Anna McNay

Review of Camille Claudel at Musée d’Orsay




9 January – 11 February 2018

With 2017 marking
the centenary of the death of Auguste Rodin, many exhibitions are looking back
and celebrating the French sculptor’s life. But what of his student, lover,
assistant and contemporary, Camille Claudel (1864–1943), who, after the breakdown
of their affair and the death of her father, was committed, by her younger brother
Paul, to an asylum, where she lived out her remaining 30 years in misery, dying
at the age of 78?

Despite critical
acclaim and respect from her peers during her lifetime, her affair with Rodin
and her struggles with mental illness have cast a shadow over contemporary
interpretations of her work. Her brother, a poet, dramatist and diplomat, to
whom she was once very close and of whom she sculpted numerous busts, organised
an exhibition of her sculptures at the Musée Rodin eight years after her death,
but even he, shortly thereafter, spoke of her life in derogatory terms, saying:
“My sister Camille had an extraordinary beauty, moreover, an energy, an
imagination, a quite exceptional passion. All these superb gifts came to
nothing: after an extremely painful life, it ended in complete failure.”1 And yet there are works that, even today,
have not decisively been attributed to either Claudel or Rodin, so symbiotic
was their practice and so similar their style.2
Why, then, is she not up there on the pedestal with him?

Read the full review here