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Camille Claudel



The trailblazing French sculptor Camille Claudel (1864–1943) defied the social expectations of her time to pursue original and powerful explorations of the human form.

During that period, few women achieved celebrity in the field of sculpture, which, unlike painting or drawing, continued to be a largely male enterprise. Densely material, largely reliant on nude models, physically demanding, and bound up in male-dominated and politicized systems of state patronage, sculpture was not considered a polite art, and Claudel’s ambitions in that arena were transgressive. Her work prompted the critic Octave Mirbeau to famously exclaim, “We are in the presence of something unique, a revolt of nature: a woman genius.”

Sculpture of a nude woman carved in mottled, smooth, taupe-colored stone is viewed from the side. The figure is in a crouched position, arms over her head.

Crouching Woman, about 1884–85

Camille Claudel. Musée Camille Claudel, Nogent-sur-Seine. Photo by Marco Illuminati

Claudel’s biography—her passionate and complicated relationship with her teacher, Auguste Rodin, and her forced confinement in a psychiatric institution for the final 30 years of her life—is popularly known today, but her forward-thinking artworks have received less attention in the United States. This exhibition is the first comprehensive display of Claudel’s work in the United States in over 20 years and marks the 130th anniversary of the first public presentation of her sculpture in this country—at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

A bronze sculpture of a kneeling nude female figure. She leans forward with both arms reaching up in diagonal, and her head tilts to the side, pleading. One knee is slightly ahead of the other as if walking on her knees.

The Implorer (large model), modeled about 1898–99, cast about 1905

Camille Claudel. Private collection. Image courtesy of Turner Carroll Gallery, Santa Fe

Featuring some 60 sculptures from more than 30 institutional and private lenders, the presentation gathers her key compositions—including Young Roman, recently acquired by the Art Institute—showcasing her remarkable technical ability and innovative creations across multiple genres and materials. These range from portraiture to large-scale allegories to scenes inspired by her keen observation of everyday life, and are made in terracotta, plaster, bronze, and stone.

Claudel’s sculptures contend with universal themes of love, loss, passion, and the intimacy of daily experience; they embody the artist’s uncompromising pursuit of stylistic and professional independence. Her genius and sensibility are so thoroughly modern that her works continue to resonate, perhaps even more loudly today than during her tumultuous life.

A sculpture carved out of a light-green stone with veins of orange and white comprises four seated nude female figures facing each other in a circle, leaning in as if in deep conversation. Two partial walls meet in a corner behind them, framing the scene.

The Chatterboxes, 1897

Camille Claudel. Musée Rodin, Paris. © Musée Rodin. Photo by Christian Baraja

The exhibition is co-organized by the Art Institute of Chicago and the J. Paul Getty Museum and curated by Emerson Bowyer, Searle Curator, Painting and Sculpture of Europe, at the Art Institute of Chicago, and Anne-Lise Desmas, senior curator and head of the Department of Sculpture and Decorative Arts at the J. Paul Getty Museum.


A scholarly catalogue accompanies the exhibition, featuring essays by specialists on Claudel, newly translated letters written by the sculptor, and a contribution by contemporary artist Kiki Smith. Learn more.


Lead support for Camille Claudel is provided by an anonymous donor.

Major funding is provided by the Walter and Karla Goldschmidt Foundation, an anonymous donor, Amy and Paul Carbone, Marion A. Cameron-Gray, Nancy and Sanfred Koltun, Barbara and James MacGinnitie, Monika A. McLennan, Robin and Sandy Stuart, and Diane M. Tkach and James F. Freundt.

Members of the Luminary Trust provide annual leadership support for the museum’s operations, including exhibition development, conservation and collection care, and educational programming. The Luminary Trust includes an anonymous donor, Karen Gray-Krehbiel and John Krehbiel, Jr., Kenneth C. Griffin, the Harris Family Foundation in memory of Bette and Neison Harris, Josef and Margot Lakonishok, Ann and Samuel M. Mencoff, Sylvia Neil and Dan Fischel, Cari and Michael J. Sacks, and the Earl and Brenda Shapiro Foundation.


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