Camille Claudel

Portrait: Camille ClaudelCamille Claudel, sculptress and sister of Paul, the poet, born and raised in the French province, arrives in Paris not yet 20 years old with her whole family. Very soon she meets Auguste Rodin, 40 years old and then at the beginning of a career which will be amazing, she becomes his pupil and, at a undefined moment, his mistress. This artistic and emotional society lasts for several years. Then, in 1893, Camille chooses to become independent (she is 29), leaves Rodin’s atelier and begins her own search, nonchalant of mundane success, in obscurity and poverty. But in this loneliness, more and more obstinately seeked for, Camille Claudel begins to show the early signs of imbalance: she sees Rodin’s fame growing and feels robbed of her ideas. From 1905 on (she was about 40 years old) these obsessions change into fixed ideas, then into psychosis. Rodin becomes, in Camille’s imagination, the mind of a plot intended for destroying her. Her identity crisis, that she cannot resolve, makes her more and more isolated. Since 1905 she begins to destroy her pieces of work, in 1906 quits her artistic activity. In 1913, when 48 years old, according to her brother’s request, she was locked in an institution for the mentally disturbed, that she will leave only 30 years later, on her death’s day. Her mental disease, the radical catastrophe of her lifetime, still remains an unexplored mystery. Camille Claudel was not violent nor aggressive when institutionalized; by the passing years, she become more and more quiet and asked insistently to go back home. But she would have been a burden to both her famous brother and her mother too (“please, keep her… she has all the vices, she did hurt us too much”, so her mother writes to the mental hospital director, unable to forgive her anticonformist choices. Camille writes about this experience of hers in a letter, 8 years before her death: “I fell into an abyss… This is the nightmare of the dream which was my life” (from a letter to E. Blòt, 1935).
Some biographers, to make her story more understandable from the viewpoint of her tragical destiny, consider her career destroyed by the jointed cowardness of two men: Rodin, her lover who exploited her, and the writer Paul Claudel, her brother, who had her confined. I cannot believe her breakdown to be ascribed to these two men, without altering dramatically the facts.
Where came her self-destructive tendency from?

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