Camille Claudel’s Connection
Camille Claudel was a French sculptor and graphic artist who lived during the turn of the 19th century. Though she was praised for her originality, she lived most of her life in relative obscurity, her career ending tragically early. “La Valse” (cast bronze sculpture, 1905) or “The Waltz”, remains one of her best-known sculptures, immortalizing lovers in a tender embrace.
Cast in bronze in 1905, “La Valse” depicts a man and a woman, held close to one another in a loving, sensual embrace as they dance. Claudel’s details of physicality give the impression of softness, adding tenderness to their sensual dance. Though the image of the pair’s bodies pressed together conjures eroticism and the fiery, physical love that accompanies it, there is no doubt that the pair share a deep emotional connection as well. The man’s arm pulls his lover into him with gentle strength, and he turns his head as if to whisper into her ear. They sway together, intimately intertwined, eyes closed in the bliss of the moment. The pair appear to love each other in totality, in every way possible. There is complete trust and closeness, which Claudel elegantly captures through the body language of her subjects. The lovers that she depicts appear lost in their devotion to each other, completely oblivious to the world around them, nude, intertwined, only seeing their partner. Perhaps Claudel wished to give a physical shape to the deep connection that she believed was inherent in love.
Though Rodin objected to their affair because of his marriage, Claudel believed in the eternal bond that her art mirrored, that nothing could separate those who truly loved each other. Her own misfortunes held her back from the love that she dreamt of, but Claudel’s sculpture brings the love she craved into the world with her own skill and shares it with us, encouraging people to immerse themselves in love. “La Valse” offers viewers guidance – take the chance, let worries fade, and be swept away in the dance of love.
What do you think of this sculpture?
I actually had quite the opposite impressions. Your description of their embracing bodies– sensual, erotic– didn’t occur to me initially because of its nature as a sculpture and the presumably cold texture of the metal/copperlike material. The phrase that first came to mind for me was ‘locked in’ embrace. Which of course is a loving gesture foremost, but may at the same time, insinuate the darker side of love: perhaps restrictive and at worst, possibly suffocating. But then again, those very factors could contribute to the steadfast nature of long-held relationships/true love… So maybe this piece is imparting these seemingly paradoxical facets of love all at once.
I agree that this statue espouses eroticism through the material itself. They are both molded from the same material, thus they are one in the same. They are forever bonded together because of their materiality, suggesting that their love is forever and closely tied.
The moment I saw the photo of this brilliant sculpture, I experienced as an expression of the deepest love possible between a man and a woman. It brings tears to my eyes.
Never heard of Camille Claudel but wow she was a talent. Couldn’t help but think of Rodin’s “David” when I saw her work so not surprised they had a connection. I wonder who influenced who?