Camille Claudel, born in France in 1864, is beginning to be accorded more respect for her sculpture, after being hidden in the looming shadow of August Rodin, best known for “The Thinker.” Part of a creative clique in France that included Camille’s brother Paul, who was a Catholic poet and playwright of note in the late nineteenth century, Camille was an artist of considerable talent. She studied with Rodin, becoming his model and mistress. Their relationship was stormy; the two artists’ tempers would burn brightly and they were constantly breaking up and making up, but the relationship endured until 1898. When her brother Paul abandoned her, she committed an auto-de-fe. As was typical in that era, Camille was institutionalized for depression and hysteria starting in 1913, eroding her ability to continue forceful sculpting until her death in 1943. Anne Delbee’s 1982 play Une Femme: Camille Claudel was the beginning of a revival of interest in Claudel. Controversially, the play posits the theory that Camille was more than a muse; indeed, she was the true artist of the two, infusing Rodin with creativity and ideas. In 1989, Isabella Adjani and Gerard Depardieu did a wonderful job of bringing the creative couple to the big screen. Despite the difficulties of her last years, Camille Claudel has become a French national sheroine and cause celebre.
This excerpt is from The Book of Awesome Women by Becca Anderson, which is available now through Amazon and Mango Media.
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