Old Women in Sculpture
It seemed somewhat poignant after the last post on Rodin!
At the Paris Salon of 1893, the public was astonished to discover a scrawny, old female nude tangled in her long hair: Camille Claudel’s Clotho.
In the master’s studio, three sculptors bluntly took up the theme of physical old age in women (specifically, osteology: the study of bone formation). First, Rodin created The Helmet-Maker’s Beautiful Wife, completed in 1889. His collaborator Jules Desbois was working on Misery at almost the same time. Then, Claudel executed Clotho. A comparison of the three works shows how, in the same studio, new ideas take form and evolve differently, according to the individual viewpoints of the artists. “The only ugliness in art is that which has no character,” Rodin said. In these works, Rodin and his studio broke with the nineteenth-century tradition of portraying idealized subjects.
Rodin unflinchingly observed the aged body. Desbois showed the nude old woman in an attitude of shamed propriety, letting the last tattered rags of poverty fall away. Claudel created a hallucinatory allegory of Fate holding the thread of Life.