French Sculptor, 1840-1917
.French sculptor. Insolvent and repeatedly rejected by the École des Beaux-Arts, he earned his living by doing decorative stonework. Not until his late 30s, after a trip to Italy, did he develop a personal style free of academic restraints and establish his reputation as a sculptor with The Age of Bronze (exhibited 1878), whose realism was so great that he was accused of forming its mold on a living person. His Gates of Hell, a bronze door commissioned in 1880 for a proposed Musee des Arts Decoratifs, remained unfinished at his death, but two of its many figures were the bases of his most famous images, The Thinker (1880) and The Kiss (1886). His portraits include monumental figures of Victor Hugo and Honore de Balzac. Though these and many other works caused controversy for their unconventionality, he was successful enough that he could establish a workshop where he executed only molds, leaving the casting of bronze and the carving of marble to assistants. To his sculpture he added book illustrations, etchings, and numerous drawings, mostly of female nudes.
Man and his Thought