After his studies Rodin worked as an ornamental painter, caster and chaser. He worked in the studio of the academic sculptor Albert Carrier-Belleuse and with the Belgian sculptor Joseph van Rasbourg on the decorations of the Stock Exchange in Brussels. During a trip to Italy in 1876 he studied ancient Roman sculptures and the work of Donatello and Michelangelo Buonarotti. Inspired by the latter, upon his return to Paris he made The Age of Bronze, a male figure that was exhibited at the Salon des Artistes Français
in Paris in 1877. The sculpture caused a scandal: critics claimed that he had not modelled the figure in clay but that he had taken a cast from a living model.
The publicity he gained from this episode led to a commission in 1880 to make the gates for the future Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris. The museum was never built but Rodin worked sporadically on The Gates of Hell for thirty-seven years up to his death. He developed several figures from the gates into independent sculptures, including The Thinker (1880).
During his life Rodin assembled a large collection of ancient and medieval European sculptures as well as sculptures from India and the Far East. He donated the collection along with many of his own works to the French State, on the condition that a museum be built to house the collection. The donation was accepted in 1916. The collection can be seen in two museums: the Musée Rodin in Paris and the Musée Rodin in Meudon. Rodin died in Meudon in 1917.