Modern French Culture Research Papers
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The artists who were engaged in the pull into the modern world necessarily exhibited the strength and courage it takes to move art forms from one period into another. Camille Claudel battled for recognition as a sculptor in the time when Rodin was in his full glory. As a woman, Claudel fought against male chauvinism in the arts near the turn of the century in France; and as a woman, she fought against the prejudice in her own family. Camille’s mother despised her for the risqué and irresponsible life that she led as a sculptor. Her father, on the other hand, supported her both financially and emotionally. When he saw her drifting away from her personal artistic work he tried to strengthen her: “Your future belongs to you” . Rodin’s support and love for Camille was tainted by his selfishness; her work ended where his began. In order to go back to her work, Camille had the strength to leave Rodin.
Her sculpture spoke loudly of the passion and sensuality that drove Claudel. In the film Camille Claudel , Rodin says that Claudel is a master at her work; another critic chimes in with “She has the talent of a man.” Yet another is heard to say, “She is a witch!” She was victimized, as were all women artists in turn-of-the-century France, because her talent alone was not enough because it was woman’s talent, not man’s. Claudel’s strong sense of self and therefore her sense of others can be seen in two of her busts.
- Madame de Massary appears to be looking out of the bust as if the spirit is still within. The musculature of the neck suggests she may be about to speak.
- The Prayer pulls energy into itself. The sensuality of the nose and lips lull one into a meditative state—just the right mood for prayer. This bust exudes sensuality and peace at the same time.
Claudel was a passionate lover, sculptor, sister, and daughter. Her sculptures spoke for women’s right to understand and portray the sexuality of both sexes. “…In the period 1985-1913…feminist thinkers claimed the right for women to intervene in the public discussion of sex” ; Claudel’s figures were public forums for such discussion.
Claudel suffered from a debilitating mental illness that progressed until she was finally confined to an institution until she died in 1943. It is not known whether her descent into madness, a madness that led her to destroy most of her plaster sculptures, was hereditary or came about as the result of her struggles in life. What we do know is that Claudel was every bit as talented and passionate as Rodin and stands fully in her own right as an artistic icon.