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Camille Claudel

As a Woman and an artist I am constantly saddened by the tragic life of Camile Claudel. She was argueably  the best female sculptor of all time. Yet she died in a psychiatric hospital where she was unjustly commited by her Brother.

She began her artistic  career as a pupil, then finally a model and mistress of the celebrated sculptor Auguste Rodin.  And it is  in that  connection  the World at large thinks of her.

But Camille Claudel was an artist  in her own right – whose  work equalled (and some would say surpassed) Rodins’.  There are some Art Historians who say that some scultpures attributed to Rodin – were actually the sole creations of Camille Claudel.

Wikipedia continues the Camille Claudel story…

“Camille Claudel was born in Fère-en-TardenoisAisne, in northern France, the second child of a family of farmers and gentry. Her father, Louis Prosper, dealt in mortgages and bank transactions. Her mother, the former Louise Athanaïse Cécile Cerveaux, came from a Champagne family ofCatholic farmers and priests. The family moved to Villeneuve-sur-Fère while Camille was still a baby. Her younger brother Paul Claudel was born there in 1868. Subsequently they moved to Bar-le-Duc (1870), Nogent-sur-Seine(1876), and Wassy-sur-Blaise (1879), although they continued to spend summers in Villeneuve-sur-Fère, and the stark landscape of that region made a deep impression on the children. Camille moved with her mother, brother and younger sister to the Montparnasse area of Paris in 1881, her father having to remain behind, working to support them.

Creative period

Camille Claudel in her workshop (before 1930)

Auguste RodinPortrait of Camille Claudel with a Bonnet, 1886

Fascinated with stone and soil as a child, as a young woman she studied at the Académie Colarossi with sculptor Alfred Boucher. (At the time, the École des Beaux-Arts barred women from enrolling to study.) In 1882, Claudel rented a workshop with other young women, mostly English, including Jessie Lipscomb. Alfred Boucher became her mentor and provided inspiration and encouragement to the next generation of sculptors such as Laure Coutan and Claudel. The latter was depicted in “Camille Claudel lisant” by Boucher and later she herself sculpted a bust of her mentor. Before moving to Florence and after having taught Claudel and others for over three years, Boucher asked Auguste Rodin to take over the instruction of his pupils. This is how Rodin and Claudel met and their tumultuous and passionate relationship started.

Around 1884, she started working in Rodin’s workshop. Claudel became a source of inspiration, his model, his confidante and lover. She never lived with Rodin, who was reluctant to end his 20-year relationship with Rose Beuret. Knowledge of the affair agitated her family, especially her mother, who never completely agreed with Claudel’s involvement in the arts. As a consequence, she left the family house. In 1892, after an unwanted abortion, Claudel ended the intimate aspect of her relationship with Rodin, although they saw each other regularly until 1898.

Beginning in 1903, she exhibited her works at the Salon des Artistes françaisor at the Salon d’Automne.

It would be a mistake to assume that Claudel’s reputation has survived simply because of her once notorious association with Rodin. The novelist and art critic Octave Mirbeau described her as “A revolt against nature: a woman genius”. Her early work is similar to Rodin’s in spirit, but shows an imagination and lyricism quite her own, particularly in the famous Bronze Waltz (1893).The Mature Age (1900) whilst interpreted by her brother as a powerful allegory of her break with Rodin, with one figure The Implorer that was produced as an edition of its own, has also been interpreted in a less purely autobiographical mode as an even more powerful representation of change and purpose in the human condition

Her onyx and bronze small-scale Wave (1897) was a conscious break in style with her Rodin period, with a decorative quality quite different from the “heroic” feeling of her earlier work.

In the early years of the 20th Century, Claudel had patrons, dealers, and some commercial success.

Composer Claude Debussy has also been romantically linked to Claudel, but this was later proven as being false Nevertheless, Debussy kept a copy of Claudel’s La Valse on his mantel.”

Read More HERE.