Camille was born in Fère-en-Tardenois on 8 December 1864. Sister of the writer and diplomat Paul Claudel, she spent part of her childhood in Villeneuve-sur-Fère. Very early on, convinced of her vocation as a sculptor, she moved to Paris at the age of seventeen.
Camille entered the Colarossi Academy and was taught first by Alfred Boucher, then by Auguste Rodin. It is from this period that the first known works date: La Vieille Hélène or Paul à treize ans. Rodin, impressed by the solidity of her work, brought her into his studio in the rue de l'Université as a practitioner in 1885.
Nevertheless, Camille Claudel did not find happiness. Having left her family for the love of Rodin, she came up against the latter's refusal to leave Rose Beuret, his companion, in order to be married and, on the other hand, wished to make a career and not remain in the shadow of the master.
The young woman tried to distance herself, "to stop doing Rodin". Works such as La Valse (1890-94) bear witness to this attempt at autonomy. This distancing from Rodin led to a definitive break in 1898.
The sculptor then moved to 19 quai Bourbon in Paris and continued her artistic quest in great solitude despite the support of many patrons and critics. Even Rodin, under an assumed name, came to her financial aid whenever he was alerted to her distress, as the archives of the Rodin Museum reveal.
But the young woman's state of health worsened: troubled and disoriented, Camille Claudel ended up devoting a love-hate relationship to Rodin that led to paranoia and psychiatric confinement.
Camille's father, her only support, died on 3 March 1913. After his death, the other members of her family refused to support her. Camille was declared insane by her mother, who sought to protect the family's reputation. "Let her be forgotten, that is the best that can happen. Camille Claudel is interned on March 10 at Ville-Evrard and then transferred, because of the war, to the hospital of Montdevergues, near Avignon. Despite the improvement in her health and her numerous pleas to be allowed to return home, she died there thirty years later, on 19 October 1943.
Camille Claudel did not die of old age, nor even of madness, but of the malnutrition that plagued psychiatric hospitals during the Occupation and of the abandonment her family had left her in.
● Jean-Paul Morel: Camille Claudel une mise au tombeau, October 2009.