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CAMILLE CLAUDEL: A Life Hardcover – May 1, 2002

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Harry N. Abrams; 1st edition (May 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810940779
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810940772
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #713,407 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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 Library Journal

Having enjoyed unprecedented access to family archives, photographs, and medical records, Claudel specialist Ayral-Clause (French and the humanities, California Polytechnic State Univ.) offers a fascinating account of the artist while also recording much important minutiae. This is intrinsically a life story; Ayral-Clause concentrates on biographical research, providing fresh information on Claudel's career and relationship with Rodin, for instance, while mentioning Claudel's artwork only secondarily. For virtually her entire life, Claudel was protected by Rodin, her teacher and lover by whom she became pregnant. Yet she was always suspicious of Rodin, and her suspicion intensified with age. Included here are numerous Rodin letters and conversations with politicians, writers, and critics. However, it is the examination of Claudel's later years in mental asylums that makes this book the first fully researched biography of the artist. Reine-Marie Paris's Camille: The Life of Camille Caudel, Rodin's Muse and Mistress (1988) is out of date, and the existing play, film, and multitudes of exhibition catalogs tend to mythologize Claudel. Ayral-Clause commands much new data and an admirable objectivity. Highly recommended. Mary Bruce, Cutler Memorial P.L., Plainfield, VT
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 16 customer reviews
Thank you for bringing this beautiful artist to life!
Carrie Barkley
Camille Claudel was an amazing Parisian sculptress who lived far before time was good to her and this biography does her justice...finally!
V. Marshall
Well researched and based on some primary sources now available, this book brings to life an artist too long over-looked.
Laura R. Duggan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Gail Cooke HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 8, 2002
Format: Hardcover
After gaining access to previously unpublished materials, private letters, and medical documents the author presents the first factual in-depth portrait of the woman who has been known primarily as the lover of the renowned sculptor Auguste Rodin. Camille Claudel was so much more than that.
A gifted artist in her own right she fought for recognition in a 19th century Parisian art world that refused her acceptance. There were, of course, critics who recognized her gifts but their comments always contained dismissive remarks, underscoring the pervasive bias against women.
Twenty-four years younger than Rodin, Claudel's relationship with the vaunted master grew from apprentice to equal to romantic entanglement. Regrettably, Claudel's mental health was fragile. Following the creation of a statue in 1907 she took a hammer and destroyed all her subsequent work. According to the author, this was "both a form of sacrifice and an act of rebellion against the world."
Sinking deeper into paranoia and delusion, she became an embarrassment to her family and the subject of city-wide gossip. After the death of her father, who wished to rally to her aid, Claudel's mother had her committed to an asylum, the first of two in which she would spend her last 30 years.
This is a heartrending story, a tribute to a great artist, and an important contribution to the annals of art history.
- Gail Cooke
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By V. Marshall VINE VOICE on October 26, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Camille Claudel was an amazing Parisian sculptress who lived far before time was good to her and this biography does her justice...finally!

Born in 1864, Camille Claudel grew up with an ambition un-worthy of her sexual status. She held within her being an artistic fire that was only extinguished by supposed madness. I have the feeling that had this woman been alive today her art and her spirit would thrive. But during the 19th century women were still meant to be barefoot and pregnant with no ambition other than being a wife and mother. Claudel struggled to represent her art and her spirit was destroyed by those she loved the most. She fought against a mother who wanted to keep her quiet and reserved, she defied her brother's idealistic religious beliefs and she competed against the world renowned artiste, Auguste Rodin. Despite the odds against her she created many works of pure and exquisite beauty proving that women could surpass men if given a chance. But because of her spirited talent she was eventually relegated to a hospital for the insane due to her inability to deal with the pressures of a love not returned (with Rodin), financial ruin and a lack of respect for her hard honed works.

Camille Claudel captured the struggles of love, aging and sexism in her famous sculptures: Jeune Fille a la Gerbe (1887), Giganti (1886), Vertumme et Pomone (1905), La Valse (1905), Clotho (1893), L'Implorante (1894-1905) and the magnificent L'Age mur (1902). Her abilities were innate but fine tuned through her affiliation with Auguste Rodin. In this relationship Camille flourished at first, guided under the wing of a master (24 years her senior), but she soon succumbed to his jealous competitiveness and his inability to commit fully to her love.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Mary Wilbur on October 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read this book last year after seeing the last half of the Isabelle Adjani/Gerard Depardue film on television. The film didn't give Claudel her due. She was a very tough minded woman trying to make her mark in the intensely competitive and 99.99 percent male French nineteenth-century art world. Aside from that her chosen (from childhood) form of expression was sculpture, considered to be purely masculine and financially extremely risky. She was barred from the best art school, L'Ecole des Beaux-Arts, because of her gender. Lesser schools accepted female students but charged them higher fees. At age seventeen Claudel began her studies at the Academie Colarossi, a new and equitable institution. Eventually she became Rodin's student and lover. When it became clear that Rodin would never leave his long-time partner and mother of his son in order to marry her, Claudel left him.

She lived and worked under enormous pressure -- not the least of which came from her mother and sister, very conventional and rather dreary middle-class people. No doubt Claudel was eccentric and nervous because of the difficulties of her life, but she was not insane. Her mother had her committed to a mental hospital after her father died and was no longer able to protect her. Claudel was not yet forty. She never sculpted again. Claudel died a pauper at seventy-nine after living the last half of her life with the insane and other inconvenient people. Her mother and sister never visited her. Her brother visited her two or three times during her incarceration.

Claudel was a genius. For a century Rodin's name overshadowed hers, but since a major retrospective at the Musee Rodin in 1984 and important exhibitions in the U.S. her work is known all over the world.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I received "Camille Claudel-A Life" for my birthday this month.
I began reading it at noon and completed it by 4 pm. I could or nor would I put it down so to speak. The book is well written, excellent sources, index, bibliography. Unfortunately, the photo's are not of good quality but passable considering there are any left and the abuse of many photo's and her own work in itself which have vanished! I cannot blame the photographer who did his best! That in itself would be a photographer's dream to compile photoghraphs of her work and publish them as a book of photography of her work and places she lived.
I have studied Camille for years and sat through a relatively good film, "Camille Claudel" which made Rodin appear an outright monster and she a victim to the max. In analyzing the aforementioned I felt something was indeed amiss. In reading the book many if all of my questions were answered and I was delighted with the writers sensitivity and reality of what may have transpired. When I lived in Paris, by accident, I was standing outside of herlast atelier's before she was committed to an asylum by her family. This was 4 years ago and in asking questions about her at numerous bookshops the Sorbonne and communicating with noted people no one who knew more than I did about her! No one has completed such an intelligent, well documented and researched book as Odile A-Clause. Thank you, Ms. Clause, Thank You
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