She was seventeen and wanted to be a sculptor. He was forty-one. He was Auguste Rodin on the verge of taking to the heights of the French art world, being compared to genius of Michelangelo. He had overcome the major handicap of being poor and unknown in a metier dominated by the rich and fashionable. He had spent most of his youth in one of the dingier working quarters of Paris,and his new vision of sculpture was spreading as the next great thing: a sculptural expressionism in which Rodin wished to use the public sphere to work out what Otto Rankin would term, ” immemorial struggle against the materialized feelings of guilt” associated with the “primal crime” in which the son’s rise against the fathers and kill them. He was heralded, but copying the humor of Michelangelo and the aesthetic of Claudel was a bizarre construction to conceal his own unconscious anxieties.
For a brief, happy period, the two artists had an intense love affair fired by a common passion for sculpture. Claudel was present and involved during the creation of Rodin’s masterpieces in the 1880s and early 1890s. In the progression of her training in Rodin’s studio, she soon sculpted works of remarkable character and expressive power. But he was the genius, and she struggled and withdrew, spending the last thirty years of her life institutionalized.Claudel had a form of vision which was particular, but it may have been Rodin who was mad. An exploration of Claudel’s alleged insanity can be separated by the patriarchal control: Pro Dreyfus or anti-Dreyfus the epoch may have been. But they were all anti-women. Even the “progressives” like Zola and Mallarme knew when to circle the wagons.
For this reason,Claudel serves to evoke the inner life of other marginalized yet talented women. Her madness after the age of forty, remains obscure, but it sure kept the fine art world free of women and set the ground rules.Claudel justifiably regarded her own
confinement as an example of female exploitation and annihilation of the artist. A great swatch of correspondence she penned to her brother asking for her release, has only underlined a plausible thesis of an unfair and criminal internment, almost as an example where women should know their place.
Apparently, it was Claudel’s decision to finish their about fifteen-year relationship, but it apparently made her quite anxious to be adrift, as if being in an abusive relationship was almost comforting in its certitude. Add to this, her somewhat fragile stability, and eroded self-esteem was stretched by some normal artistic dry spells, poverty, poor working conditions; all in juxtaposition with Rodin’s guided missile to the top and her probably correct assertion that he had swiped some essential work, key elements in her pieces to which he could putter around with, to the accompaniment and fanfare of the endless parade of nude models traipsing in his studio. The only finger he lifted for a woman was out of some bitch’s twat.
Deep in despair and abandon, and soon before she was whisked into an institution, she destroyed some of her work and lived
like a recluse, an itinerant squatter, in her workshop.Whether Claudel’s fixations were temperamental responses to this disposing of her as used commodity fetish and invalid artist or whether there were more profound symptoms of paranoia is a point of conjecture, but the nature of the individual lends itself to the hypothesis that she was intentionally crushed.
There is a theory that Claudel’s union with her master was simultaneously transforming yet also annihilating and destructive. Against this monster, she finds herself playing with the peculiar theme of rebelling against the sexual dominance of the father who is in some incestuous relationship. At heart, Rodin had a peasant background, was not well read, and was essentially a conservative reactionary, a craftsman, who latched onto a few of her ideas. And he gets the star role: Rodin is the father of Claudel’s mastery, to which she, Pygmalion-student would be Oedipically indebted, though she is the inspiration and aura of his art. Like in Rodin’s massive sculptures, she evaporates, is devoured inside these figures, as if swallowed by Rodin’s enormity;she is buried in his tombstones and eventually manages to crawl away from the funerary monument as a ghost, which signifies the insidious effect of what can be ascertained as a relationship with a cannibal.
However, it was not until the early 1890s that Camille demonstrated the full measure of her art, at a time when her relationship with Rodin was beginning to deteriorate, as is demonstrated by the cruelty of the barbed drawings,which Camille devoted to Rose and Rodin as a couple : the Système Cellulaire, Réveil, Collage… Camille realised that she would never be Rodin’s wife and would never succeed in ousting Rose Beuret ; the final break between the lovers came in 1898, and the wound it caused was commensurate with the ardour of the love that the two artists had experienced for more than ten years. Camille never recovered from the separation, even if her art then started to break free of the influence of her famous master, with La Valse in 1892, taken up again in 1895 and produced in a large edition by Eugène Blot after 1905 ; …