Family of tragic artist Claudel sell last of her work

An “unprecedented” trove of sculptures by the brilliant but tragic French artist Camille Claudel are to go under the hammer in Paris next week. Claudel, whose life and tortured love affair with fellow sculptor Auguste Rodin has inspired several films and plays, destroyed much of her work before she was confined to a psychiatric hospital by her brother, the poet Paul Claudel, in 1913.

Auction house Artcurial described the hoard of works in bronze, plaster and clay that come mostly from a studio Claudel kept in a barn next to the family home near Paris, as having an “unprecedented richness”. “This is an exceptional sale,” its art department director Bruno Jaubert said.

“We have a coherent collection from a flawless and rare source that’s of an unprecedented richness on the French market,” he added. By the time of her death in 1943, Claudel was all but forgotten, only for her reputation to roar back as critics hailed her lost genius in the 1980s.

The star of Monday’s sale is a bronze of two figures locked in a passionate, pleading embrace, “The Abandonment”, which has strong echoes of Claudel’s own stormy private life.

The statue is one of a series inspired by the Indian myth “Shakuntala”, the story of an overlooked wife from the Hindu epic “Mahabharata” from which Claudel drew parallels with her own tumultuous relationship with Rodin, who was both her lover, boss and artistic rival. Having begun as rodin’s student and model, Claudel quickly became his mistress.

However, Rodin regarded as the “father of modern sculpture” for masterpieces like “The Thinker” never left his partner Rose Beuret. As Claudel’s star began to rise and she was pursued by the composer Claude Debussy, tensions between her and Rodin deepened, with Claudel feeling she had been deceived and exploited by the older man.

Although both sculptors remain bound together in the public imagination, Claudel’s stock has risen sharply in recent decades making her one of the most expensive female artists ever. With comparatively few of her works surviving, the first version of her sweeping bronze “The Waltz” a copy of which Debussy kept till his death sold for $8 million in 2013.

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