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The Life of Rodin: Childhood 1840-1858

Born to a modest family on 12 November 1840, François-Auguste-René Rodin was the second child of Jean-Baptiste Rodin and Marie Cheffer. He was somewhat shy and very nearsighted, which hindered him in his early schoolwork.  When he was 11 his father tried to help him academically by sending him to his uncle’s boarding school in Beauvais. He was there for three years, but still had difficulty reading and writing when the time was approaching for him to learn a trade.

Having always had a serious interest in drawing – he had his first lesson when he was ten years old – Rodin enrolled at the École Impériale de Dessin, a government school for craft and design (also called the Petite École — lesser school — to distinguish it from the more prestigious École des Beaux-Arts or School of Fine Arts).  He attended classes at the Petite École, visited museums to study and draw Greek and Roman sculpture, and studied drawing at the Gobelins tapestry manufactory. During these early years, he discovered clay and deemed himself a very capable and promising sculptor. Although at the age of seventeen he was awarded two prizes for drawing and modeling, Rodin was unable to gain admittance to the prestigious and conservative École des Beaux-Arts, which rejected him three times.