The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
Home > On-line Edition > Biography

René Francois Auguste Rodin, 1840-1917

Nationality: French
Date of Birth: 1840.11.12
Place of Birth: rue de l'Arbalete, 5th Arrondissiment, Paris
Date of Death: 1917.11.17
Place of Death: Meudon


Auguste Rodin, a French sculptor, was the son of a clerk in the police force. He had a sister who died in 1862.


Rodin and Whistler had possibly met as fellow students at the Ecole Impériale du Dessin et de Mathématique in 1855. The rue de Varenne where Rodin had his studio was adjacent to the rue du Bac where Whistler lived at 110. Rodin was among those who would attend Whistler's Sunday afternoon gatherings in Paris.

Whistler greatly admired Rodin's more conventional sculpture, and his own studio practice may have been influenced by that of his friend. Both men would ask their models to move around the studio as they drew them. Rodin certainly saw their arts as allied, describing Whistler's feeling for form and space as akin to that of the great sculptors. Rodin described Rose et vert: L'Iris - Portrait of Miss Kinsella (YMSM 420), when he saw it at the London Memorial Exhibition in 1905, as 'a beautiful suggestion of lace', even though the facial features had suffered repeated scraping and repainting.

Rodin's works were included in the first exhibition of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, of which Whistler had become President on 23 April 1898. Albert Ludovici had persuaded Rodin to exhibit his least controversial works. After Whistler's death, due to the efforts of Ludovici, Rodin became President of the ISSPG in the autumn of 1903. In January 1904, at the first exhibition of Rodin's Presidency, Whistler was represented by works including Symphony in White, No. 3 (YMSM 61), Crepuscule in Flesh Colour and Green: Valparaiso (YMSM 73), Symphony in Grey: Early Morning, Thames (YMSM 98) and Rose et or: La Tulipe (YMSM 418). In 1905 Rodin was commissioned to design a commemorative monument to Whistler in London. However, the project was abandoned in 1918, the monument remaining unfinished at Rodin's death in 1917.


Rodin, A., Les Cathédrales de France, Paris, 1914; Beausire, A., and H. Pinet (eds.), Correspondance de Rodin, Paris, 1985; Symons, A., 'Rodin', Fortnightly Review, vol. 71, 1902, pp. 957-67; Elsen, A., Auguste Rodin: Readings on his Life and Work, Englewood Cliffs, 1965; Newton, J., and M. MacDonald, 'Rodin: The Whistler Monument', Gazette des Beaux-Arts, vol. 92, 6th series, 1978, pp. 221-31; Grunfeld, F. V., Rodin: A Biography, New York, 1987; Lampert, Catherine, 'Auguste Rodin', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 29 April 2002).