Camille Claudel

A film by Bruno Nuytten

Background Information

Paul and Camille Claudel were brother and sister, both extraordinarily gifted artistic people.

Paul Claudel (1868-1955) converted to Catholicism at the age of 18 and became famous as a Catholic author with a very complex and elitist style of writing. He traveled extensively and had a successful political career as ambassador to several countries in the Far East and to Washington, D.C.

Camille Claudel (1864-1943) fought against the prejudices of her time to become a sculptress. She was an apprentice in Auguste Rodinís studio, his model, mistress and collaborator. Rodin soon realized that she was very gifted. When Camille asked Rodin to marry her, he refused. They separated, but Camilleís passion, both for Rodin as a man and for his work, was so strong that she could not survive that separation without loosing herself in alcoholism, depression, and paranoia.

Both her famous brother and her mother were so ashamed of her "misbehaviors" that they had her committed to a mental institution where she did not die until 30 years later.

Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) is considered the "Michelangelo" of the beginning of the 20th century. His first sculpture, of a very strong young man in the nude, was so stunning that people accused the artist of having made a mold of his model. Rodinís sculptures, like Michelangeloís, are impressive by their realism and sense of strength. Rodinís works combine great beauty and dramatic passion. He made numerous clay and plaster models in several different sizes of his bronze statues. Repeatedly he received commissions for copies of his statues in marble.

Where to See Sculptures by Rodin in Southern California
There are two rooms dedicated to Rodinís work in the L.A. County Museum. Several of his statues can also be seen in LACMAís Sculpture Garden. The other local museum where you can see a lot of sculptures by Rodin is the Norton Simon in Pasadena. [The "Rodin Foundery" in Paris has created dozens of posthumous replicas of Rodinís statues. That is why so many of Rodinís statues are exhibited in so many places in the world.]

Victor Hugo
Victor Hugoís (1802Ė1885) death occurs in the movie. Victor Hugo is considered by many to have been Franceís greatest and best-known 19th century poet and novelist. His two greatest novels are Notre Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) and Les Misťrables (1862). In 1870, after Napoleon III (Napoleon Bonaparteís nephew) was captured and defeated by the Prussians, Victor Hugo returned to Paris from exile. He was elected to the national assembly and the senate. His last years were marked by public veneration and acclaim, and he was buried in the Panthťon.

Arthur Rimbaud
In the movie, Paul Claudel secretly reads poetry by Rimbaud. Why secretly? Because Rimbaudís poetry is that of a social outcast. He stopped writing poetry at the age of 21 and died at the age of 37, but is considered one of the greatest and most challenging Symbolist poets. He exiled himself in Africa after having had a passionate relationship with another Symbolist poet, Paul Verlaine.

Here are a few early lines by Arthur Rimbaud:

"As for settled happiness, domestic or not Ö
No, I canít, I am too dissipated, too weak.
Work makes life blossom, an old idea, not mine.
My life doesnít weigh enough, it drifts off and floats,
Far beyond action, that third pole of the world."
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Website designed and maintained by Barbara Vigano, Prof. emeritus of French, Mt. San Antonio College