What are we to make of the sculptor Camille Claudel (1864–1943), Rodin’s student, assistant, and mistress, who spent the last half of her life in an insane asylum, dying a virtual unknown? To be sure, since the 1984 retrospective of her work at the Musée Rodin in Paris, there has been more opportunity to learn about Claudel and her work than ever before. Yet in place of dispassionate scholarship and clear-headed analysis, much of what has been published about her has, at least of late, consisted of one-sided discussions of her work and innuendo leveled against Rodin and members of the Claudel family. It is as if the calamities that befell her—rather than anything she produced in the studio—entitled her to recognition as a serious artist.

Given this state of affairs, it is tempting to view the Claudel revival as another case of special pleading, the rehabilitation of a...


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