Rodin loved Camille Claudel but was unwilling to leave his ‘permanent’ mistress Rose Beuret who kept his house, cooked for him and even tolerated his many affairs. Rodin had no reason to marry or commit to Camille. She however, wanted more – and quite rightly most of you will say. Typical male – wanted his cake and eat it! He wanted the romance and passion with Camille with the stability of sweet Rose at home. Camille did manage to get a contract drawn up with him, establishing some rights. However, what she really wanted was marriage. What if she had compromised and settled for what was within her reach – his artistic and financial support and a market for her work he could bring her from his contacts? This would have brought her stability and enabled her to continue working. Instead of which, when things had soured between them, she destroyed most of her work, lived like a tramp and ended up in an asylum for the last 30 years of her life. The tragedy of this is overwhelming – one can hardly take it in. Interestingly, she started to show signs of instability after her first successful solo exhibition. It was then she began to make claims that Rodin and his cronies were stealing her ideas. Maybe she just didn’t have the strength to stand on her own in the still male-dominated art world. Her emotionally charged nature would have added to this difficulty. Maybe she needed to be in some kind of relationship with Rodin, whether a loving or a hateful one. It’s certainly the case that most of her work (or what remains of it), springs from her feelings for Rodin and symbolizes aspects of their passionate, if ultimately doomed affair. Perhaps without that relationship, her passion had nothing to feed off – like a fire which goes out when it has nothing left to burn. All questions, questions – and speculation!
Claudel: Shakuntala 1886-1888 Claudel: The Age of Maturity c.1885-99