For a long time it was difficult for women to contribute to any sphere of human life. It was believed that woman’s mission on Earth was to create family, take care of her husband and children, and do housework during the whole life. Patriarchal society, which ruled life of people in different countries for centuries, prevented women from getting education, participating in social and political life, developing their talents and so on. However, as well as any phenomenon, such an attitude to women could not last forever. That is why women began to struggle for their rights and managed to receive equal rights with men. Perhaps, it was one of the greatest events in the history of mankind because women have done a lot in order to make people’s life better since they have become independent. Women have succeeded in numerous spheres of life such as science, politics, and art. The current paper analyzes their contributions on the example of French artist of the end of the 19th – the beginning of the 20th century, Camille Claudel.
In order to understand the issue better, it is necessary to start with a short biography of the artist. Camille Claudel was born in 1864 in Fère-en-Tardenois. The Claudels changed their place of residence several times. When Camille was a child, the family moved to another commune, Villeneuve-sur-Fère, and some time later – to Nogent-sur-Seine. The place of residence of Camille was changed a few times when she grew up. Camille Claudel got good education. At first, she studied in the school of the Sisters of the Christian Order (“Camille Claudel – Biography”). Her knowledge in mathematics, Latin, spelling and literature Camille Claudel got from her private tutor (“Camille Claudel”). She realized that she wanted to devote her life to art already in teen years. That is why she got higher education in art school studying anatomy and drawing (“Camille Claudel – Biography”). Camille got acquainted with Alfred Boucher and Auguste Rodin. The name of Rodin is never separated from the name of Camille Claudel. She was his student, model, and lover. Moreover, critics state that Rodin greatly influenced Claudel’s works, and that she “had no style of her own” and was “a reprise of Rodin” (“Some Beautiful (If Tortured) Works of Camille Claudel”). Nevertheless, Claudel rented her own studio, found her own style, and began to exhibit her works in different salons. She had a brilliant career, and she could have achieved more if it was not for her illness. Starting from approximately 1905, Claudel’s friends and relatives began to notice that her mental condition was unstable. That is why her brother decided to send her to psychiatric hospital. In the hospital Camille could not communicate with anyone except her brother. Her mother did not keep in contact with her, and the artist did not get letters from her friends. Although, Claudel’s physician suggested that her family take Camille home, her mother always refused. Thus, the great artist Camille Claudel spent the last 30 years of her life in psychiatric hospital and died there in 1943.
As for creative work of Camille Claudel, it cannot be underestimated. Her creative work can be divided into two periods – the first one, Rodin’s period, and the second one, Claudel’s own period. It is evident that Auguste Rodin had a great influence on Claudel’s work. Perhaps, it is because she started her career as Rodin’s apprentice. She was a very skilled student and worked with different materials. Claudel created parts of Rodin’s sculptures. Moreover, she was “the first woman to carve masculine nudes” (Bastos 252). Rodin’s influence on Claudel’s art can be proved by the following facts. First of all, Camille began to create masculine sculptures as Rodin did. Secondly, the style of Claudel is similar to the one of Rodin. Thus, it is confirmed that Camille’s sculpture Young Lady Sitting “shows astonishing parallels to Rodin’s Galatée” (“Camille Claudel – Biography”). Rodin’s influence is also felt in the works which were devoted to him by Claudel, for example, Bust of Rodin. Later, the image of Rodin appeared in her sculpture The Age of Maturity, which is interpreted as “Rodin led by Death in the figure of Rose Beuret is followed by a mendicant, the very Camille” (Bastos 252). It is evident that this work appeared as a result of Claudel’s break-up with Rodin and the feeling of jealousy she experienced towards Rodin.
It is an interesting fact that in spite of numerous suggestions as for Claudel’s imitation of Rodin’s work, there is another point of view that claims that “with Camille, Rodin's work becomes pure, simple, and elegantly romantic. One is supposed to say that this was her inspiration, but the evidence is there to call it her influence” (“Some Beautiful (If Tortured) Works of Camille Claudel”). Thus, it is confirmed that such Rodin’s sculptures as Meditation, Fatigue, Brother and Sister, and many others were created under Claudel’s influence.
However, in spite of long-term relationships between Claudel and Rodin, Camille broke up with him and started her own career. The works of this period were characterized by the following peculiarities. First of all, she created sculptures on the topic of relationships between men and women. It is evident that her break-up with Rodin was difficult, and she expressed her feelings of solitude and insult with the help of sculpture. One more topic which can be noticed in the works of this period is the topic of a child. It was natural for it to appear in the works of Camille Claudel since she was pregnant with Rodin’s child but had to have an abortion. Certainly, this event could not go unnoticed and had a great influence on Claudel. The critics explain the theme of a child in Claudel’s work in the following way: “the entailment of the man-woman relationship that Rodin refused to acknowledge” (“Some beautiful (If Tortured) Works of Camille Claudel”). Another peculiarity which was obvious during the second period of Claudel’s work was inspiration she got from paintings of Hokusai. Thus, her sculpture The Wave reflects one of the main motifs of Hokusai’s art. Among other characteristics which are peculiar to Claudel’s style, the critics enumerate the following. First of all, it is instantaneous design, which makes Claudel’s sculptures vivid. Secondly, innocence of images is confirmed to be a characteristic of the artist’s work. Finally, every sculpture of Claudel is filled with sense and idea (“Some Beautiful (If Tortured) Works of Camille Claudel”). These characteristics are considered as the ones peculiar to Claudel’s style because they cannot be found in the works of other artists, especially in Rodin’s.
As it was mentioned above, creative work of Camille Claudel cannot be undervalued. Although, her name and fame are often associated with the name of Rodin, she can be regarded as an independent artist. The critics agree that Claudel was a talented person. Her participation in numerous exhibitions of her time proves this fact. Her sculptures were exhibited at the Salon of the Société des Artistes Français, Nottingham Castle, the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, the exhibition Blanc et Noir, the Salon de la Libre Esthétique and others. Claudel’s works were exhibited almost every year during her artistic career. Such bright artwork could not be unnoticed, and art critics were interested in writing about Camille Claudel and studying her works. Thus, a monographic article was written about her in 1898 by Mathias Morhardt. However, Claudel was famous not only during her life. Even after her death, her name can be met in different spheres of human life. Thus, a lot of books are written about her life and work. Two films tell a story of the artist’s life – the first one, Camille Claudel, was shot in 1988, and the second one, Camille Claudel, 1915, was released in 2013. The sculptures of the artist inspired people to work in different spheres of art. Her creative work is still studied by students in universities and by critics, who still write about her and her contribution to world art. It is evident that if Claudel’s work is studied long time after her death, she definitely means a lot for art history.
The analysis of life and creative work of Camille Claudel can be summarized in the following conclusion. The example of Camille Claudel as a woman in art shows that women deserve to be noticed. This artist, a woman who lacked attention of her relatives, experienced painful break-up with the man she loved, was not able to give birth to a child, and spent the last 30 years of her life in psychiatric hospital, proved that women can be as strong as men, and that they deserve being respected. Her life and talent became a motif for books, films, and other artistic manifestations. She was famous during her life as well as in modern times. Her sculptures are highly meaningful; they reflect the everyday life and prompt people to think about eternal things. The fact that the works of Camille Claudel are still interesting to people and that she is still remembered and studied by ordinary people, students of universities, and art critics proves that she was an artist who greatly contributed to world art.