After a visit to the Musee Rodin in Paris, I was – and still am – not sure whom I admire more: Auguste Rodin or his companion Camille Claudel. Rodin’s sculptures capture me and Melle Claudel, had she been born a male, might have overtaken him career-wise. Her fierce determination, her unparalleled gift, her stern focus on her art has only been hindered by her sex; she was an unusual, strong, honest, opinionated woman, driven by her art - not a flattering thing for her time! Her talent and ambition had to take a back step sheerly becauce she did not fit the mold of her time…
Rodin, in a desperate letter to Camille, offered to quit sculpting if only she stayed with him. Camille, on the other hand, ended their relationship because of her feeling overwhelmed by his patronage. She was an outstanding sculptress, drawing her inspiration from her own life. Her sculptures depict stages of her life with all the pain and passion involved.
Auguste, on the other hand, seemed to have a more business-like approach. He also depicted images of his life, not quite with the raw passion of Camille’s work. Still, had Camille accepted his offer: how many master pieces would have been lost to manhood because of the love of a man to a woman…
Auguste wrote a deeply passionate letter to Camille in appr. 1886. Camille, at this time, had already left him and went to London to further her studies. This is Auguste’s letter, influenced by an all-consuming passion which took him to the verge of madness – who of us can claim to have had a relationship this passionate, this all-consuming – and those of you who did, count yourself lucky!
“My poor head is truly sick, and I can no longer get up in the mornings. This evening I wander (for hours) in our favourite places without finding you. Death would be welcome, my agony is so long. Why didn’t you wait for me at the studio; where do you go; to what pain am I destined? During moments of anaemia I suffer less, but today, the implacable pain remains. Camille, you are my love, despite everything, despite the madness which I feel taking over and which will be your work if this continues. Why don’t you believe that I will abandon my Dalou, my sculpting? If I could only go elsewhere, a country where I will forget, but there is no such place. There are moments when I honestly believe that I will forget you. But, in an instant, I feel your terrible power; have pity, wicked woman, I cannot go on. I cannot endure a single day without seeing you. Or terrible madness grips me. It’s over, I have stopped working, evil divinity, and yet I love you with fury. My Camille, be assured that I am close to no other woman, and that my soul belongs to you. I cannot convince you and my reasons are powerless. You do not believe in my suffering. I haven’t laughed for a a long time, I don’t sing any more, I am disinterested and indifferent to everything. I am already dead and I no longer understand why I strove so much for things for which I now feel indifference. Let me see you every day, that will be a good deed and perhaps something even better will happen to me, because you, and you alone, can save me through your generosity…”
Auguste Rodin bust
Camille’s life ended after 30 years in a mental institution, suffering from paranoia and schizophrenia. Both of which caused her to destroy many of her pieces.
Insanity and passion, misunderstanding and genius, obsession and drive. Resulting in art that seems ripped out of her heart.
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