"I could not see the figures on the blackboard," he recalled. "I have always been shortsighted. As a child I did not know what was the matter and I hated mathematics because I could not see."
But Rodin was an exceedingly skilled artist.
He studied with the sculptor Antoine-Louis Barye and spent many long hours absorbing the techniques of the French Romantic school. When he was repeatedly denied admission to the École des Beaux-Arts, the leading art school of the day, he found work as a modeler for a series of Parisian contractors. In his spare time, he worked on his own art.
In 1862, Rodin's sister, Maria, died suddenly, and Rodin, laid low with grief, entered the order of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament. He left in 1863. Later, he signed on as an assistant with the painter and sculptor Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse.
In the early 1870s, he went with Carrier-Belleuse to Brussels; by the mid-1870s, he had become a well-known sculptor in his own right.
"Exploring this realm beneath the surface," write the curators of the Rodin Museum, in Philadelphia, "Rodin developed an agile technique for rendering the extreme physical states that correspond to expressions of inner turmoil or overwhelming joy. He sculpted a universe of great passion and tragedy, a world of imagination that exceeded the mundane reality of everyday existence."