Camille Claudel Torment and Ecstasy - presentation

Wednesday, February 27, 4pm
JC3 Calle de La Moras 47
$200, $150 members of the JC3

Camille Claudel Torment and Ecstasy

"There is always this feeling of absence which torments me." - Camille Claudel

This presentation will be somewhat different from all the others I have given for the past 10 years. I shall begin with a theatrical interpretation of her life and work, so you may share the depth of her passion and despair. I wrote a monologue to honor her, entitled I CAMILLE, based on the letters she wrote from the asylum where she was incarcerated. Then, I shall proceed to my usual power-point journey. Camille Claudel had two passions in her life: Sculpture and Auguste Rodin. Both proved deadly.

I invite you to meet this extraordinary woman, and I do not mince my words, as the story of Camille Claudel is the story of a woman born ahead of her time, a female genius for whom the world was not ready, a woman who attained heights of artistic ecstasy and endured acute personal and mental agony. An emblematic figure of Feminism, she has remained unknown for such a long time, unrecognized, forgotten and even worse, if/when remembered (and only as the muse, model and lover of Rodin) she remained unacknowledged by art historians.

It is only in the 1980s that she has been "re-discovered" and rehabilitated. Movies, television documentaries have been made about her, books written, and all of her letters have been published. She is the only female sculptor who was eventually to find a place in the Musée d'Orsay.

She was born in 1864 in the small town of Villeneuve-sur-Fère, in the Champagne region of France. Her father, a hard-working tax registrar, supported her in her vocation. Her mother, on the other hand, the daughter of a doctor and the niece of an abbot, did not like Camille's rebellious and bohemian lifestyle.

Sister of Paul Claudel, the French right wing conservative devout Catholic diplomat and poet, Camille was institutionalized in 1913 by her mother and brother in a psychiatric asylum where she will die of hunger at the age of 79, after 30 horrible years of incarceration.

Her tragic destiny not only moves us to tears, but also awakens our deepest respect for a woman who gave her life to art. Camille Claudel has become the personification of the cursed artist, torn apart between the existential necessity of artistic creation and the dream of shared love. All she wanted in life was to sculpt, to love and be loved. Granite, clay, plaster of Paris, onyx, marble, bronze, Camille Claudel always looked for the most challenging and demanding composition. Rather than polished academic poses, she chose to focus on raw emotion and movement. Sketching in clay from live male models, she created a scandal, one reason why she was interned. She exalted and furrowed human suffering into the very flesh of earth. Her fearless creative energy, going the distance in her uncompromising depiction of the human condition, from the innocence of youth to the decrepitude of old age, through the bliss of love to the horrors of separation, will not fail to command your awe.

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