Prison is the fifth design from the We are Animals I series, a series of pieces portraying great minds wronged by humanity’s thoughts. This piece shows Camile Claudel, a French sculptor, best known for her bronze and marble depictions of figures. She died in relative obscurity.
Camile faced many difficulties throughout her life, even being barred from art schools such as the École des Beaux-Arts just for being a woman. But, without giving up, she ended up studying at one of the few spaces that accepted women at the time, the Académie Colarossi. And in 1882, she managed to set up a studio with other women and produced her first sculptures.
One of her mentors was Auguste Rodin, another sculptor. She began a problematic relationship with him in 1884 but never actually lived with him, who only used her as a model and lover, always reluctant to end her twenty-year relationship with Rose Beuret. The relationship ended in 1892, but her reputation was still associated with the image of the sculptor. She left the relationship with an intense depression that accompanied her throughout her life. The end also caused her to suffer massive boycotts in the artistic scene, which led her to increase isolation and poverty.
Camille was a genius of sculpture but only received due recognition after her death. At the end of her life was in a psychiatric hospital, hospitalized by her family, who claimed she was demented for destroying many of her works and acting paranoid, accusing Rodin of stealing her ideas and leading a conspiracy to kill her.
I am scared; I don’t know what is going to happen to me. What was the point of working so hard and of being talented, to be rewarded like this?
— Camile Claudel (1864 - 1943)
The hospitalization took place after her father’s death in 1913. Perhaps he was the only person in her family who approved her career choice and helped her in some way throughout her life, besides supporting her financially several times. The hospital management stated several times that the artist could return to social life because she was lucid, although she had mental outbursts. Still, her mother always refused to release her and forbade her to receive visits or even correspondence from someone who wasn’t her brother, the very one who had committed her. Some historians speculate that her brother, also an artist, felt overshadowed by Camile’s art and used his internment to get her out of his way.
She was an artist crushed by the society of her time. It’s unfortunate to know that, despite the achievements of women in the last century, we are still in a sexist world where it is common to see women living similar problems to the ones in Camiles’ life. It is also fair to think that many of these stories are hidden, a lot of these stories are happening right now, but we will never know.
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