Claudel’s Commitment

Note: A version of this essay appeared on the website, The Ekphrastic Review, in 2019. Because there’s no dedicated link to the piece on the website, I decided to post it here too.

Paul Claudel, the brother of French artist Camille Claudel, had her committed to a mental institution in 1913, just after their father’s death. Although her forms indicated that she had been voluntarily admitted, they were signed by a doctor and Paul, not by Camille.

After about a year, she was moved to another hospital as protection against the advancing German front. But Claudel was a prisoner of war within her own family. Her brother rarely visited and never told her of the death of her loving father, which had allowed him to do what he had likely wanted to do for a long time. Hide away the unmanageable sister who embarrassed him with her unconventional behavior, which included living openly as an artist and having an affair with her mentor, Auguste Rodin.

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