Camille Claudel (Painting #13 of 13) “Influential Women”

Camille Claudel 1864 - 1943

Camille Claudel

1864 – 1943

“A revolt against nature: a woman genius”

It would be a mistake to assume that Camille Claudel’s reputation has survived simply because of her once notorious association with the sculptor Auguste Rodin. 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, poet and diplomat Paul Claudel, was a powerful allegory of her break with Rodin. One figure, The Implorer, was produced as an edition of its own, and has also been interpreted as not purely autobiographical, but as a more powerful representation of change and purpose in the human condition.

In the early years of 1900, Claudel had patrons, dealers, and some commercial success.

After 1905 Claudel appeared to be mentally ill. She destroyed many of her statues, disappeared for long periods of time, and exhibited signs of paranoia – subsequently diagnosed as schizophrenia. She accused Rodin of stealing her ideas and of leading a conspiracy to kill her. She  had an unwanted abortion of his child, demanded by her mother, who did not approve of her career in the arts, or her relationship with Rodin, who was in a 20 year marriage. In 1906, after the wedding of her brother, who had supported her until then, he returned to his diplomatic duties in China, and Camille lived a secluded life in her studio.

Her father, who approved of her career choice, tried to help her and supported her financially. When he died in 1913, Camille was not informed of his death. On March 10, 1913 at the initiative of her brother, she was admitted to the psychiatric ward. The form read that she had been “voluntarily” committed, although her admission was not signed by her, only a doctor and her brother. There are records to show that while she did have emotional outbursts, she was clear-headed while working on her art. Doctors tried to convince the family that she need not be in the institution, but still she was kept there.

Camille Claudell died on 19 October 1943, after having lived 30 years in the asylum at Montfavet. Camille was never visited by her mother and only once by her sister. In September 1943 her brother Paul, who did visit his sister, albeit infrequently, was informed of his sister’s terminal illness and with some difficulty crossed Occupied France to see her. He was neither present at her death nor her funeral. Her mother died on 20 June 1929 and her sister did not make the journey to Montfavet to Camille’s funeral. Camille’s remains were buried in a communal grave at the asylum.

(painting photo: Mark Serman)

© Laurence Revene, 2014

~ by Larry Revene on July 13, 2014.

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