CAMILLE CLAUDEL: A Life

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9780810940772: CAMILLE CLAUDEL: A Life

Camille Claudel (1864-1943) was a gifted 19th-century French sculptor who worked for Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), became his lover, and eventually left him to gain recognition for herself in the art world. After she crumbled under the combined weight of social reproof, deprivations, and art world prejudices, her family had her committed to an asylum, where she died 30 years later. Although Claudel's life has been romanticized in print and on film, a fully researched biography has never been written until this one. The book draws upon much unpublished material, including letters and photographs that confirm the brilliance of her sculpture, clarify her relationship with Rodin (who did not exploit her, but, in fact, supported her work throughout his life), and reveal the true story of her confinement in a mental institution. Claudel's fascinating life touches many aspects of women's issues: creativity, struggle for recognition, conflict with social values, and art world inequities. Illustrated with personal family photographs, this is an intimate and moving tribute to an artist whose life and work have, until now, been misinterpreted and undervalued.

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From Publishers Weekly:

French sculptor Claudel (1864-1943) is best known for her love affair with fellow artist Auguste Rodin, the basis for a late '80s French film starring Gerard Depardieu and Isabelle Adjani. Ayral-Clause, a professor of French and the humanities at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, cites original documents and other research to argue that although Rodin is usually depicted as having abandoned a wimpy Camille, in fact Camille was so feisty and in-your-face (a necessity for a woman artist in a man's world) that he wound up running for cover to escape her "insults" once their 15-year-long affair was over. Camille went mad and spent her last 30 years in an asylum. Ayral-Clause's account of these events is clear, although sometimes marred by an artificial prose style with odd syntax: "Events that are denied at the time they occur are often brought back to life through letters or journals discovered later on." Art history students may be disappointed by the generalized comments about Claudel's artworks themselves (shown, along with photos, in 69 b&w illustrations), since the woman, rather than the artist, is in the limelight in this biography. By contrast, Ayral-Clause fully accepts Rodin as a great artist and great man, reserving criticism for Camille's brother, the far-right-wing poet and diplomat Paul Claudel, who ensured she was buried in a common grave for paupers despite the family's great wealth.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist:

In a just world, sculptor Claudel (1864-1943) would have been rewarded for her artistic genius, but instead she was ostracized. The complete story of Claudel's tragic life has never been thoroughly researched and recounted until now, and Ayral-Clause's polished, to-the-point coverage is galvanizing. Gifted and defiant, Claudel worked valiantly in the most physically and financially demanding of mediums in toxically misogynistic nineteenth-century Paris. Unloved by her small-minded mother, criticized by her dogmatic writer brother, she was supported by her father and elated to have her extraordinary talent recognized by master sculptor Rodin. Claudel became his "most trusted assistant," muse, and lover and created her own unquestionably original work until, forced to acknowledge Rodin's divided loyalties, shaken by an abortion, and determined to be accepted as an artist in her own right, she decided to go it alone. Her profoundly sensual sculptures were controversial, her earnings scant; prolonged hardship and isolation eroded her mental health. Claudel's mother abruptly committed her to an asylum and forbade contact with the outside world, and there she remained for 30 years. Fair and precise, Ayral-Clause's clarion biography arouses the only reasonable response to Claudel's saga: outrage. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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