Exploring Camille Claudel’s Work and Record-Breaking Auction History

Priyanka Patil
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Camille Claudel was a prominent sculptor during the 19th century – an era when female artists were often unnoticed. She is known for working alongside master-sculptor Auguste Rodin and was more famous for being his muse than for her own sculptures. Now, though, Camille Claudel’s Modern and French Impressionist sculptures are highly valued throughout the art world. 

French, 1864-1943, Camille Claudel. Photo by Artnet.
French, 1864-1943, Camille Claudel. Photo by Artnet.

Camille Claudel was born in France in 1864 to a well-respected family of farmers. From an early age, Claudel was amused with clay and often made human figurines out of it. Claudel’s mother did not appreciate her desire to become an artist and considered it unladylike. On the contrary, Claudel’s father was supportive of her choices. He took her artworks to their neighbor Alfred Boucher, also a sculptor and painter. Boucher acknowledged Claudel’s talent, mentored her, and introduced her to Auguste Rodin.

Claudel’s artworks created interest among collectors during the 1990s, and since then, the prices of her works have only increased. Camille Claudel sculptures are rarely available at worldwide auctions and exhibitions. On the occasions they are on sale, though, they garner record-breaking prices of up to USD 8 million.

The Waltz by Camille Claudel (executed 1892, cast 1893). Photo by Sotheby’s.
The Waltz by Camille Claudel (executed 1892, cast 1893). Photo by Sotheby’s.

Sotheby’s London sold The Waltz, an 1893 sculpture by Claudel, at the whopping price of $8 million. One month earlier, a 1905 version of The Waltz sold at the Sotheby’s New York’s Impressionist auction. The cast sculpture sold at $1.9 million, well above its $1.2 million estimate.

L’Abandon, grand modèle by Camille Claudel (executed 1886). Photo by Artcurial.
L’Abandon, grand modèle by Camille Claudel (executed 1886). Photo by Artcurial.

Claudel’s work came to auction once again in an Artcurial sale in November 2017. The event featured 20 lots of Claudel’s rare artworks from her sister’s private collection. The lots included bronze, plaster, clay, and terracotta sculptures, the last of which was among Claudel’s most prominent sculptures held in private collections.

These artworks successfully garnered a combined $4.1 million, three times their estimated value. The sale began with L’Abandon. which sold at $1.4 million. L’Abandon gets its inspiration from the Indian mythical character of the neglected wife, Shakuntala. The neglect faced by Shakuntala draws thoughts on Claudel and Rodin’s volatile relationship portrayed in the sculpture.

La petite Châtelaine à la natte courbe by Camille Claudel, (executed 1892-98). Photo by Artcurial.
La petite Châtelaine à la natte courbe by Camille Claudel, (executed 1892-98). Photo by Artcurial.

The sale continued with Le petite Châtelaine à la natte courbe, an 1893 plaster bust, which sold for $586,194. The sculpture set a record as the highest-selling plaster sculpture by any artist. The 1886 sculpture Etude II pour Sakountala portraying two embracing bodies was followed by the Musée d’Orsay. This terracotta sculpture sold for $556,000.

Interest in Camille Claudel’s artworks has surged among collectors in the past few years. The curiosity of her affair with Rodin and the tragic end of life are also a few reasons her works trigger interest. The artist often feared that Rodin copied her ideas. As a result, she destroyed most of her artworks. It is also one of the reasons for the limited number of Claudel’s sculptures available today.

Interested in learning more about artists’ auction histories? Auction Daily recently looked at social realist painter Jacob Lawrence