Who Sculpted Rodin’s Sculptures?
Auguste Rodin is known as one of the great sculptors of the world, while few have ever heard of Camille Claudel. There are some, including Dr. Alma Bond, the author of the newly published “Camille Claudel, a Novel,” who question the accuracy of this assessment. The book is a work of fiction based upon historical truths. Bond tells how Claudel was institutionalized for her paranoia, insisting that Rodin had stolen her work. In revenge, she refused to sculpt for the last 30 years of her life, claiming she was not going to create any more works of art that would make Rodin rich, while she made not a penny from them.
Were her comments merely the content of a diseased mind, or was there some truth in her beliefs? A well known analyst once said, “Don’t analyze away all your paranoia. Some of it is justified.” How justified was Claudel’s paranoia? Women artists of the time were ignored, if not humiliated and jeered at. It was impossible for them to earn a living at their art, and most gave up and got married or if they remained at it like Claudel, literally starved. Did Rodin appropriate her work, as Claudel insisted, to vanquish a formidable competitor? Rodin was known to use apprentices like Camille to work on parts of his sculptures, such as hands and legs. None were given credit for their contributions. Claudel claimed in her healthier days that she had done a great deal of work on “Gates of Hell.” For years, the couple was inseparable. Each of their creations was critiqued and possibly improved on by the other artist. They often used the same models and poses so that their renditions are similar. Placed side by side, one would swear they were sculpted by the same artist. Anyone could confuse their work. It is quite possible that Rodin did, also. Or that he felt so symbiotically fused with Camille that he no longer could tell the difference.
So the question remains. Was Camille Claudel a victim of Rodin’s thievery and imprisoned in a mental institution for 30 years to enhance his career? Or was she simply a psychotic woman ruminating on the products of a diseased mind? Read Alma Bond’s “Camille Claudel, a Novel” to find out.
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