Rodin: Poster-Boy for Perseverance

Francois-Auguste-René Rodin ((1840–1917) was nothing if not persistent. At age 13, he entered the “Petite École” for training in the decorative arts. After three years of studying drawing and sculpture, he applied to the “Grande École des Beaux-Arts” but, although his drawing passed muster, he failed three times in the sculpture competition. Thus, at 19, Rodin resigned himself to working in plaster workshops, creating architectural ornamentation.

He eked out a living that way until, in his late-20s, he was hired to assist Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse, a successful commercial sculptor. But he longed for the day that he that he no longer had to answer to others, and he worked at sculpting on his own time. He considered his portrait bust called The Man with the Broken Nose (1863–64) to be his best work, submitting to the Paris Salon in 1864. It was rejected.

A trip to Florence in 1875, to study Michelangelo’s sculpture, accelerated his career. The work he submitted to the Salon in 1877 was accepted, but he was immediately accused of having cast the piece directly from the model’s body. Despite that widely-held suspicion, he was vindicated when the piece was purchased by the Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Fine Arts.

Rodin continued to experience setbacks and challenges throughout his life, but he persevered, saying, “It may happen that I will no longer be understood at all, and yet, I will be making progress.”

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