-sculptured stone for a base.
Two of Rodin’s sculptures resemble many of Michelangelo’s pieces; Rodin’s Vase des Titans, resembles Michelangelo’s Igundi, Night and Day. The figures of the vase are positioned in the same way as well as posed in the same fashion. The man-like figures have the same muscle contortions that show a sense of muscle strain, just like the men in Michelangelo’s work. Rodin made a four seated Titans each measuring only 30cm, their back bent to support a jardiniere bowl. The poses are taken in essence from the contrapuntal figures of Michelangelo’s Igundi and his Night and Day (Lampert 18). The sculpture of the Reclining Titans resembles the same works of Michelangelo, the Igundi, which is on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Both sets of men have a sexual appeal because of the way that their legs are together and then apart.
Once again, Michelangelo’s work can be seen in Rodin’s Faun and Child. The Faun and Child was designed in December 1882, and is almost a replica of Michelangelo’s sketch of the prophet Jechonius. Both adult figures have their heads looking back, as if both guardian and child are in danger. Secondly, the guardian is holding the child with his/her left arm. Lastly, it seems as though the children are either reaching or looking at something that they yearn for.
There is not much information about how Michelangelo influenced Rodin’s work of the Bibi bust; which soon was the head for The Man with the Broken Nose. Rodin seems to be haunted by the Michelangelo when he produced the bust of Bibi as a kind of allegory of the endurance of mankind (Hale 43).
Lastly, The Three Shadows is one that I find very interesting. One says:
the influence of Michelangelo on Rodin’s Adam is clear enough: not only is the contortion
familiar but so too is the gesture of the right hand with pointing finger. The Shade, a
variation of Adam, is considerably more original: the left arm hangs clear of the body, the
spine becomes a deep groove and the neck is bent so radically that it forms a straight line
with the shoulder giving the subject more of the denatured presence of the Shades who
appeared in the tiny drawings (Lampert 205-206).
Rodin was a very talented artist, sculptor, and thinker. He was able to make people see things the way that he saw them, and even though it was tough getting started, he prevailed and was able to live happily; considering what a hard life he had. Rodin died in November 1917 and his common-law wife, Rose, died in February of 1917. Rodin died with having completed over 400 sculptures and 7,000 drawings. Finally, two of Rodin’s most famous pieces of work were finally shown in the Salon in 1878, The Man with the Broken Nose and the Age of Bronze.
Cunningham, Lawrence and John Reich. Culture and Values: A Survey of the Western
Humanities. Vol. 2, 4th Edition. Forth Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1998.
Hale, William Harlan and the Editors of Time-Life Books. The World of Rodin: 1840-1917.
Virginia: Time-Life Books, 1978.
Lampert, Catherine. Rodin: Sculpture and Drawings. Hong Kong: Kwong Fat Offset Printing
Co. Ltd., 1986.
Arts and Painting