Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin: from love to madness
As we saw earlier with Frida and Diego Rivera, love and art can produce interesting and productive relationships, but also passionate and stormy ones. Such is the case of Camille Claudel and Rodin, who lived a romance for more than 10 years and had an undesirable and terrible outcome.
Camille Claudel was a girl who, following her vocation, began to model terracotta at a very early age, without undertaking or following a path of artistic training. This passion for sculpture was never well received by her parents, especially by her mother who wanted her to be a man or to follow in the footsteps of the girls of the time: get married.
But when the family moved to Paris, Claudel's life changed as he could enroll in one of the most famous art institutes of the time. It was there, in 1882, that the young woman, who at that time was not yet 18, met Rodin, already famous at that time. The sculptor immediately recognised Claudel's talent and turned her into his assistant during the time when he was asked to do 'The Gate of Hell' and 'The Citizens of Calais'. From the relationship of teacher and student, a relationship of passion and love is born.
It was 1884, and Camille worked in Rodin's workshop, becoming his source of inspiration. As we said before, she was his assistant, model, confidant, and also his young lover. But he never lived with Rodin, who was reluctant to end his twenty-year relationship with Rose Beuret, whom he would marry at the end of his life. It is good to remember that Rodin, in spite of his 60 years, had a reputation as a womanizer for whom he was known for many loves, almost all women who had been muses for his sculptures and drawings.
Well, beyond the professional advantages of working with Rodin, he also had problems with his mother, who was a very traditionalist, as her face began to appear constantly in Rodin's work. This did not make her give up and she continued with the torrid relationship. Camille thus became the companion of the great sculptor, whom she accompanied to artistic encounters and from whom she learned the art of sculpting, reaching, if not surpassing, Rodin's talent.
A stormy relationship began then, since, although Camille was still madly in love with Rodin, she also hated him for receiving public recognition, constant commissions and praise in all her exhibitions, while she did not escape from the cliché of the great master's pupil. This type of comment, coupled with Rodin's refusal to leave Rose, began to crack the relationship, reaching the final outcome when Camille becomes pregnant and must abort. So deeply humiliated and disappointed, she abandons Rodin.
After this, Camille locks herself in her own studio and begins to sculpt many children's heads, which were destroyed almost immediately. This situation of isolation and unbridled work makes her family and friends doubt her mental capabilities, so one afternoon, three nurses threw the door down and put a straitjacket on her. He was diagnosed with "a systematic persecutory mania accompanied by delusions of grandeur". Camille was then accusing Rodin of stealing her ideas and leading a conspiracy to kill her.
In the end, he spent the last 30 years of his life in the madhouse of Montdevergues. There she died alone. Even then she was forgotten, as she was buried in an unnamed tomb, in the madhouse's own cemetery. When her brother Paul died in 1955, some relatives and admirers decided to recover her remains and give her a dignified burial. But it was too late. Works in the sanatorium had removed the burial site, and his remains had disappeared.
As we have seen, this is another truncated love story, in this case because of love jealousy, but also professional jealousy, because being the two great artists, each one felt eclipsed by the personality and talent of the other. A love story, which unlike many love stories created by artists, had a sad ending.
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