Auguste Rodin is counted among the greatest artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries along with names such as Van Gogh, Monet and Renoir. In the history of sculpture, he occupies a place even more important than his painterly contemporaries, for he alone revived the art of sculpture, returning it to prominence among mainstream art. During the mid 1870s, after two decades of struggling as an artist, Rodin visited Italy and studied the works of Michelangelo, who inspired his first major work, The Bronze Age. Exhibited in Brussels in 1877, it was so well received that the State purchased the piece in 1880 which led to the commission of The Gates of Hell. His works, so naturalistic and expressive in detail, were far removed from conventional, decorative sculpture that he was even accused of creating his casts directly from live models. He again made sculpture a vehicle for personal expression after it had declined to merely decoration and sterile monument.