Camille Claudel

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Camille Claudel
Camille Claudel.jpg
Camille Claudel in 1884 (aged 19)
Born(1864-12-08)8 December 1864
Died19 October 1943(1943-10-19) (aged 78)
Montdevergues, Vaucluse, France
Alma mater Académie Colarossi
  • Louis Prosper
  • Louise Athanaïse Cécile Cerveaux
Relatives Paul Claudel (brother)

Camille Claudel (French pronunciation:  [kamij klɔdɛl] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen ); 8 December 1864  19 October 1943) was a French sculptor. Although she died in relative obscurity, Claudel has gained recognition for the originality and quality of her work. [1] [2] She was the elder sister of the poet and diplomat Paul Claudel and the co-worker and lover of sculptor Auguste Rodin.

Paul Claudel French diplomat, poet and playwright

Paul Claudel was a French poet, dramatist and diplomat, and the younger brother of the sculptress Camille Claudel. He was most famous for his verse dramas, which often convey his devout Catholicism. Claudel was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in six different years.

Auguste Rodin French sculptor

François Auguste René Rodin, known as Auguste Rodin, was a French sculptor. Although Rodin is generally considered the progenitor of modern sculpture, he did not set out to rebel against the past. He was schooled traditionally, took a craftsman-like approach to his work, and desired academic recognition, although he was never accepted into Paris's foremost school of art.


The national Camille Claudel Museum in Nogent-sur-Seine opened in 2017, and the Musée Rodin in Paris has a room dedicated to Claudel's works.

Musée Camille Claudel

The Musée Camille Claudel is a French national museum which honors and exhibits the art of sculptor Camille Claudel. It displays approximately half of Claudel's existing artwork. The Claudel museum was opened in 2017 in her teenage home town of Nogent-sur-Seine, 100 kilometers southeast of Paris.

Nogent-sur-Seine Subprefecture and commune in Grand Est, France

Nogent-sur-Seine is a commune in the Aube department in north-central France. The headquarters of The Soufflet Group is located here, as is the Musée Camille Claudel.

Musée Rodin museum in Paris, France

The Musée Rodin in Paris, France, is a museum that was opened in 1919, primarily dedicated to the works of the French sculptor Auguste Rodin. It has two sites: the Hôtel Biron and surrounding grounds in central Paris, and just outside Paris at Rodin's old home, the Villa des Brillants at Meudon (Hauts-de-Seine). The collection includes 6,600 sculptures, 8,000 drawings, 8,000 old photographs, and 7,000 objets d’art. The museum receives 700,000 visitors annually.

Early years

Camille Claudel was born in Fère-en-Tardenois, Aisne, in northern France, the second child of a family of farmers and gentry. Her father, Louis-Prosper Claudel, dealt in mortgages and bank transactions. Her mother, the former Louise-Athanaïse Cécile Cerveaux, came from a Champagne family of Catholic 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.

Fère-en-Tardenois Commune in Hauts-de-France, France

Fère-en-Tardenois is a commune in the Aisne department in Hauts-de-France in northern France.

Aisne Department of France

Aisne is a French department in the Hauts-de-France region of northern France. It is named after the river Aisne.

Champagne (province) Province in France

Champagne is a historical province in the northeast of France, now best known as the Champagne wine region for the sparkling white wine that bears its name. It was founded in 1065 near the city of Provins and was made up of different counties descended from the early medieval kingdom of Austrasia.

Camille moved with her mother, brother, and younger sister to the Montparnasse area of Paris in 1881. Her father remained behind, working to support them.

Montparnasse administrative quarter in Paris, France

Montparnasse is an area of Paris, France, on the left bank of the river Seine, centered at the crossroads of the Boulevard du Montparnasse and the Rue de Rennes, between the Rue de Rennes and boulevard Raspail. Montparnasse has been part of Paris since 1669.

Paris Capital of France

Paris is the capital and most populous city of France, with an area of 105 square kilometres and an official estimated population of 2,140,526 residents as of 1 January 2019. Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of Europe's major centres of finance, diplomacy, commerce, fashion, science, as well as the arts. The City of Paris is the centre and seat of government of the Île-de-France, or Paris Region, which has an estimated official 2019 population of 12,213,364, or about 18 percent of the population of France. The Paris Region had a GDP of €709 billion in 2017. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit Worldwide Cost of Living Survey in 2018, Paris was the second most expensive city in the world, after Singapore, and ahead of Zurich, Hong Kong, Oslo and Geneva. Another source ranked Paris as most expensive, on a par with Singapore and Hong Kong, in 2018. The city is a major railway, highway, and air-transport hub served by two international airports: Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Paris-Orly. Opened in 1900, the city's subway system, the Paris Métro, serves 5.23 million passengers daily, and is the second busiest metro system in Europe after Moscow Metro. Gare du Nord is the 24th busiest railway station in the world, but the first located outside Japan, with 262 million passengers in 2015.

Creative period

Study with Alfred Boucher

The Waltz, conceived in 1889 and cast in 1905 La Valse.jpg
The Waltz , conceived in 1889 and cast in 1905

Claudel was fascinated with stone and soil as a child, and as a young woman she studied at the Académie Colarossi, one of the few places open to female students. [3] She studied with sculptor Alfred Boucher. [4] (At the time, the École des Beaux-Arts barred women from enrolling to study.)

Académie Colarossi art school in Paris

The Académie Colarossi was an art school in Paris founded in the 19th century by the Italian sculptor Filippo Colarossi. First located on the Île de la Cité, it moved in the 1870s to 10 rue de la Grande-Chaumière in the 6th arrondissement. It closed in the 1930s.

A French sculptor, Alfred Boucher, mentor to Camille Claudel and friend of Auguste Rodin.

École des Beaux-Arts influential art schools in France

An École des Beaux-Arts is one of a number of influential art schools in France. The most famous is the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts, now located on the left bank in Paris, across the Seine from the Louvre, at 14 rue Bonaparte. The school has a history spanning more than 350 years, training many of the great artists in Europe. Beaux Arts style was modeled on classical "antiquities", preserving these idealized forms and passing the style on to future generations.

In 1882, Claudel rented a workshop with other young women, mostly English, including Jessie Lipscomb. Alfred Boucher had become her mentor, and he also provided inspiration and encouragement to the next generation of sculptors such as Laure Coutan. Claudel was depicted by Boucher in Camille Claudel lisant, [5] and later she sculpted a bust of her mentor.

Jessie Lipscomb British artist

Jessie Lipscomb was an English sculptor.

After teaching Claudel and the other sculptors for over three years, Boucher moved to Florence. Before he left he asked Auguste Rodin to take over the instruction of his pupils. Rodin and Claudel met, and their artistic association and tumultuous and passionate relationship soon began.

Auguste Rodin

Claudel started working in Rodin's workshop around 1884, and became a source of inspiration for him. She acted as his model, his confidante, and his 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 already detested her for not being a boy and never agreed with Claudel's involvement in the arts. [6] [7] [8] As a consequence, Claudel left the family home.

In 1892, after an abortion, Claudel ended the intimate aspect of her relationship with Rodin, although they saw each other regularly until 1898. [9]

Camille Claudel (left) and sculptor Jessie Lipscomb in their Paris studio in the mid-1880s Camille Claudel atelier.jpg
Camille Claudel (left) and sculptor Jessie Lipscomb in their Paris studio in the mid-1880s

Le Cornec and Pollock state that after the sculptors' physical relationship ended, because of gender-based censorship and the sexual element of Claudel's work she could not get the funding to get many of her daring ideas realized. Claudel thus had to either depend on Rodin to realize them, or to collaborate with him and let him get the credit as the lionized figure of French sculptures. She also depended on him financially, especially since her loving and wealthy father's death. This allowed her mother and brother, who were suspicious of her lifestyle, to keep the money and let her wander around the streets dressed in beggars' clothes. [10]

Claudel's reputation survived not because of her once notorious association with Rodin, but because of her work. 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).

Louis Vauxcelles states that Claudel was the only sculptress on whose forehead shone the sign of genius like Berthe Morisot, the only well-known female painter of the century, and that Claudel's style was more virile than many of her male colleagues. Others, like Morhardt and Caranfa concurred, saying that their styles have become so different, with Rodin being more suave and delicate and Claudel being vehement with vigorous contrasts, which might have been one reason that led to their break up, with her becoming ultimately his rival. [11] [12] [13]

Claudel's onyx and bronze small-scale La Vague (The Wave) (1897) was a conscious break in style from her Rodin period. It has a decorative quality quite different from the "heroic" feeling of her earlier work.

The Mature Age and other works

The Mature Age, 1913 bronze casting in the Claudel room at the Musee Rodin (The figure standing behind, ensnared in her own hair, is Clotho, 1893) Lage mur (Musee Rodin) (4921654776).jpg
The Mature Age , 1913 bronze casting in the Claudel room at the Musée Rodin (The figure standing behind, ensnared in her own hair, is Clotho , 1893)

After Rodin saw Claudel's The Mature Age for the first time, in 1899, he reacted with shock and anger. He suddenly and completely stopped his support for Claudel. According to Ayral-Clause, Rodin might have put pressure on the ministry of fine arts to cancel the funding for the bronze commission.

The Mature Age (1900) is usually interpreted as an allegory of the three stages of life: the man who represents Maturity is drawn into the hands of the old woman who represents Old Age and Death, while the young woman who represents Youth tries to save him. [14] [15] Her brother interpreted it as an allegory of her break with Rodin. Angelo Caranfa comments that "The life that was, is, and will be in Maturity contains within its movement both the relentless movement of Clotho and the rhythmic, graceful, whirling movement of Fortune, generating a single and sustaining movement or image out of the differences within" [16] . According to Caranfa, Clotho (1893) and Fortune (1905) represent the two ideas of life: life in Clotho is portrayed as closed, hopeless existence and "consummated in an unending death"; life in Fortune is celebrated as the madness of eternal present with ups and downs, its "rapture or total harmony" (Fortune itself is a variation of the dancing woman in The Waltz). [17] [16]

One of Claudel's figures, The Implorer, was produced as an edition of its own, and has been interpreted not as purely autobiographical but as an even more powerful representation of change and purpose in the human condition. [18] Modeled for in 1898 and cast in 1905, Claudel didn't actually cast her own bronze for this work, but instead The Implorer was cast in Paris by Eugene Blot. [19]

Camille Claudel, Sakuntala [de
], sculpture (marble), 1905, Musee Rodin, Paris. VertumnusandPomonabyCamilleClaudel .jpg
Camille Claudel, Sakuntala  [ de ], sculpture (marble), 1905, Musée Rodin, Paris.

In 1902 Claudel completed a large sculpture of Perseus and the Gorgon . Beginning in 1903, she exhibited her works at the Salon des Artistes français or at the Salon d'Automne.

Sakuntala, 1905, is described by Angelo Caranfa as expressing Claudel's desire to reach the sacred, the fruit of her lifelong search of her artistic identity, free from Rodin's constraints. Caranfa suggests that Claudel's impressions of Rodin's deceptions and exploitation of her, as someone who could not become obedient as he wanted her to be and who was expected to conform to society's expectation of what women should be, were not false. Thus Sakuntala could be called a clear expression of her solitary existence and her inner search, her journey within. [20]

La Vague ("The Wave") (1897), exhibited in the Claudel room of the Musee Rodin L62 - Musee Rodin - Camile Claudel - La Vague.JPG
La Vague ("The Wave") (1897), exhibited in the Claudel room of the Musée Rodin

Ayral-Clause says that even though Rodin clearly signed some of her works, he was not treating her as different because of her gender; artists at this time generally signed their apprentices' work. [21] Others also criticize Rodin for not giving her the acknowledgment or support she deserved. [22] [23] Walker argues that most historians believe Rodin did what he could to help her after their separation, and that her destruction of her own oeuvre was partly responsible for the longtime neglect the art world showed her. Walker also says that what truly defeated Camille, who was already recognized as a leading sculptor by many, were the sheer difficulties of the medium and the market: sculpting was an expensive art, and she did not receive many official commissions because her style was highly unusual for the contemporary conservative tastes. [24] Despite this, Le Cornec and Pollock believe she changed the history of arts.

Head of Camille Claudel, 1884, by Auguste Rodin, portrays Claudel wearing a Phrygian cap, on exhibit at the Museo Soumaya 61 Cabeza de Camille Claudel con gorro frigio.jpg
Head of Camille Claudel , 1884, by Auguste Rodin, portrays Claudel wearing a Phrygian cap, on exhibit at the Museo Soumaya
Auguste Rodin, sculpture by Camille Claudel (1892), in the Musee Rodin Auguste Rodin par Camille Claudel (musee Rodin) (8026456955).jpg
Auguste Rodin, sculpture by Camille Claudel (1892), in the Musée Rodin

Other authors write that it is still unclear how much Rodin influenced Claudel – and vice versa, how much credit has been taken away from her, or how much he was responsible for her woes. Most modern authors agree that she was an outstanding genius who, starting with wealth, beauty, iron will and a brilliant future even before meeting Rodin, was never rewarded and died in loneliness, poverty, and obscurity. [1] [2] [25] [26] [27] Others like Eisen, Matthews and Flemming suggest it was not Rodin, but her brother Paul who was jealous of her genius, and that he conspired with her mother, who never forgave her for her supposed immorality, to later ruin her and keep her confined to a mental hospital. [28] [29] [30] [31] Kavaler-Adler notes that her younger sister Louise, who desired Camille's inheritance and was also jealous of her, was delighted at sister's downfall. [32]

Less well known than her love affair with Rodin, the nature of her relationship with Claude Debussy has also been the object of much speculation. Stephen Barr reports that Debussy pursued her: it was unknown whether they ever became lovers. [33] They both admired Degas and Hokusai, and shared an interest in childhood and death themes. [34] When Claudel ended the relationship, Debussy wrote: "I weep for the disappearance of the Dream of this Dream." Debussy admired her as a great artist and kept a copy of The Waltz in his studio until his death. By thirty, Claudel's romantic life had ended. [35] [36]

Alleged illness and confinement

After 1905 Claudel appeared to be mentally ill. She destroyed many of her statues, disappeared for long periods of time, exhibited signs of paranoia and was diagnosed as having schizophrenia. [37] She accused Rodin of stealing her ideas and of leading a conspiracy to kill her. [38]

After the wedding of her brother in 1906 and his return to China, she lived secluded in her workshop. [37] [38]

Paul Claudel aged sixteen by Camille Claudel, modeled in 1884 and cast in 1893, Musee des Augustins, Toulouse Augustins - Paul Claudel a seize ans - Camille Claudel RA 941.jpg
Paul Claudel aged sixteen by Camille Claudel, modeled in 1884 and cast in 1893, Musée des Augustins, Toulouse

Claudel's father approved of her career choice, and he tried to help and support her financially. But when he died on 2 March 1913, Claudel was not informed of his death. Instead, eight days later, on 10 March 1913, at the initiative of her younger brother Paul, she was admitted to the psychiatric hospital of Ville-Évrard in Neuilly-sur-Marne.

The form read that she had been "voluntarily" committed, although her admission was signed only by a doctor and her brother. There are records to show that, while she did have mental outbursts[ clarification needed ], she was clear-headed while working on her art. Doctors tried to convince Paul and their mother that Camille did not need to be in the institution, but they still kept her there. [39] According to Cécile Bertran, a curator from the Musée Camille Claudel, the situation was not easy to judge, because modern experts who have looked at her records say she was indeed ill. [40]

In 1914, to be safe from advancing German troops, the patients at Ville-Évrard were at first relocated to Enghien. On 7 September 1914 Camille was transferred with a number of other women, to the Montdevergues Asylum, at Montfavet, six kilometres from Avignon. Her certificate of admittance to Montdevergues was signed on 22 September 1914; it reported that she suffered "from a systematic persecution delirium mostly based upon false interpretations and imagination". [41]

For a while, the press accused her family of committing a sculptor of genius. Her mother forbade her to receive mail from anyone other than her brother. The hospital staff regularly proposed to her family that Claudel be released, but her mother adamantly refused each time. [39] On 1 June 1920, physician Dr. Brunet sent a letter advising her mother to try to reintegrate her daughter into the family environment. Nothing came of this.

Paul Claudel in 1927 Paul Claudel 01.jpg
Paul Claudel in 1927

Paul Claudel visited his confined older sister seven times in 30 years, in 1913, 1920, 1925, 1927, 1933, 1936, and 1943. He always referred to her in the past tense. Their sister Louise visited her just one time, in 1929. Her mother, who died in June, 1929, never visited Camille. [42]

In 1929 sculptor and Claudel's former friend Jessie Lipscomb visited her, and afterwards insisted "it was not true" that Claudel was insane. Rodin's friend, Mathias Morhardt, insisted that Paul was a "simpleton" who had "shut away" his sister of genius. [43]

Camille Claudel died on 19 October 1943, after having lived 30 years in the asylum at Montfavet (known then as the Asile de Montdevergues, now the modern psychiatric hospital Centre hospitalier de Montfavet). Her brother Paul had been informed of his sister's terminal illness in September and, with some difficulty, had crossed Occupied France to see her, although he was not present at her death or funeral. [44] Her sister did not make the journey to Montfavet.

Claudel was interred in the cemetery of Montfavet, and eventually her remains were buried in a communal grave at the asylum. [39] [41] From the 2002 book, Camille Claudel, A Life: "Ten years after her death, Camille's bones had been transferred to a communal grave, where they were mixed with the bones of the most destitute. Joined forever to the ground she tried to escape for so long, Camille never, ever, returned to her beloved Villeneuve. Paul's neglect regarding his sister's grave is hard to forgive...while Paul decided not to be burdened with his sister's grave, he took great pains, on the contrary, in choosing his own final resting place, naming the exact location – in Brangues, under a tree, next to his grandchild – and citing the precise words to be written on the stone. Today his admirers pay homage to his memory at his noble grave; but of Camille there is not a trace. In Villeneuve, a simple plaque reminds the curious visitor that Camille Claudel once lived there, but her remains are still in exile, somewhere, just a few steps away from the place where she was sequestered for thirty years." [45]

Musée Camille Claudel (French National Museum)

The Musee Camille Claudel Camille claudelle museum.jpeg
The Musée Camille Claudel

The Musée Camille Claudel was opened in March, 2017, as a French national museum dedicated to Claudel's work. It is located in her teenage home town of Nogent-sur-Seine. [46] The Musée Camille Claudel displays approximately half of Claudel's 90 surviving works. [47] [48]

Plans to turn the Claudel family home at Nogent-sur-Seine into a museum were announced in 2003, and the museum negotiated with the Claudel family to buy Camille's works. These include 70 pieces, including a bust of Rodin. [49]


Claudel's Perseus and the Gorgon (1905) Camille Claudel.- Persee et la Gorgonne..jpg
Claudel's Perseus and the Gorgon (1905)

Though she destroyed much of her work, about 90 statues, sketches and drawings survive.

Some authors argue that Henrik Ibsen based his last play, 1899's When We Dead Awaken , on Rodin's relationship with Claudel. [50] [51] [52] [53]

In 1951, Paul Claudel organized an exhibition at the Musée Rodin, which continues to display her sculptures. A large exhibition of her works was organized in 1984. In 2005 a large art display featuring the works of Rodin and Claudel was exhibited in Quebec City (Canada), and Detroit, Michigan, in the US. In 2008, the Musée Rodin organized a retrospective exhibition including more than 80 of her works.

The publication of several biographies in the 1980s sparked a resurgence of interest in her work.

Camille Claudel (1988) was a dramatization of her life based largely on historical records. Directed by Bruno Nuytten, co-produced by Isabelle Adjani, starring herself as Claudel and Gérard Depardieu as Rodin, the film was nominated for two Academy Awards in 1989. Another film, Camille Claudel 1915 , directed by Bruno Dumont and starring Juliette Binoche as Claudel, premiered at the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival in 2013. The 2017 film, Rodin , co-stars Izïa Higelin as Claudel.

Composer Jeremy Beck's Death of a Little Girl with Doves (1998), an operatic soliloquy for soprano and orchestra, is based on the life and letters of Camille Claudel. This composition has been recorded by Rayanne Dupuis, soprano, with the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra. [54] Beck's composition has been described as "a deeply attractive and touching piece of writing ... [demonstrating] imperious melodic confidence, fluent emotional command and yielding tenderness." [55]

Seattle playwright S.P. Miskowski's La Valse (2000) is a well-researched look at Claudel's life. [56] [57]

Composer Frank Wildhorn and lyricist Nan Knighton's musical Camille Claudel was produced by Goodspeed Musicals at The Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, Connecticut in 2003. [58]

In 2005, Sotheby's sold a second edition La Valse (1905, Blot, number 21) for $932,500. [59] In a 2009 Paris auction, Claudel's Le Dieu Envolé (1894/1998, Valsuani, signed and numbered 6/8) has a high estimate of $180,000, [60] while a comparable Rodin sculpture, L'eternelle Idole (1889/1930, Rudier, signed) has a high estimate of $75,000. [61]

In 2011 world premiere of Boris Eifman's new ballet Rodin took place in Saint-Petersburg, Russia. The ballet is dedicated to the life and creative work sculptor Auguste Rodin and his apprentice, lover and muse, Camille Claudel. [62]

In 2012, the world premiere of the play Camille Claudel took place. Written, performed and directed by Gaël Le Cornec, premiered at the Pleasance Courtyard Edinburgh Festival, the play looks at the relationship of master and muse under the perspective of Camille at different stages of her life. [63]

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>Camille Claudel</i> (film) 1988 film by Bruno Nuytten

Camille Claudel is a 1988 French film about the life of the 19th century sculptor Camille Claudel. The movie was based on the book by Reine-Marie Paris, granddaughter of Camille's brother, the poet and diplomat Paul Claudel. It was directed by Bruno Nuytten, co-produced by Isabelle Adjani, and starred her and Gérard Depardieu. The film had a total of 2,717,136 admissions in France. Adjani earned a nomination for Academy Award for Best Actress for her role, the second time in her career she was so honored and the first time a French actress was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar twice.

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Perseus and the Gorgon is a 1902 monumental sculpture by Camille Claudel. It represents a mythological scene which refers to the artist's own life. The work achieved a great notoriety throughout the years.

<i>Camille Claudel 1915</i> 2013 film by Bruno Dumont

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<i>The Waltz</i> (Claudel) sculpture by Camille Claudel

The Waltz or The Waltzers is a sculpture by French artist Camille Claudel. It depicts two figures, a man and a woman, locked in an amorous embrace as they dance a waltz. The work was inspired by Claudel's burgeoning love affair with her mentor and employer Auguste Rodin. Various versions were made from 1889 to 1905, initially modelled in plaster, and later cast in bronze. Examples are held by the Musée Rodin and the Musée Camille Claudel.


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Further reading