Auguste Rodin

French sculptor (1840–1917)
(Redirected from Rodin)

François-Auguste-René Rodin (12 November 184017 November 1917) was a French sculptor, and the preeminent sculptor of the modern era. He played a pivotal role in the art of the late nineteenth century, both excelling at and rebelling against the Beaux-Arts tradition.

I know very well that one must fight, for one is often in contradiction to the spirit of the age.


  • There are things that other people do not see: unknown depths, the wellsprings of life... There is grace in elegance; above grace, there is modelling; everything is exaggerated; we call it soft but it is most powerfully soft! Words fail me then.



Auguste Rodin: The Man, His Ideas, His Works, 1905


Auguste Rodin in: Camille Mauclair (1905). Auguste Rodin: The Man, His Ideas, His Works,

  • Barye... did not teach us much ; he was always worried and tired when he came, and always told us that it was very good.
  • In those three years, (from fourteen to seventeen years old)... I came to understand the meaning of a drawing from the life, the synthesis of my art, and the rhythm of animais. I remember that a companion of those days,' of whom I hâve since lost sight, made me see, in a couple of hours, on a very true and simple principle, an observation of the necessary equilibria of movement not taught in the schools, the secret of the plans of a figure. That lesson has influenced my whole life. As for the ornament-maker, in whose workshop I earned a scanty wage, I long deplored being constrained to do so, but I hâve since thought with affection of it, understanding that there are as many sources of beauty in ornament as in the face.
    • p. 2-3
  • Slowness is a beauty
    • p. 60
  • I invent nothing, I rediscover. And the thing seems new because people have generally lost sight of the aim and the means of art ; they take that for an innovation which is nothing but a return to the laws of the great sculpture of long ago. Obviously, I think ; I like certain symbols, I see things in a synthetic way, but it is nature that gives me all that. I do not imitate the Greeks ; I try to put myself in the spiritual State of the men who hâve left us the antique statues. The 'Ecole' copies their works ; the thing that signifies is to recover their method. I began by showing close studies from nature like The Age of Brass. Afterwards I came to understand that art required a little more largeness, a little exaggeration, and my whole aim, from the time of the Burghers, was to find a method of exaggerating logically : that method consists in the deliberate amplification of the modelling. It consists also in the constant reduction of the figure to a geometrical figure, and in the determination to sacrifice any part of a figure to the synthesis of its aspect. See what the Gothic sculptors did. Look at the cathedra! of Chartres ; one of the towers is massive and without ornament : they sacrificed it to give value to the exquisite delicacy of the other tower.
    • p. 60-61
      • Alternative translation:
        I invent nothing, I rediscover. And the thing seems new because people have generally lost sight of the aim and the means of art ; they take that for an innovation which is nothing but a return to the laws of the great sculpture of long ago. Obviously, I think ; I like certain symbols, I see things in a synthetic way, but it is nature that gives me all that. I do not imitate the Greeks ; I try to put myself in the state of mind of the men who have left us the statues of antiquity. The schools copy their works, but what is of importance is to rediscover their methods. First I made close studies after nature, like "The Bronze Age." Later I understood that art required more breadth — exaggeration, in fact, and my aim was then, after the Burghers of Calais to find ways of exaggerating logically — that is to say, by reasonable amplification of the modeling. That, also consists in the constant reduction of the face to a geometrical figure, and the resolve to sacrifice every part of the face to the synthesis of its aspect. Look what they did in Gothic times. Take the Cathedral of Chartres as an example: one of its towers is massive and without ornamentation, having been neglected in order that the exquisite delicacy of the other could be better seen.
        • In: Andrew Carnduff Ritchie, ‎John Rewald (1945). Aristide Maillol: With an Introduction and Survey of the Artist's Work in American Collections. p. 19
  • In sculpture the projection of the fasciculi must be accentuated, the foreshortening forced, the hollows deepened ; sculpture is the art of the hole and the lump, not of clear, well-smoothed, unmodelled figures. Ignorant people, when they see close-knitted true surfaces, say that 'it is not finished.' No notion is falser than that of finish unless it be that of elegance ; by means of these two ideas people would kill our art. The way to obtain solidity and life is by work carried out to the fullest, not in the direction of achievement and of copying détails, but in that of truth in the successive schemes. The public, perverted by académie préjudices, confounds art with neatness. The simplicity of the 'École' is a painted cardboard ideal, A cast from life is a copy, the exactest possible copy, and yet it has neither motion nor eloquence. Art intervenes to exaggerate certain surfaces, and also to fine down others. In sculpture everything depends upon the way in which the modelling is carried out with a constant thought of the main line of the scheme, upon the rendering of the hollows, of the projections and of their connections ; thus it is that one may get fine lights, and especially fine shadows that are not opaque. Everything should be emphasised according to the accent that it is desired to render, and the degree of amplification is personal, according to the tact and the temperament of each sculptor; and for this reason there is no transmissible process, no studio recipe, but only a true law. I see it in the antique and in Michael Angelo. To work by the profiles, in depth not by surfaces, always thinking of the few geometrical forms from which all nature proceeds, and to make these eternal forms perceptible in the individual case of the object studied, that is my criterion. That is not idealism, it is a part of the handicraft. My ideas have nothing to do with it but for that method ; my Danaids and my Dante figures would be weak, bad things. From the large design that I get your mind deduces ideas.
    • p. 61-63
  • I feel it, but I cannot express it,... I cannot analyse the Celtic genius to my own satisfaction. In the Middle Ages art came from groups, not from individuals. It was anonymous ; the sculptors of cathedrals no more put their names to their works than our workmen put theirs on the pavement that they lay. Ah ! what an admirable scorn of notoriety ! The signature is what destroys us. We do portraits, but what we do is not so great. Thèse kings and queens, on the cathedrals, were not portraits. The fellow-workers stood for one another, and they interpreted ; they did not copy. They made clothed figures ; the nude and portraiture only date from the Renascence. And then those fellows cut with the tool's end into the block, that is why they were called sculptors. As for us, we are modellers. And what a disgraceful thing that casting from life is, which so many well-known sculptors do not blush to use ! It is a mere swindling in art. Art was a vital function to the image-makers of the thirteenth century ; they would hâve laughed at the idea of signing what they did, and never dreamed of honours and titles. When once their work was finished, they said no more about it, or else they talked among themselves. How curious it would hâve been to hear them, to be present at their gatherings, where they must hâve discussed in amusing phrases, and with simple, deep ideas !... Whenever the cathedrals disappear civilisation will go down one step. And even now we no longer understand them, we no longer know how to read their silent language. We need to make excavations not in the earth, but towards heaven..."
    • p. 63-64; About the genius of the Gothic sculptors.
  • I believed before that (journey to Italy in 1875)... that movement was the whole secret of this art, and I put my models into positions like those of Michael Angelo. But as I went on observing the free attitudes of my models I perceived that they possessed thèse naturally^ and that Michael Angelo had not preconceived them, but merely transcribed them according to the Personal inspiration of human beings moved by the need of action. I went to Rome to look for what may be found everywhere : the latent heroic in every natural movement.
    • p. 65
  • Then I gathered the éléments of what people call my symbolism. I do not understand anything about long words and theories. But I am willing to be a symbolist, if that defines the ideas that Michael Angelo gave me, namely that the essence of sculpture is the modelling, the general scheme which alone enables us to render the intensity, the supple variety of movement and character. If we can imagine the thought of God in creating the world, He thought first of the construction, which is the sole principle of nature, of living things and perhaps of the planets. Michael Angelo seems to me rather to derive from Donatello than from the ancients ; Raphaël proceeds from them. He understood that an architecture can be built up with the human body, and that, in order to possess volume and harmony, a statue or a group ought to be contained in a cube, a pyramid or some simple figure. Let us look at a Dutch interior and at an interior painted by an artist of the present day. The latter no longer touches us, because it docs not possess the qualities of depth and volume, the science of distances. The artist who paints it does not know how to reproduce a cube. An interior by Van der Meer is a cubic painting. The atmosphere is in it and the exact volume of the objects ; the place of these objects has been respected, the modem painter places them, arranges them as models. The Dutchmen did not touch them, but set themselves to render the distances that separated them, that is, the depth. And then, if I go so far as to say that cubic truth, not appearance, is the mistress of things, if I add that the sight of the plains and woods and country views gives me the principle of the plans that I employ on my statues, that I feel cubic truth everywhere, and that plan and volume appear to me as laws of all life and ail beauty, will it be said that I am a symbolist, that I generalise, that I am a metaphysician ? It seems to me that I have remained a sculptor and a realist. Unity oppresses and haunts me.
    • p. 65-67


  • To produce good sculpture it is not necessary to copy the works of antiquity; it is necessary first of all to regard the works of nature, and to see in those of the classics only the method by which they have interpreted nature.
    • Attributed to Auguste Rodin by Isadora Duncan, As quoted in Modern Dancing and Dancers (1912) by John Ernest Crawford Flitch, p. 105.
  • Nobody does good to men with impunity.
    • Attributed to Auguste Rodin in: The Nation, Vol. 109 (1919), p. 6: Rodin means without reward.

Rodin on realism, 1910


Paul Gsell. (translated from La Revenue), "Rodin on realism. He interprets the beauty of ugliness" in: Boston Evening, March 15, 1910

  • Gsell: What astonishes me, is that your way is so different from that of other sculptors. They prose the model. Instead of that, you wait till a model has instinctively or accidentally taken an Interesting pose, and thon you reproduce It. Instead of your giving orders to the model, the model gives orders to you.
Rodin: I am not at the model's orders; I am at Nature's. Doubtless my confreres have their reasons for proceeding as they do. But when one constrains Nature in that way and treats human beings as mannikins, one runs a risk of getting nothing but dead, artificial results. A hunter of truth and a trapper of life. I am careful not to follow their example. I seize upon the movements I observe, but I don't dictate them. when a subject requires a predetermined pose, I merely Indicate It. For I want only what reality will afford without being forced. In everything I obey Nature. I never assume to command her. My sole ambition Is a servile fidelity.
Gsell : And yet, you take liberties with nature. You make changes.
Rodin : Not at all. I should be false to myself if I did.
Gsell : But you finished work is never like the plaster sketch
Rodin : That is so, but the sketch is far less true than the finished work. It would Impossible for a model to keep a living attitude during all the time it takes to shape the clay. Still, I retain a general idea of the pose and require the model to conform to it. But this is not all. The sketch reproduces only the exterior. I must next reproduce the spirit, which is every whit as essential a part of Nature. I see the whole truth — not merely the fraction of it that lies upon the surface. I accentuate tho lines that best express the spiritual state I am Interpreting.
  • I admit, of course, that the artist does not see nature as the vulgar do. His emotion reveals to him the inner truths that underlie appearance. But the only principle In art is to copy what one sees. Every other method is ruinous. No one can embellish Nature. It is simply and solely a question of seeing. Doubtless a mediocre man, when he copies will never produce a work of art. He looks without seeing. No matter how minutely he observes, the result will be flat and without character. But the artist's trade is not for mediocre men, and no amount of training can supply them with talent. The artist sees - he sees with his heart. He sees deep into the heart of Nature. To the artist everything in Nature is beautiful.
    The vulgarian imagines that what looks to him ugly In Nature is not material for the artist. He would forbid us to represent what displeases and offends him. He makes a grave mistake. What is commonly called ugliness in Nature may become a great beauty in art.
    In the realm of realities, people regard as ugly everything that is deformed and diseased and that suggests sickness, weakness and suffering. They regard as ugly everything that defies regularity, which is to them the symbol and condition of health and strength. A hump is ugly, bow-legs are ugly, misery in rags is ugly. Ugly, again, are the soul and conduct of the immoral, the vicious, the criminal man, the abnormal man who is an enemy of society; ugly is the soul of the parricide, the traitor, the unscrupulous slave of ambition. And it is right that the lives and the of which we can expect only evil should be given an odious epithet.
  • But when a great artist or a great writer lays hold upon either sort of ugliness he transfigures it instantaneously. With a touch from the magic ring he metamorphoses it into beauty. His Is a sort of fairy alchemy. His Is a sort of fairy alchemy.
    When Velasquez, paints Sebastian, King Philip's dwarf, he gives him such an appealing look that we read the poor creature's secret and see the tragedy it involved — a man forced to get his living by discarding his human dignity, and becoming a toy, a living joke. The more poignant his martyrdom, within that misshapen body, the more beautiful the artist's work.
    When Millet paints a poor rustic leaning upon a hoe, a wretch broken by fatigue, scorched by the sun, degraded as a beast of the field, he has only to add an expression of resignation in order to make this hideous nightmare a magnificent symbol of humanity.
    When Shakespeare gives us Tago or Richard III, and when Racine gives us Néron and Narcisse, moral ugliness, interpreted by minds so clear, so penetrating, becomes a marvelous theme of beauty.
  • In art a thing is beautiful whenever it has character. Character — this is the intense truth of any natural spectacle, whether beautiful or ugly. You may even call it a double truth. For it is the inner essence expressed by the outer appearance. It is the soul, the sentiment, the idea that shines out through the features of a fare, the pose and action of a human body, the tones of a skym the line of a horizon.
  • Now to the great artist, everything in nature has character.

RODIN, AUGUSTE. L'Art. Entretiens réunis par Paul Gsell, 1911


Auguste Rodin and Paul Gsell. RODIN, AUGUSTE. L'Art. Entretiens réunis par Paul Gsell. Paris 1911, Bernard Grasset. (in French); Also translated as Art: Conversations with Paul Gsell, 1985; (Unless stated otherwise) the quotes below are from 1911 translation in: "Auguste Rodin: L'Art by Paul Gsell," Review by: S. S. in: Art and Progress, Vol. 2, No. 11 (Sep., 1911) , p. 344

  • I obey nature, I never presume to command her. The first principal in art is to copy what one sees.
  • I admit, that the commonplace man can never, by copying, produce a masterpiece; he notes every detail but he does not really see - the artist penetrates below the surface into the very heart of nature; for him everything is beautiful because beauty in art consists of character.
  • Drawing is but a means to an end. One imagines that drawing can be beautiful-it is not the lines which are beautiful, but what they signify, the sentiments which they translate. In reality, there is no such thing as beauty in drawing, or color beauty lies alone in revelation of truth.
  • The artist who parades his drawing, the writer who calls attention to his style, is like the farmer who devotes his energies to polishing farm implements and never uses them.
  • It is too evident that if the drawing is bad, the color false, the deepest emotion must fail to express itself.
  • No sudden inspiration can replace the long years of arduous labor necessary to train the eye to observe, the hand to reproduce.
  • If in looking at a picture you have been profoundly moved by it, but have not noticed the color or drawing, you may be sure that they are technically perfect.
  • An artist must possess consummate technique in order to make us forget it.
  • The great difficulty and crowning glory of art is to paint, to draw, to write, naturally and simply.
  • Painting, literature, music, are more closely allied than the public usually admit. They are merely different means of expression.
  • A critic recently denounced my Victor Hugo, declaring the treatment belonged not to sculpture but to music. He said it reminded him of a symphony by Beethoven. Heaven grant that he spoke the truth!
  • For to me, this word Art, in its largest sense, signifies those who take pleasure in their work... Artist-carpenters who adjust with joy dovetails and mortises; artist-masons who handle lovingly their trowels; artist-cab drivers, proud of treating their horses humanely-what an ideal state of society that would be.

Art, 1912


Auguste Rodin and Paul Gsell. Art, Publisher Boston, Small, Maynard & Co, 1912. Translated by Mrs. Romilly Fedden.

  • To-day, artists and those who love artists seem like fossils. Imagine a megatherium or a diplodocus stalking the streets of Paris! There you have the impression that we must make upon our contemporaries. Ours is an epoch of engineers and of manufacturers, not one of artists.
    • Preface, p. 6-7
  • The search in modem life is for utility; the endeavor is to improve existence materially. Every day, science invents new processes for the feeding, clothing, or transportation of man; she manufactures cheaply inferior products in order to give adulterated luxuries to the greatest number — though it is true that she has also made real improvements in all that ministers to our daily wants. But it is no longer a question of spirit, of thought, of dreams. Art is dead.
    • Preface, p. 7
  • Art is contemplation. It is the pleasure of the mind which searches into nature and which there divines the spirit by which Nature herself is animated. It is the joy of the intellect which sees clearly into the Universe and which recreates it, with conscientious vision. Art is the most sublime mission of man, since it is the expression of thought seeking to understand the world and to make it understood.
    • Preface, p. 7-8
  • But to-day, mankind believes itself able to do without Art. It does not wish to meditate, to contemplate, to dream; it wishes to enjoy physically. The heights and the depths of truth are indifferent to it; it is content to satisfy its bodily appetites. Mankind to-day is brutish — it is not the stuff of which artists are made.
    • Preface, p. 8
  • Art, moreover, is taste. It is the reflection of the artist's heart upon all the objects that he creates. It is the smile of the human soul upon the house and ui>on the furnishing. It is the charm of thought and of sentiment embodied in all that is of use to man. But how many of our contemporaries fed the necessity of taste in house or furnishing? Formerly, in old France, Art was everywhere. The smallest bourgeois, even the peasant, made use only of articles which pleased the eye. Their chairs, their tables, their pitchers and their pots were beautiful. Today Art is banished from daily life. People say that the useful need not be beautiful. All is ugly, all is made in haste and without grace by stupid machines. The artist is regarded as an antagonist. Ah, my dear Gsell, you wish to jot down an artist's musings. Let me look at you! You really are an extraordinary man!"
    • Preface, p. 8-9
  • I am not at their orders, but at those of Nature! My confreres doubtless have their reasons for working as you have said. But in thus doing violence to nature and treating human beings like puppets, they run the risk of producing lifeless and artificial work...
    • Ch. I. Realism in Art, p. 29-30
  • As for me, seeker after truth and student of life as I am, I shall take care not to follow their example. I take from life the movements I observe, but it is not I who impose them.
    Even when a subject which I am working on compels me to ask a model for a certain fixed pose, I indicate it to him, but I carefully avoid touching him to place him in the position, for I will reproduce only what reality spontaneously offers me.
    I obey Nature in everything, and I never pretend to command her. My only ambition is to be servilely faithful to her.
    • Ch. I. Realism in Art, p. 30
  • I grant you that the artist does not see Nature as she appears to the vulgar, because his emotion reveals to him the hidden truths beneath appearances.
    But, after all, the only principle in Art is to copy what you see. Dealers in esthetics to the contrary, every other method is fatal. There is no recipe for improving nature.
    • Ch. I. Realism in Art, p. 33
To the great artist, everything in nature has character; for the unswerving directness of his observation searches out the hidden meaning of all things.
  • Now, to the great artist, everything in nature has character; for the unswerving directness of his observation searches out the hidden meaning of all things. And that which is considered ugly in nature often presents more character than that which is termed beautiful, because in the contractions of a sickly countenance, in the lines of a vicious face, in all deformity, in all decay, the inner truth shines forth more clearly than in features that are regular and healthy.
    • Ch. II. To the artist, all in nature is beautiful, p. 46
  • To any artist, worthy of the name, all in nature is beautiful, because his eyes, fearlessly accepting all exterior truth, read there, as in an open book, all the inner truth.
    He has only to look into a human face in order to read there the soul within — not a feature deceives him; hypocrisy is as transparent as sincerity — the line of a forehead, the least lifting of a brow, the flash of an eye, reveal to him all the secrets of a heart.
    • Ch. II. To the artist, all in nature is beautiful, p. 47-48
  • Or he may study the hidden mind of the animal. A mixture of feelings and of thoughts, of dumb intelligences and of rudimentary affections, he reads the whole humble moral life of the beast in its eyes and in its movements.
    He is even the confidant of nature. The trees, the plants talk to him like friends. The old gnarled oaks speak to him of their kindliness for the human race whom they protect beneath their sheltering branches. The flowers commune with him by the gracious swaying of their stalks, by the singing tones of their petals — each blossom amidst the grass is a friendly word addressed to him by nature.
    • Ch. II. To the artist, all in nature is beautiful, p. 48
  • Now color — it is to this remark that I wished to lead — is the flower of fine modelling. These two qualities always accompany each other, and it is these qualities which give to every masterpiece of the sculptor the radiant appearance of living flesh.
    • Ch. III. Modelling, p. 61
  • It is a false idea that drawing in itself can be beautiful. It is only beautiful through the truths and the feelings that it translates. The crowd admires artists, who, strong in subject, elegantly pen contours destitute of significance, and who plant their figures in pretentious poses. It goes into ecstasies over poses which are never seen in nature, and which are considered artistic because they recall the posturings of the Italian models who offer themselves at the studio door. That is what is generally called beautiful drawing. It is really only sleight-of-hand, fit to astonish boobies.
    • Ch. V. Drawing and Color, p. 95-96
  • Of course, there is drawing in art as there is style in literature. Style that is mannered, that strains after effect, is bad. No style is good except that which effaces itself in order to concentrate all the attention of the reader upon the subject treated, upon the emotion rendered.
    • Ch. V. Drawing and Color, p. 96
  • The artist who parades his drawing, the writer who wishes to attract praise to his style, resemble the soldier who plumes himself on his unif onn but refuses to go into battle, or the farmer who polishes the ploughshare instead of driving it into the earth.
    • Ch. V. Drawing and Color, p. 96
  • In general, it is possible to say that in artists as deliberate, as careful as [Durer and Holbein], drawing is particularly tight and the color is as cold as the verity of mathematics. In other artists, on the contrary, in those who are the poets of the heart, like Raphael, Correggio, Andrea del Sarto, line has more suppleness and color, more winning tenderness. In others whom we call realists that is to say, whose sensibility is more exterior, in Rubens, Velasquez, Rembrandt, for example, line has a living charm with its force and its repose, and the color sometimes bursts into a fanfare of sunlight, sometimes fades into mist.
    So, the modes of expression of men of genius differ as much as their souls, and it is impossible to say that in some among them drawing and color are better or worse than in others.
    • Ch. V. Drawing and Color, p. 104-105
  • If the artist only reproduces superficial features as photography does, if he copies the lineaments of a face exactly, without reference to character, he deserves no admiration. The resemblance which he ought to obtain is that of the soul; that alone matters; it is that which the sculptor or painter should seek beneath the mask of features.
    • Ch. VII. Of Yesterday and of to-day, p. 121
  • An artist worthy of the name should express all the truth of nature, not only the exterior truth, but also, and above all, the inner truth.
    When a good sculptor models a torso, he not only represents the muscles, but the life which animates them — more than the life, the force that fashioned them and communicated to them, it may be, grace or strength, or amorous charm, or indomitable will.
    In the works of Michael Angelo, the creative force seems to rumble; in those of Luca della Robbia it smiles divinely. So each sculptor, following his temperament, lends to nature a soul either terrible or gentle.
    • Ch. VIII Mystery in Art, p. 178
  • The landscape painter, perhaps, goes even further. It is not only in living beings that he sees the reflection of the universal soul; it is in the trees, the bushes, the valleys, the hills. What to other men is only wood and earth appears to the great landscapist like the face of a great being. Corot saw kindness abroad in the trunks of the trees, in the grass of the fields, in the mirroring water of the lakes. But there Millet read suffering and resignation.
    Everywhere the great artist hears spirit answer to his spirit. Where, then, can you find a more religious man?
    Does not the sculptor perform his act of adoration when he perceives the majestic character of the forms that he studies? — when, from the midst of fleeting lines, he knows how to extricate the eternal type of each being? — when he seems to discern in the very breast of the divinity the immutable models on which all living creatures are moulded? Study, for example, the masterpieces of the Egyptian sculptors, either human or animal figures, and tell me if the accentuation of the essential lines does not produce the effect of a sacred hymn. Every artist who has the gift of generalizing forms, that is to say, of accenting their logic without depriving them of their living reality, provokes the same religious emotion; for he communicates to us the thrill he himself felt before the immortal verities.
  • Ch. VIII Mystery in Art, p. 179-180

Rodin : the man and his art, with leaves from his notebook, 1917


Judith Cladel and S.K. Star, Rodin : the man and his art, with leaves from his notebook. 1917.

  • When I was quite young, as far back as I remember, I drew, but the gift is nothing without the will to make it worth while. The artist must have the patience of water that eats away the rock drop by drop.
    • p. 7
  • Michelangelo, revealed me to myself, revealed to me the truth of forms. I went to Florence to find what I possessed in Paris and elsewhere, but it is he who taught me this.
    • p. 99
  • My principles are the laws of experience.
    • p. 103
  • I am not a rhetorician, but a man of action.
    • p. 105
  • The streets of Paris, with their shops of old furniture, etchings, and works of art, are a veritable museum, far less tiring than official museums, and from which one imbibes just as much as one can.
    • p. 105
  • Admiration, is a joy daily kindled afresh... I talk out of the -fullness of life; it belongs to me in a sense larger than that of ownership.
    • p. 121
  • Were this thoroughly understood, industrial art would be entirely revolutionized — industrial art, that barbarous term, an art which concerns itself with commerce and profit.
    • p. 125
  • The young artists of to-day understand nothing; they copy to satiety the classic ornaments and designs, and reproduce them in so cold a manner that they lose all meaning. The ancients obtained their designs from nature. They found their models in the garden, even in the vegetable garden. They drew their inspiration from its source. The cabbage-leaf, the oak-leaf, the clover, the thistle, and the brier are the motives of the Gothic capital. It is not photographic truth, but living truth, that we must seek in art.
    • p. 125
The Gates of Hell, The Kunsthaus Zürich, Zurich.
  • I am pervaded by the marvel of this art; but I cannot as yet explain it to myself. The Gothic is the world foreshortened. Where am I to begin? For more than thirty years I have been accumulating and comparing my observations. Perhaps eventually I shall succeed in deducing the rule, the law of divine intelligence; but perhaps I shall not have sufficient time. Then it will be the task of another, younger than myself, who will start his researches earlier, and who, besides, will have been informed by me.
    • p. 183; Rodin talks about cathedrals
  • Take more room, examine my 'Gate' from a little farther off, and you will see once more the effect of the whole — the effect of unity which charms you when it is deprived of its ornamentation. You must understand that my sculpture is so calculated as to melt into the principal masses. For that matter, it completes them by modeling them into the light. The essential designs are there: it is possible that in the course of the final work I may find it necessary to diminish such or such a projection, to fill out such or such a pool of shadow; nevertheless, leave this difficulty to my fifty years of artisanship and experience, and you may be sure that quite by myself I shall find the best way of finishing my work.
  • Yes, they are beautiful... The shirt, the blouse are garments the folds of which yield simple planes and effects that, rightly rendered, are those of true sculpture. But there is something better still, and that is sackcloth. If I had clothed my 'Burghers of Calais' in sackcloth, they would certainly be more beautiful. I did not dare to. Some one else will do this and will succeed. It is sufficient to express an idea and leave it to its destiny.
  • One can never do anything so beautiful as nature.
    • p. 300
  • I sacrificed to the mania of the age, which is to overload things. My modeling is there, the eloquence of the gesture also. The rest would only spoil the essential things. It is a stroke of genius. I am going to write to the under-secretary of state that my monument is ready.
    • p. 309
  • The biblical times have come back again, the great invasions of the Medes and the Persians. Has the world, then, reached the point where it deserves to be punished for the egotistical epicureanism in which it has slumbered?
    • p. 355


  • Why then should I clothe him to make him look ridiculous in the foolish masculine fashions of his time? There is nothing more banal than these statues of recent notabilities, to be seen in every big city of Europe, masquerading as tailors' models of their ugly period. Man's naked form on the other hand belongs to no particular moment in history ; it is eternal, and can be looked upon with joy by the people of all ages.
    • Auguste Rodin in: The Cornhill Magazine, (1925), p. 766; Cited in: Anthony Mario Ludovici (1926). Personal Reminiscences of Auguste Rodin. p. 111

1930s and later

  • Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.
  • The sculptor must learn to reproduce the surface, which means all that vibrates on the surface: spirit, soul, love, passion — life. ... Sculpture is thus the art of hollows and mounds, not of smoothness, or even polished planes.
    • In; Victor Frisch, ‎Joseph Twadell Shipley (1939). Auguste Rodin. p. 203: About the act of creation.
  • I choose a block of marble and chop off whatever I do not need.
  • The main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live. Be a man before being an artist.
    • Attributed to Rodin in H. Read (1964), as cited in: Karl H. Pfenninger, ‎Valerie R. Shubik, ‎Bruce Adolphe (2001). The Origins of Creativity. p. 50
  • The artist must learn the difference between the appearance of an object and the interpretation of this object through his medium. The artist must create a spark before he can make a fire and before art is born, the artist must be ready to be consumed by the fire of his own creation.
    • Attributed to Rodin in: Southwestern Art Vol. 6 (1977). p. 20; Partly cited in: A Toolbox for Humanity: More Than 9000 Years of Thought (2004) by Lloyd Albert Johnson, p. 7
  • In art, immorality cannot exist. Art is always sacred even when it takes for a subject the worst excesses of desire; since it has in view only the sincerity of observation, it cannot debase itself. A true work of art is always noble, even when it translates the stirrings of the brute, for at that moment, the artist who has produced it had as his only objective, the most conscientious rendering possible of the impression he has felt.
    • Albert Edward Elsen (1985). The Gates of Hell by Auguste Rodin. p. 131
  • Patience is also a form of action.
    • Attributed to Rodin in: Leonard William Doob (1990). Hesitation: Impulsivity and Reflection. p. 124
    • Compare "They also serve who only stand and wait." John Milton, Sonnet, On his Blindness.
  • You would not believe my suffering... Death would be sweeter... I can't go another day without seeing you. Atrocious madness, it's the end. I won't be able to work any more. Malevolent goddess! And yet I love you furiously.

Quotes about Auguste Rodin

  • Rodin is himself a cathedral.
    • Attributed to Léon Bourgeois in: Judith Cladel and S.K. Star, Rodin: the man and his art, with leaves from his notebook. 1917. p. 182
  • Art is complex, I said to Rodin, who smiled because he felt that I was struggling with nature.. ..the beauty of Rodin’s art is.. the thoughts he embodied. As for me, I just take a walk on the beach. A young girl appears. From that girl walking there emanates a soul. That is That is at I want to give my statue, that thing alive, yet immaterial. In composing the figure of one young girl I must give the impression that there are all young girls. From the spirit, my feeling passes into my fingers
    • Aristide Maillol, quoted in 'Aristide Maillol', ed. Andrew C. Ritchie, Albright Art Gallery N Y 1945, p. 31 + 45; as quoted by Angelo Carnafa, in 'A sculpture of interior Solitude', Associated University Presse, 1999, p. 167
  • My sculpture is altogether different from Rodin’s.. ..In sculpture he [Rodin] always sees the flesh first.
    • Aristide Maillol, quoted in: 'Aristide Maillol', George Waldemar (1965) p. 46; as quoted in 'A sculpture of interior Solitude', Angelo Carnafa, Associated University Presse, 1999, p. 166
  • For my taste, sculpture should have as little movement as possible.. ..Rodin himself remains quiet; he puts movement into his rendering of muscles, but the whole remains quiet and calm.
    • Aristide Maillol, quoted in:Conversations with Judith Cladel (1939 – 1944); as quoted in Artists on Art – from the 14th – 20th centuries, ed. by Robert Goldwater and Marco Treves; Pantheon Books, 1972, London; p. 407
  • Homeric mind is ingenuity, practical intelligence. There is no Rodin-like deep thinking, no mathematical or philosophical speculation. Odysseus thinks with his hands.
    • w:Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson (1990) p. 85
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