Camille Claudel in Rodin’s workshop

“I haven’t done everything I have done to end my life increasing the number of inmates in a sanatorium, I deserved something more”.

Camille Claudel

If you haven’t heard or read about the curious story of Camille Claudel, then it is time for you to find out who she was and what her relationship was like with her family and the famous French sculptor Auguste Rodin.

Camille Claudel was a talented French sculptor born in 1864, hated by her mother for not having been a boy. From an early age she showed interest and ability for three-dimensional creation. In her childhood she liked to play with clay, model and sculpt some of her relatives, particularly her brother, the famous writer Paul Claudel.

Camille had the support of her father, who was the only one in the family who endorsed her interest in studying and a having an art career. Around 1882 she began studies at the School of Fine Arts in Paris, but the following year she moved to the Calabrossi Academy with the purpose of improving her technique, where she met Rodin, 24 years older than her, of whom she was not only his student and assistant, but also his source of inspiration, model, and lover. During that time, Rodin’s works are characterized by being more sensual since Camille’s face and body flood his works.

Although Camille collaborated in the realization of some of Rodin’s works, she began to produce her own sculptures in which, despite seeing the influence of her master, reveals a personal and feminine touch, as indicated by a critic of the time. She created commissioned public monuments, was invited to art salons, received distinction at the Salon de peinture et de sculpture (1888), and was reviewed in art magazines.

Camille Claudel. L’Age mûr or La Destinée, 1899.

After her breakup with Rodin, Camille falls into depression, begins to suffer from nervous breakdowns and chooses to distance herself from the social and cultural world; she cloisters herself in her workshop, where she lived in misery. Towards 1905 her crisis deepens, and she destroys many of her works. Her mother and brother wanted to commit her to an insane asylum, but her father emphatically opposed it. Once her father died, in 1913, her mother and her brother admitted her to the Ville-Evrard psychiatric hospital, and from there she was later transferred to Montdevergues, from where she never left, despite her recovery, and no one visited her, except for her brother, who in 30 years of seclusion visited her only 7 times. She died there, in 1943, at the age of 78, and her body was buried in a mass grave, so it is unknown where her remains are.

Written by José Gregorio Noroño, curator at Arte Original

Gabriela Otero. Amantes, 2019.

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