Camille Claudel

Source: Wikipedia

Camille Claudel was beautiful and a genius sculptor. Well-connected and recognized for her skills, her career would have been a great one had she not also been insane. It’s not clear how crazy she was, but she spent thirty of her final years in an asylum.

She and Rodin were lovers and he made many portraits of her, including this one:

Source: Wikipedia

Unfortunately (a word that pops up over and over again in her story), his loyalty to his long-time partner was stronger and he dumped her, leaving her devastated. Top that with the loss of a child and a life lived unjustly held up in a nut house and you have one of the tearjerkingest tissue-consumingest stories ever told. Of course, there’s a movie about it, starring Isabelle Adjani and Gérard Depardieu.

It’s good to know this stuff, because her break-up with Rodin was the subject of her famous L’Âge Mûr, prominently displayed at Musée d’Orsay.

Source: Wikipedia

It’s supposedly symbolic, depicting maturity or maturation, but it’s also an autobiographical piece. That’s her on her knees, naked and imploring, and Rodin walking away with his other woman. The allegorical interpretation would posit the girl on her knees as youth and the man who’s tearing himself away from her with the older woman would be maturity.

Source: Wikipedia

There’s no mistaking the bad guy here: it’s that witch stealing her man, her folds engulfing him and turning him into a part of herself. Claudel was obsessed enough to work on this for years and who knows if it was therapy or a catalyst for her madness. Despite the exciting movement and technical mastery and innovation, it’s still painful to look at.

I don’t like melodrama that’s only been devised to make you cry. Stuff that surprises you to tears is more to my taste. For instance, I thought (and still do) Bambi was the most heinous fucking thing I’d ever seen when I first saw it at age six. I puzzled over it, asking: “Why in God’s name would they want to make little children cry?” I hate those stories, especially when they are based on true ones.

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