A Tale Of A Kiss

August Rodin's The Kiss originally represented Paolo and Francesca, two characters borrowed, once again, from Dante’s Divine Comedy: slain by Francesca’s husband who surprised them as they exchanged their first kiss, the two lovers were condemned to wander eternally through Hell.

The Kiss, however unique and outstanding, wasn’t the only work by the great Auguste Rodin inspired by  his passion for his pupil, the sculptor Camille Claudel.

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You find me at work; excuse the dust on my blouse. I sculpt my marble myself. Camille Claudel. 

Camille was no ordinary woman. Her talent manifested itself at age 17 when, against her parents’ wishes, she enrolled at the Academy Colarossi. There she has been mentored by the famed sculptor Alfred Boucher, and soon thereafter  Camille began taking lessons from Auguste Rodin and work in his studio.Rodin-Kiss-3.jpgAt first Camille only sanded and polished Rodin’s sculptures. Then he trusted her with finishing them, but over time she began to create her own. She became a sculptor in her own right and the author of many designs.

For 15 years, she was the artist’s lover, his model, muse, generator of ideas and a co-author of his best works.

Auguste Rodin. Danaid, 1885, a sculpture dedicated to Camille Claudel.

Auguste Rodin. Danaid, 1885, a sculpture dedicated to Camille Claudel.

Their happiness was not quite complete. Rodin never left his civilian wife of over 20 years for Camille, and she refused to settle for the role of a mistress. 15-year history of collaboration and passion ended in disaster.

Camille Claudel. The Eternal Idol, 1888 (left). Auguste Rodin. The Eternal Idol, 1889 (right)

Camille Claudel. The Eternal Idol, 1888 (left). Auguste Rodin. The Eternal Idol, 1889 (right)

Camille’s love turned into hatred. For several weeks she did not leave her apartment, lost in a deep depression. She molded shapes and figures and then smashed them, covering the floor  with shards.

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I took all my wax studies and threw them in the fire… that’s the way it is when something unpleasant happens to me. I take my hammer and I squash a figure. —  Camille Claudel

In a fit of hatred for Rodin, Camille has repeatedly accused him of stealing  her ideas. After their parting in 1913, Camille had a mental breakdown and was placed in a psychiatric hospital, where she spent the remaining 30 years of her life.

Camille Claudel. * * The Age of Maturity, 1900 - an allegory of her break with Rodin.

Camille Claudel. The Age of Maturity, 1900, an allegory of her break with Rodin. Begging figure is a self-portrait of Camille

You promised to take care of me and not to turn your back on me. How is it possible that you never wrote to me even once and you never came back to see me? Do you think that it is fun for me to spend months, even years, without any news, without any hope! Camille Claudel.

It is difficult to judge the extent of genius talent. However, numerous critics admitted that after breaking up with Camille Rodin’s talent somewhat faded away. He created no works quite as significant as the masterpieces that came to life during his association with Camille. rodin.PNGIn the 1880-1890, the peak of his passionate relationship with Camille Claudel,  Auguste Rodin created the works recognized as his very best: Eve, The Thinker, The Eternal Idol, The Eternal Spring and The Kiss.

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