14 June 2018

Camille Claudel, Montfavet, Vaucluse (84)

Camille Claudel (1864–1943), the sister of the dramatist and poet Paul Claudel, was a French sculptor perhaps best known for her relationship with Auguste Rodin (1840–1917). She was born in Fère-en-Tardenois (Aisne) and died in the psychiatric hospital in Montedvergues, Montfavet. There, in July 2018, they will erect a memorial to Camille Claudel: unfortunately, we'll be elsewhere.

She met Rodin in the Académie Colarossi in Paris, becoming his student, assistant and lover. After their separation she became reclusive, attempting to free herself from the artistic style of Rodin. After the marriage of her formerly supportive brother she became a recluse in her workshop. The victim of an obsessive neurosis, she destroyed most of her works. Following the death of her father in 1913 her mother interned her in a psychiatric hosptial in Seine-Saint-Denis. She was transferred to Montfavet two years later, where she remained until her death almost thirty years later, essentially caused by malnutrition, which was normal in such hospitals during the war.

She was initially buried in a plot in Montfavet cemetery, but her remains were moved to the cemetery's then anonymous communal ossuary about 1951. Her great-niece Reine-Marie Paris had a cenotaph erected, which includes two quotations from her great-aunt.

'There is always something missing which torments me'

'My great wish, my ideal, is to fashion my shapings of the paste into an idea! The idea isn't enough: I want to clothe it in purple and crown it in gold'.

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