Art Herstory: Sculptress Camille Claudel, 1864-1943

Fascinated with stone and soil as a child, as a young woman Camille studied at the Académie Colarossi. In 1882, Claudel rented a workshop with other young women. Alfred Boucher became her mentor and asked Auguste Rodin to take over the instruction of his pupils. 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. 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. 

After 1905 Claudel appeared to be mentally ill. She destroyed many of her statues, disappeared for long periods of time and was diagnosed as having schizophrenia. She accused Rodin of stealing her ideas (which may be true) and of leading a conspiracy to kill her. In 1913 at the initiative of her brother, she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. The form read that she had been “voluntarily” committed, although signed by a doctor and her brother.

There are records to show that while she did have mental 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 they kept her there. 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. Rodin’s friend, Mathias Morhardt, insisted that her brother, Paul, was a “simpleton” who had “shut away” his sister of genius. Camille Claudel died in 1943, after having lived 30 years in the asylum at Montfavet and without a visit from her mother or sister. 

- Edited from Wikipedia, LINK

This was originally published on the homepage of Eclectix, 
in the “Pretty In Pink” issue, March. 2012
For the “Pretty In Pink” online exhibit, click here.
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