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Publisher's Summary

Augustus Rodin was not only the greatest sculptor but also one of the most remarkable personalities of modern times. Frederic V. Grunfeld's exhaustive biography, the first in over 50 years, documents a lifetime of both artistic and personal struggle against poverty, against the conservative Salon, and against an art establishment that for years denied him recognition.

Rodin's crucial love affair with his pupil, Camille Claudel, emerges here in all its tragic complexity, as do his relationships with the British painter Gwen John and the American-born duchess Claire de Choiseul. Grunfeld also sheds new light on Rodin's friendships with some of the most gifted writers and artists of the day, from Robert Louis Stevenson and George Bernard Shaw to Emile Zola and James McNeill Whistler.

©1987 Frederic V. Grunfeld; (P)1996 Blackstone Audiobooks

Critic Reviews

"A consistently absorbing story....A rewarding and illuminating book." (The New York Times)
"Religiously researched and gracefully written....Grunfeld will set a biographical standard for years to come." (The Boston Globe)

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Too much humor to be a textbook!

ETA:I always forget something!!! So, I am adding this. There is more humor than just that of the different opinions of Rodin's artwork, its sexuality, its cut morceaux and interchanged titles. In one of the studios Rodin had no doors on the apprentices' rooms. Pets were free to come and go. What about a Newfoundland sleeping next to you in your bed?! This was a huge surprise to one new apprentice. There is no way this book can be judged as a textbook, even if it is chock-full of details. These details are what make the book good. You see I am still thinking about this delightful and informative book.

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I picked up this book because I wanted to understand the personality of the sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917). I definitely got that from this book. I also got a comprehensive study of all his busts, monuments, drawings and sculptures. The book is filled with quotes, which are extensively noted. (In the audiobook these notes are read as they come up.) You hear both complimentary and negative views on the artist and his artwork. The story moves forward chronologically, thus you see how his personality changed with time. You see how his artwork changed and how the world around him changed. You learn what it was that made Rodin Rodin and which aspects of his personality never changed.

There is humor, particularly when you listen to the different views voiced. Night and day. Lovers and haters. The author rarely comments on what others say, but both positive and negative views are voiced.

I don't know where to start. It seems hopeless to say in a few words what makes Rodin Rodin. He was a man that saw the beauty of women and he appreciated their sexuality, though the word “appreciate” is just so lacking in passion! Rodin further convinces me that although artists are wonderful, they are impossible to live with. All his life he had affairs with numerous women, but he never left his first love Rose. He married her on his deathbed..... and within a year both were dead. He never acknowledged their son.

The techniques Rodin employed in producing his artwork is also discussed. When he drew his eyes never looked at the paper; they were glued to that being drawn. He added pieces of clay more often than extracting pieces. He constantly altered. He wouldn’t stop until he was satisfied. He loved nature and saw it in a finger, a hand, an arm, in movement and stillness; in shadow and sun. And the names of his artwork, he changed them over and over again. The name was not the essential.

This book is for me a clear four star book. I don't see it as a text book; it is too interesting and too amusing. Parts are scandalous, and the uproar that ensues is exciting! BUT, the book is extremely comprehensive and much is illustrated through copious quotes. The book not only teaches about Rodin but also the entire art world of the latter 19th Century and the first 17 years of the 20th. Very many artists and musicians and authors are covered - just about all the ones you can possibly think of and then add many, many more which you have never heard of! At times I got lost, when I didn't recognize enough of the names. As usual, the more you know before picking up a book, the more you will enjoy the details. You have something to fasten on to.

Now a word about the narration by the famed Simon Vance. I thought Vance could read anything. Here his narration was a total disappointment. In fact I was often extremely annoyed. His French just plain sucks. Sorry for being so darn blunt, but there is the truth. He mispronounces French words, and there are lots of them. I would have to try and guess what he could possibly be trying to say. Cities and known artists are almost unrecognizable. Maybe I would have recognized more of the artists if I had been given proper pronunciations. Reims sounds like "reams" rhyming with "seams". The correct pronunciation is closer to "ranse". I am just mentioning ONE example! Rodin spent seven years in Brussels. Vance's pronunciations are so incorrect it totally threw me. I know Brussels! I have lived there. He also uses different pronunciations for the very same word, so it is difficult to "translate" what he could possible mean. I absolutely hated the lousy narration. I will never listen to another book by Vance if he has to speak French words. Never. Do you hear how annoyed I am? IF you want to make an audiobook version of a written book that has many French words, then get someone who speaks French properly! Four stars is for the written book, not the audiobook narrated by Simon Vance.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Inspiring

Inspires me to kneed some clay, create a portrait, sculpt a hand, hire a model and create art through the truth of nature.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Kelly
  • Livermore, CA, United States
  • 01-24-14

To much like a text book

Any additional comments?

I really like Simon Vance but this book was just to much like a text book with footnotes in the middle of a sentence. Simon french is beautiful but there is so much french that I was having trouble following it. Didn't get far before I just gave up. If you like stories about artist and you like sculptors I suggest the Agony & Ecstasy (about michaelangelo). Its a great listen/

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Auguste Rodin, Superstar

Of the dozens of audiobooks that I've listened to, this is by far one of my favorites. I'm surprised that it isn't more popular. For fans of Rodin's work, this biography will prove not only informative, but also very entertaining. It shows Rodin as an eccentric celebrity, loved by many for his raw talent, authenticity and charisma, while despised by the more traditional establishment. He comes off as a force of nature, a self-serving genius whose complete devotion to art is to a great extent fuelled by an obsession with women's sexuality. It's true that there is a lot of detail about his life and at 27-plus hours, it may require some patience for some. But the writing is very accessible and satisfying throughout. I wasn't bored once.

I love the clarity and slight humor that Simon Vance's narration provides and almost gave him 5 stars. English, he does wonderfully. Other languages, however, less so. His pronunciation of French is not very good and there's a lot of it in the book. He even manages to mispronounce simple names, like the Spanish artist Velazquez. For this, I deducted one star. Otherwise, kudos for a job well done!

One serious problem I had (and I will complain to Audible about it) is that the recording itself seems to skip over certain words and sentences during some segments, which is quite frustrating. I tried deleting and downloading again the audiobook from my phone and reinstalling the app, but nothing, it kept happening. I've listened to other audiobooks on my phone since then and I haven't experience that glitch. It's hard to imagine that other people had the same problem and didn't mention it. If it happens to you, you should bring it up as well.

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Boring

Don't waste your credits. Nothing new here and nothing to keep you listening. If you know something about Rodin this will not interest you as there is nothing new and if you know nothing about Rodin you will just find this a boring listen.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Doc
  • Pottstown, PA, United States
  • 03-04-13

Vance doesn't do Grunfeld justice.

If you could sum up Rodin in three words, what would they be?

poverty chauvinism lasciviousness

What was one of the most memorable moments of Rodin?

In their twenties, Rose would pose for Rodin for hours.<br/>They would return home to an apartment with neither food nor heat and sleep.

What do you think the narrator could have done better?

Vance has poor French pronunciation. When I was a student at the Sorbonne,<br/>I also studied at the Alliance Francaise to converse fluently. In addition I am a graduate of L'Universite de la Phonetique a Paris.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No, it is quite long but full of many valuable facts about France, artists and the extremely complex and interesting politics among the artists.

Any additional comments?

I recomment the book but the French is very substandard. I have taught French for years.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful