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Young Girl with a Sheaf

Camille Claudelca. 1890

National Museum of Women in the Arts

National Museum of Women in the Arts
Washington, D.C., United States

Camille Claudel’s experience as a studio assistant to Auguste Rodin gave her the opportunity to study the nude figure and develop a profound understanding of anatomical nuances.

“Young Girl with a Sheaf” depicts a seated young woman leaning against a sheaf of wheat. Claudel emphasized the firmness of the girl's flesh against a roughly modeled background. The figure’s head twists toward the right while she draws her right arm close to her body and crosses her knees. The pose emphasizes her modesty by denying overt sexuality. The girl's position is also compelling from different angles and allows Claudel to capture the tension that underlies this awkward stance.

By specializing in small-scale sculpture, Claudel built a following of private collectors and created multiple editions to meet demand. She produced several versions of “Young Girl with a Sheaf,” including one in terra cotta and a series of 12 cast in bronze (this example is the eighth). Claudel gained renown for exercising direct control over the process of casting her sculptures in bronze. She underscored the technical aspect of the artist’s hand at a time when most artists still relinquished the clay model to specialized artisans.

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  • Title: Young Girl with a Sheaf
  • Creator: Camille Claudel
  • Date: ca. 1890
  • selected exhibition history:Camille Claudel: 1864-1943,” National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C., 1988; “Camille Claudel,” Musée Rodin, Paris, 1984
  • artist profile: Renowned for her ability to communicate narrative in sculpture, Camille Claudel is also remembered for her personal and professional relationship with Auguste Rodin, which often threatened to overshadow her own work. Born in northern France, Claudel moved with her family to Paris around 1881. Early on, she was recognized for both her artistic talent and her physical beauty. After studying sculpture at the Académie Colarossi, she shared an independent studio where Alfred Boucher taught. In 1885, Auguste Rodin asked Claudel to become a studio assistant. Much attention has been focused on Claudel’s relationship with Rodin—her teacher, mentor, and lover. By working as Rodin’s apprentice, she had the chance to study the nude figure and anatomy, an unusual opportunity for a woman in the 19th century. She modeled hands and feet for Rodin’s “Burghers of Calais” and posed for figures in his “Gates of Hell.” By 1893, because of Rodin’s prominence in French culture, Claudel secluded herself in her studio to focus on creating work that would establish her own reputation. Claudel’s nuanced portrayals of the human form resulted in certain sculptures that the state and press censored as overly sensual and inappropriate. These circumstances may have contributed to her declining career and mental state. In 1913, Claudel was committed to a mental asylum, where she remained until her death 30 years later. Her complex personal drama has brought her scholarly and popular attention, yet her critical acclaim came foremost from her unrivaled ability to convey narrative in marble and bronze sculptures.
  • Style: Symbolism
  • Physical Dimensions: w7 x h14.125 x d7.5 in
  • Type: Sculpture
  • Rights: Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; Photography by Lee Stalsworth
  • External Link: National Museum of Women in the Arts
  • Medium: Bronze

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