I vigorously object to the claim that Camille Claudel had no style of her own or that there is no cohesion. Although I am indebted to J.A. Schmoll gen. Eisenwerth's book for some of the images and chronology (also to about a dozen other books here), I do not agree with him that Claudel is a reprise of Rodin, that Claudel was unable to extract herself from literal and physical representation, or that Claudel is not as bold as her contemporaries who eventually displaced Rodin. In an obvious attempt to rescue his own past Rodin-scholarship, this person's text is outrageously insensitive and reactionary, even mendacious. His interpretive comparisons are locked in the subject matter instead of rising to the design.
Claudel is not a pawn in feminist and anti-feminist discussion, or inter-generational battles within the art critic world. If praise for the Claudel work is faint and short, the problem is the scope of what is considered to be her work (for some the problem is also in appreciating the intensity of her expression; she is immoderate, to be sure).
We know Camille's hand whenever we see instantaneous design (as opposed to Rodin's long-agonized arrangement, splayed, configured, and recombined) or when we see demure sweet innocence (as opposed to melodrama lacking in emotional candor). We know Camille's input when we see a pose that makes sense to a dancer's eyes (Rodin's earlier and later works do not make sense). It's so obvious to anyone who has studied movement instead of pose.
Did Camille alter the figure? Does the woman keep her knees together?
No further signature need be given. (This might not be fair, since
Rodin's women become less exhibitionist just before he meets
Camille... depending on what you think of the dates of Eternal
Springtime and Fugitive Love, both of which evolved
considerably in this period.)
The Prayer (Psalm)
Little Girl with Doves
The Flute Player (The Little Siren)
|Age 25||Age 27-29||Age 34||Age 36||Age 40|
|A short break-up with Rodin. This piece is close to Rodin's Thought, but shows a figure directed outward, in fact beckoning, not inward and pensive. Note Sakuntala (spelled several different ways) in plaster the year before, perhaps contemporaneous with Rodin's The Eternal Idol and influencing it.||Back with Rodin in 1891, breaks again in 1893. Note after the break, the supremely ugly Clotho, 1893. Satire drawings of Rodin and Rose Beuret, 1892. First maquette of Maturity, 1894, symbolizing the love triangle and depicting Rose Beuret as a death figure.||Final break with Rodin.||Variation on detail from Maturity, symbolizing the 1898 final break, which is itself related to God Flown Away from the 1894 break.||Penultimate sculpture before "persecution mania"; note 1902 Perseus and the Gorgon is the last angry reference to Rose Beuret. Final work is Woman Kneeling before a Hearth, which shows resignation.|
|Rodin sculpts Camille as The Kiss, The Eternal Idol and The Sculptor and His Muse; has already sculpted Camille in Eternal Springtime in 1884, and as L'Aurore in 1885, Danaid and The Thought, 1886.||Rodin sculpts Camille as The Farewell, The Convalescent, and The Head of Camille Claudel.||Rodin sculpts Rose Beuret.||Rodin again uses Camille's face in La France, 1904, and possibly in Pain: Remembrance of Eleonora Duse.|
Once they meet, Rodin begins to express singular thoughts in sculpture rather than idolizing physical form. This shift happens at a notoriously uncreative stage in life, from a man not generally praised as a font of ideas. Rodin predominantly sculpts masculine form; Claudel the reverse. Bereft of Claudel's influence, in 1898 Rodin returns to his earlier anatomical and religious manner and matter. Most of Rodin's work without Camille Claudel could hang on a church door (not so, Claudel's work). Camille Claudel, meanwhile, continues after the breakup to produce ideaed sculpture, forms that convey one clear idea each. She continues to focus on the relationships between man and woman, and introduces the theme of the child: the entailment of the man-woman relationship that Rodin "refused to acknowledge." One must admit the continuity of Rodin's beautiful period (1883 - 1898) not in Rodin's own Hand of God but in Claudel's Implorer and Little Siren. Alone, Rodin is a sculptor of French heros for the public gardens, at best, a maker of Balzac and at worst, Iris. Alone, Claudel's works could stand with ideas as far removed as Giacometti.
So perhaps Camille Claudel was really not deranged when she claimed that Rodin had gotten the credit for her ideas. And what should we think of Rodin's Galatée and The Brother and The Sister compared with Camille's Young Girl with a Sheaf? Apparently in 1890, two artists claimed the exact same work (certainly from the same model's sitting, but closer still!). Look at the knees, the hand, and the attitude of the head. Is this really Auguste Rodin's view of a young woman? Did Camille parade The Thought around Europe claiming it was her self-portrait? Rodin had done just that with Camille's bust of him.
I certainly do not say any of this in concert with the activists who deny individual responsibility, who think Claudel was Rodin's victim. She was an artist and a lover who knew the score and made her choices. Rodin appears to have acted at least as well as could be expected given the situation he created, though there are some damning questions that could be asked. Rodin is the master sculptor, undeniably, and it is from his hand that the beautiful portraits of Camille flowed. Without Camille, he deserves all the praise and study of, for example, a Bernini. Rejected, fallen, no longer the siren of her youth, genuinely artistic in mood, angry at an inarguably paternal and name-driven art world, misplayed under the French conception of mistress, cheated and perceptive enough to see it, probably hormonally unbalanced from the start -- but probably not deserving the asylum -- and almost certainly maternally disfigured, Camille struggles. She struggles for a new style, to innovate away in fact from her own natural style, which Rodin had (very understandably) adopted. I want to say coopted. She deserves more than the Mary Cassatt, the Alma Schindler, the Gala Gala.
I even see in Rodin's Burghers of Calais a different approach to design, consistent with the modern approach of Claudel, and inconsistent with Rodin's inclination for orgiastic human splatter best exemplified in the grotesque mess that is Gates of Hell. Rodin was a surgeon. His talent was for permuting the pieces in Age of Bronze. Claudel was exactly The Little Siren and Flute Player of her penultimate work.
Am I a revisionist who is too impressed with Adjani's weeping blue eyes and César's portrait of a nineteen-year old woman so full of herself she can barely sit for a photo? I don't think so. In fact, I finally understand why so much of the Stanford, Philadelphia, and Paris Rodin galleries bores me, even repulses me, except for that period of Claudel. And now I see that my favorite private works look right with Camille's flowing Waltz, the perfect bridge to Art Nouveau. I had loved Rodin and want to admire him, but the more I think about it, the more I think I really loved Camille.