French sculptor, draughtsman and engraver. Born in Paris. Studied at the Petite Ecole under Lecoq de Boisbaudran 1854-7; began to model. After failing to obtain entry to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, worked for some years as an ornamental mason and under Carrier-Belleuse at the Sèvres porcelain factory. In Brussels 1871-7 engaged mainly on decorative sculpture for the Brussels Exchange; continued his own work in the evenings. Visited Italy in 1875 to study Michaelangelo. Exhibited 'The Age of Bronze' in Brussels and Paris in 1877, and was accused of having cast it from life but finally vindicated. 'St John the Baptist' 1878-80 was his next major sculpture. In 1880 was commissioned to make a monumental portal and doors with sculptured reliefs for the Musée des Arts Décoratifs: this project, known as 'The Gates of Hell', occupied him for more than twenty years and contained nearly 180 figures, many of which were also treated separately on a scale up to or larger than life. 'The Burghers of Calais', influenced by Gothic art, met with much criticism and his monument to Balzac was refused in 1898 by the Société des Gens de Lettres. First one-man exhibition with Monet at the Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, in 1889, but full recognition only came after he organised a large exhibition of his works during the Paris International Exhibition of 1900. From then on was in great demand internationally for portrait busts and other commissions; also made numerous drawings and watercolours from the nude model. Died at Meudon. He presented the works in his possession to the French Government to form a Musée Rodin.
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.639