Auguste Rodin: 1840-1917

The Thinker - Auguste RodinBorn on November 12, 1840, in Mouffetard – a working-class district of Paris, France, Auguste Rodin is considered to be one of the  most important sculptors of modern times.   He began drawing at the age of 10 and at 14, attended the Petite Ecole – a special school for drawing and mathematics.  Rodin was a promising student but failed three times to gain admission to the Ecole des Beaux Arts.

From 1858 and for the next two decades, Rodin worked for several masons, and ornamentalists, who supplied decorative objects and embellishments for buildings.

The death of Rodin’s sister in 1862, led to his briefly joining the Catholic Order of the Pères du Saint-Sacrement.  He was encouraged by its head, Pierr-Julien Eymard, to devote himself to art and Rodin left the order in 1863. The following year, in 1864, he met and began living with Rose Beuret, his life-long companion. She gave birth to their son Auguste Beuret that year.

Rodin’s reputation as a modeler grew and from 1864 – 1872, he began working with the sculptor Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse as his chief assistant. During this time they traveled to Brussels, Belgium where Rodin participated in the decoration of the Palais des Académies, painted a series of landscapes of the Soignes forest, and made some lithographs to illustrate the satirical magazine Le Petit Comique.

In 1875, Rodin spent two months in Italy studying Donatello and Michaelangelo both of whom had a significant affect on his work. Rodin said, “It is Michelangelo who has freed me from academic sculpture.”

“The Bronze Age”, Rodin’s first recognized masterpiece was exhibited in 1877 at the Cercle Artistique et Littéraire in Brussels, then the Salon des Artistes Français in Paris. The life-sized male nude was such a departure from academic sculpture that Rodin was accused of casting from a live model – a charge that was disproved by photographs the artist kept on which the sculpture was based.

The 1880’s proved to be Rodin’s most productive period in his life.  During this time he began “The Gates of Hell”, a monumental sculptural group depicting scenes from Dante’s Inferno in high relief.  He also created a series of realistic portraits that were exhibited in the Salons after which critics began to describe him as a “great artist and the best young sculptor in modern France”. He also created well such well known works as ” The Monument to the Burghers of Calais”, “The Thinker”, and “The Kiss”. It was also during this period that Rodin met Camille Claudel with whom he had a stormy relationship until 1898.

In 1895, Rodin purchased the Villa des Brillants in Meudon which he had rented since 1893 and started to build up his collection of antiques and paintings.  By this time, Rodin had become one of the most famous artists of the time.  He was host to royalty, politicians, young artists and writers, and the societal elite. The poet Rainer Maria Rilke, published a study of Rodin in 1903 and served as his secretary from 1905 to 1906.  Rodin’s work was exhibited throughout Europe and the United States and he received honorary degrees from Universities such as Oxford, Jena, and Glasgow.

Rodin’s popularity as a sculptor often overshadows his total creative output.  He created thousands of busts, figures, and sculptural fragments over his lifetime.  He painted in oils and in watercolours and the Musée Rodin holds 7,000 of his drawings and prints in chalk, charcoal, and drypoints.

Wanting to give permanence to his work, Rodin offered France his entire collection if they agreed to establish a Musée Rodin. In 1916, after much negotiation, the French government designated the Hôtel Biron on the Rue de Varenne, where Rodin had been renting rooms since 1908, as a future Musée Rodin, and received in turn donations of work owned by the artist.

Rodin suffered a severe stroke in March of 1916.  In February 1917, he married Rose Beuret, two weeks before her death.  Rodin died that same year on November 17, 1917. He was buried next to Rose and a cast of The Thinker was placed next to their tomb in Meudon.

For more information about Rodin, visit the Musée Rodin website which presents a collection of his sculptures, sketches, and paintings. For a more in-depth biography, visit the source links below.

Related Books:
Rodin: His Art and His Inspiration

Rodin on Art and Artists (Fine Art Series)

Auguste Rodin: Drawings & Watercolors

Sources: MoMA, National Gallery of Art, Wikipedia

Andy Warhol: 1928 – 1987

Born Andrew Warhola on August 6, 1928 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Andy Warhol was a painter, printmaker, and filmmaker and a  pivotal figure in the formation of the  Pop Art movement.

Warhol was the son of working-class Slovakian immigrants. His frequent illnesses in childhood often kept him bedridden and at home. During this time, he formed a strong bond with his mother.  It was what he describes an important period in the formation of his personality and skill set.

Warhol studied at the School of Fine Arts at Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh (now Carnegie Mellon University), majoring in pictorial design. In 1949, he moved to New York City where he quickly became successful in magazine illustration and advertising, producing work for publications such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and the The New Yorker.

Much of Warhol’s work the 1950’s was commissioned by fashion houses and he became known for his whimsical ink drawings of I. Miller shoes. In 1952, Warhol’s illustrations for Truman Capote’s writings were exhibited by the Hugo Gallery in New York and he exhibited at several other venues in the 1950′s including a 1956 group show at the Museum of Modern Art. Warhol received several awards during this decade from the Art Director’s Club and the American Institute of Graphic Arts.

Warhol was enthralled with Hollywood celebrities, fashion, and style and by the early 1960’s these interests were reflected in his artwork. Borrowing images from popular culture, Warhol’s “Pop Art” paintings were characterized by repetition of everyday objects such as soup cans, Coca Cola bottles, and 100 dollar bills.  He also began painting celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Elizabeth Taylor.

Most of Warhol’s paintings were produced in his studio that he called “The Factory” with the help of assistants. Photographic images were screen-printed on to painted backgrounds and mechanically repeated – a process that mimicked the manufacturing industry and parodied mass consumption. During the Factory years, Warhol associated with and “groomed” a variety of artists, writers, musicians, and underground celebrities including Edie Sedgwick, Viva, writer John Giorno, and film-maker Jack Smith.

Warhol worked prolifically in a range of media including painting, photography, drawing, sculpture, and film. Between 1963 and 1968 he produced more than 60 films and about 500 short “screen test” portraits of his studio visitors. His most popular and successful film was Chelsea Girls, made in 1966.

On June 3, 1968, Warhol and art critic/curator Mario Amaya, were shot by Valerie Solanas after she was turned away from the Factory studio. Warhol’s wound was almost fatal and would affect him physically and mentally for the rest of his life.

The 1970’s was a quieter decade for Warhol who concentrated more on portrait commissions for celebrities such as Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Michael Jackson, and others.  He founded Interview Magazine and in 1975 published “The Philosophy of Andy Warhol” which expressed the idea that “Making money is art, and working is art and good business is the best art.” During the 1970’s Warhol was also involved in a number collaborations with young artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Francesco Clemente and Keith Haring.

In general, Andy Warhol was consistently ambiguous on the meaning of his work and appeared indifferent and ambivalent. He denied that his artwork carried any social or political commentary.

Warhol died in New York City on February 22, 1987 of a cardiac arrhythmia while recovering from routine gallbladder surgery. In his will, almost his entire estate was dedicated to the “advancement of the visual arts”. The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts was founded in that same year and it remains one of the largest grant-giving organizations for the visual arts in the United States today.

Sources: MOMA, Guggenheim, National Gallery of Canada, Andy Warhol Foundation, Wikipedia

Canada Day: Canadian Art

Happy Canada Day all you Canucks and friends of Canucks out there! In celebration of Canada’s National Day, DAF presents another collection of work from well known (and not so well known) Canadian artists.  If you have any suggestions for next year, feel free to email

DAF Group Feature: Vol. 140

This week’s Mixx is a collection of inspirations discovered via one of our favourite Apps – Flipboard – a magazine style app where you are the curator of your content. If you’ve never heard of it – definitely check it out.

Egon Schiele: 1890-1918

Born on June 12, 1890, in Tulln, Austria Egon Schiele was a major figure of the Austrian Expressionist movement.

Schiele began drawing as a child and in 1906, at the age of sixteen, attended  the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. During these years, he was strongly influenced by Gustav Klimt and the Vienna Secession artists whose style  emphasized  flowing line and ornamentation.  Schiele and Klimt met in 1907 and Klimt was supportive of the young artist.  He introduced Schiele to his own models and patrons, and helped him find work.  He also included Schiele in the 1909 Internationale Kunstchau Exhibition of foreign and Austrian artists.

In 1909, Schiele became dissatisfied with the academy’s conservatism and formed the Neukünstler (New Artists) Group with other dropouts from the Academy. Free from the confines of the Academy’s conventions, Schiele began to explore the human form and human sexuality in his work. At the time, many found the explicitness of his works  ugly and disturbing. Through 1913, Schiele created his best known works –  drawings of female models, either nude or semi-nude, in oddly foreshortened poses.

In 1915, Schiele married Edith Harms, was drafted into the military, and assigned to various posts outside Vienna. Creating portraits of Edith, Schiele adapted a more naturalistic approach which he also used in the increasing number of portrait commissions he had begun to receive.

“Draughtsmanship played a significant role in Schiele’s art. Although he produced few original prints, he made numerous independent drawings, in which he used pencil or chalk, and occasionally charcoal or ink, to create a sharply defined outline that he then filled in with watercolour or gouache.  Schiele was shy and introspective, but obsessive in the pursuit of his art and in his contemplation of mortality, which provoked the confessional and compassionate tone of his work.”

In 1918, Schiele received a large exhibition of his work at the Viennese Seccession.  Just as he had begun to achieve commercical success, both Schiele and his wife contracted the Spanish flu.  Edith, who was six months pregnant, died on October 28, 1918.  Schiele died three days later on October 31, 1918 at the age of 28.

Though Schiele’s career was short, he was extremely prolific.  He created over three hundred oil paintings and several thousand works on paper. His work has inspired the work of later artists, especially in Austria, making him a major figure in 20th-century art.

Sources: MoMA, MoMAMet Museum, Wikipedia