Auguste Rodin was a French artist, most famous as a sculptor. He was the preeminent French sculptor of his time, and remains one of the most recognizable sculptors ever. Although Rodin is generally considered the progenitor of Modern sculpture, he did not set out to rebel against the past. He was schooled traditionally, took a craftsman-like approach to his work, and desired academic recognition, although he was never accepted into Paris's foremost school of art. Sculpturally, he possessed a unique ability to model a complex, turbulent, deeply pocketed surface in clay.
Many of Rodin's most notable sculptures were criticized during his lifetime. They clashed with the predominant figure sculpture tradition, in which works were decorative, formulaic, or highly thematic. Rodin's most original work departed from traditional themes of mythology and allegory, by modeling the human body with realism, and celebrating individual character and physicality by showing intricate details. Rodin was sensitive to the controversy about his work, but did not change his style, and successive works brought increasing favor from the government and the artistic community. From the unexpected realism of his first major figure—inspired by his 1875 trip to Italy—to the unconventional memorials whose commissions he later sought, Rodin's reputation grew. By 1900, he was a world-renowned artist. Wealthy private clients sought Rodin's work after his World's Fair exhibit, and he kept company with a variety of high-profile intellectuals and artists. He married his life-long companion, Rose Beuret, in the last year of both their lives. His sculpture suffered a decline in popularity after his death in 1917, but within a few decades his legacy was solidified and his sculptures’ commercial appeal began to broaden among collectors.