“He Never Loved Anyone
but You”
A Niobid Wounded by an Arrow

Toward 1905, exhausted and in despair, Claudel became obsessive and paranoid. Her deteriorating mental state upset the people near her. Her latest works lacked originality, as Claudel was now merely reworking her old figures. Vertumnus and Pomona, for example, was recycled from the image of Sakuntala, which Claudel reworked yet again into the separate female figure of the Wounded Niobid.

Claudel refused to receive visitors in her Paris studio at 19 quai de Bourbon. She continued to work with unrelenting determination. Claudel carved marble with remarkable virtuosity, striving to give the hard stone a meticulous appearance that only many long hours of polishing could achieve. Was this her way of attempting to distance herself from the unbearable reality of waning inspiration? It seems so. She spent her energy carving and polishing rather than formulating new ideas.

With The Wounded Niobid, completed in 1907, Camille confined herself to the aesthetics of symbolism, an earlier movement that explored dreams and myths. At the same time, Rodin’s and other artists’ works at the Salon were provoking a sweeping reinterpretation of the art of sculpture for the early twentieth century.

Camille Claudel, Wounded Niobid, 1906. Bronze. Musée Sainte-Croix, Poitiers. Photo: Musée Sainte-Croix, Poitiers / Ch. Vignaud

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Camilleís Exile, Rodinís Glory

The careers of Camille Claudel and Rodin followed opposite courses. Rodin got off to a slow start, and success came to him late. Conversely, Claudel had exhibited her works and gained the critics’ attention at a young age. For a time, the two artists shared the feverish activity of an active studio, where they each produced many masterpieces.

After their physical relationship ended, their mutual obsession for each other remained. Rodin continued his rise to glory. The critical response for the exhibition of his work at the Pavillon de l’Alma in 1900 confirmed him as “the most famous artist in the world.” Honored on many occasions, he was surrounded by a huge circle of friends and acquaintances.

At that same time, Claudel withdrew into solitude. The paranoia that preyed upon her weakened her creative powers, and her career as a sculptor declined. On the pretext of her welfare, the Claudel family had her committed to a mental institution on March 10, 1913, just a few days after the death of her father. Far from her workshop, Claudel lived another thirty years in exile and isolation in an asylum.

William Elborne, Camille Claudel at the Montdevergues public asylum at Montfavet, 1929. Photograph, gelatin silver print. Private collection, United Kingdom. Photo: Gary Dwyer

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