Camille Claudel is a sculptor who has traditionally been approached in terms of her relationship to Rodin and his influence on her work. Indeed, the two shared a passionate relationship and there are certainly similarities between the two sculptors' work which provide for fascinating analyses. However, one of the acknowledged but previously unexplored speculations on Claudel's art suggests that it involves a measure of veiled spirituality sealed within its stone. It is precisely this sacred element within her sculptures that offers viewers an opportunity to experience transcendence while identifying with fundamental themes. Furthermore, Claudel created her figures as a method of interior healing and deliverance. This theme of redemption will be essential to arriving at the more profound, multifaceted interpretations of her sculptures. To highlight the connections to the various artists and movements discussed in the thesis, Claudel's piously thematic art can be compared to the nontraditional illustrations by Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and the religious depictions of James Tissot, as well as being seen as engaging with the idea of theosophy and the Symbolist art movement. It is true that in fin-de-siècle France, due to the advancing secularization of society, viewers did not understand religious and spiritual symbolism in art as comprehensively as they had in the past. However, it will be necessary to show that Claudel was not the only artist interested of her era who persisted in conveying spiritual themes within supposedly secular scenes. Yet, Claudel's work remains unique in that it communicates the theme of redemption through its creation as well as through its creator. Chez Claudel, the art and the artist are united and one cannot be fully understood without the other. Moreover, through her masterpieces, she did not only offer insight into the meaning of existence; through her redemptive works she found momentary salvation for herself and for others from the excruciating outward oppression present at the close of the 19th century. Unfortunately, since the moment she began to successfully achieve recognition for her work critics have been content to view each of Camille Claudel's sculptures as a deliberate response to her tumultuous relationship with Rodin. This thesis will investigate more enlightened interpretations made possible when one simultaneously considers the role of her spirituality. It will become unmistakably clear that Camille's brother Paul was right when he stated that her work is vastly different from all other artists' "because it welcomes light and radiates the inner dream that inspired it" (Ayral-Clause 157).



College and Department

Humanities; French and Italian



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Redemption, Sculpture, Spirituality, Symbolism, Camille Claudel