Camille Claudel: The Famous Sculptor Who Changed The History Of Art

Camille Claudel a French sculptor who broke moulds for women in art. Claudel “The Age of Maturity” legend whose achievement has left a lasting legacy and universally acknowledged as a great sculptor in her own right. 

By Sindhu Shivdas

Throughout history, there has been a famous sculptor who has withstood the test of time. Perhaps they are valued for their ability to create highly realistic figures or maybe they are prized for their willingness to push boundaries and defy expectations. Camille Claudel is one of the names that stood the test of time.


Playing in two dimensions is easy enough, but what truly separates the women from the girls? Maybe it’s when you give up your easel for a tool belt and get to work with hammer and chisel. Such a sculptor was Camille a unique artist deeply involved in creating and constantly trying to open new doors.

Camille Claudel was born in 1864 in Fere-en-Tardenois, France. The French sculptor who defied gender based restrictions to pursue her art, She did her art studies at the Academie Colarossi in Paris, one of the handful of progressive art schools that accepted women students. Sculptor Alfred Boucher one of the most celebrated French sculptor of the late 19th century took Claudel under his wing and became her mentor for over three years, before moving to Florence.

Under Boucher’s guidance, she rented a workshop in 1882 with other young women sculptors including English sculptor Lipscomb. Claudel recognition for artistic talents came retrospectively and she is also remembered for her dramatic relationship with renowned sculptor Auguste Rodin. A major turning point in Claudel’s professional and personnel life occurred in the autumn of 1882, when Alfred Boucher left paris for Italy and asked his friend, the renowned sculptor Auguste Rodin, to take over supervising Claudel’s studio.

Being Rodin’s only female student, Claudel quickly proved her talents through contributions to some of Rodin’s most monumental works, including the hands and feet of several figures in The Gates of Hell. Working with Rodin she became romantically involved with him.

Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin Passionate Love Affair

Claudel and Rodin shared a connection beyond sculpture, and by 1882 the pair was engaged in love affair.  Rodin was a married person got infactuated with Claudel’s style and encouraged her to exhibit and sell her works. He also used Claudel as a model for both individual portraits and anatomical elements on larger works, such as La Pensee and The kiss.

Since there was gender-based discrimination which was rife in the art world, Claudel couldn’t release some of her daring sculpture ideas and she turned to Rodin to collaborate with her in order to get them made. And this instead made Rodin to receive credit for her ideas. This led to the breakdown of their long-term relationship and Claudel struggled to gain recognition of her own.

Camille Fighting For Recognition

Although continued to be productive through the first several years of the 20th century, the loss of Rodin’s public endorsement made her to struggled to find support. And moreover commisions of her work were scant due to her highly individual style which did not suit conserative tastes at the time, which paved her to mental illness and poverty.

Hence she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital by her brother in 1913 and lived there for nearly 30 years until her death in 1943. Plagued by financial trouble and rejection by the Parisian art milieu, Clauder’s behavior grew erratic, By 1906, she lived in squalor, wandering in streets like beggars and drinking excessively. By 1911, she had boarded herself into her studio and lived as a loner.

A tragic Ending

The loss of her most consistent familial supporter singnaled the final breakdown of Claudel’s career. She was confined to an asylum at the age of 48. From this point onward, she declined offers of art materials and even refused to touch clay. And since after World War I, she was recommended release from the asylum. For the next three decades Clauder’s life was plagued by isolation and loneliness, her family visited her a handful of times, and her mother never saw her again, She had penned a few lines of her isolation world “I live in a world so curious, so strange.” “Of the dream was my life, this is the nightmare.”

Camille Claudel’s Legacy 

Camille Claudel Museum

Prior to Claudel’s death in 1914, Auguste Rodin approved plans for a Camille Claudel room in his museum. Claudel’s adolescent home features about 40 of Claudel’s own works, as well as pieces from her contemporaries and mentors. Find below some of her artworks a pure creation.

Vertumunus and Pomona ( Sakuntala):(1886)


A smooth-lined and romantic sculpture differs radically from those of her male contemporaries, Here Claudel depicts love as a power of the mind, as well as an attraction between bodies, The lovers are connected as equals as they gracefully unite their heads. The title and subject originally come from the legendary Indian tale by the poet Kalidasa, in which Shakunthala is reunited with her husband following a long magic spell.

The Waltz : (1889)


A Sculpt immortalized in bronze, a beautiful couple dance together in a passionate, sensual, and harmonious embrace. They are attentive to the other’s body and spirit in the space they are in love. Claudel made The Waltz in the same year that her relationship with Rodin began.

The Clotho: (1893)


The year following the official end of her romantic relationship with Rodin, Claudel cas Clotho in plaster. The old, naked woman stands as a vision of writhing horror and despair. The work also shows how as an artist, she is able to portray an unapologetic, raw representation of the female nude in a way that was considered scandalous and unacceptable at the time.

Maturity: (1899)

Camille Claudel, 1897

Down on her knees, a young women begs her lover not to leave her. Although he stretches his hand to hold, he doesn’t look back as he is enveloped into the arms of an older woman. The sculpt depicts an allegory of passage of time from youth to old age, since there is a known fact about the relationship between Claudel and Rodin makes clear that the sculpture has a meaning rooted in biography.

Source: Camille Claudel: The Famous Sculptor Who Changed The…


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