Camille CLAUDEL (1864 - 1943)
Bronze Proof, n° 6 (c. 1908)
Sand-cast by Eugène Blot
Founder’s mark and series number on back: EUG. BLOT PARIS 6
Signed on the back: C. Claudel
H. 33, W. 30, D. 23.5 cm
- Camille Claudel. Décembre 1864-Octobre 1943, Paris, musée Rodin, novembre-décembre 1951 (marble).
- Camille Claudel (1864-1943), Paris, musée Rodin, 15 février - 11 juin 1984 ; Poitiers, musée Sainte-Croix, 26 juin – 15 septembre 1984, RMN, 1984 (marble).
- Camille Claudel, Paris Galerie Odermatt-Cazeau, 2 décembre 1988-31 janvier 1989 (bronze cast Eugène Blot n° 6).
- Camille Claudel, Martigny, Fondation Pierre Gianadda, 16 novembre 1990-24 février 1991 ; Paris, Musée Rodin, 12 mars – 2 juin 1991, Musée Rodin, 1991 (marble).
- Rivière, Anne, Gaudichon, Bruno, Ghanassia, Danielle, Camille Claude. Catalogue raisonné, 3rd edition enlarged, Adam Biro, 2001.
- Paris, Reine-Marie, Camille Claudel re-trouvée, Éditions Aittouarès Paris, 2001.
- Camille Claudel et Rodin, la rencontre de deux destins, Québec, Musée national des Beaux-Arts du Québec, 26 mai-11 septembre 2005 ; Detroit, Detroit Institute of Arts, 2 octobre 2005-5 février 2006, Paris, Musée Rodin, 3 mars-15 juin 2006, Hazan, 2005 (marble).
- Camille Claudel chez elle en Picardie, Amiens, Espace Camille Claudel, pôle Cathédrale, 15 mars - 4 mai 2006, Université de Picardie Jules Verne, 2006 (marble)
- Camille Claudel (1864-1943), Madrid, Fundacion Mapfre, 7 novembre 2007 – 13 janvier 2008 ; Paris, musée Rodin, 15 avril 2008 – 20 juillet 2008, Paris, Gallimard, 2008 (bronze cast Eugène Blot n° 5).
Versions of Dawn
The complete catalogue of Camille Claudel’s works, which came out in 2001, describes:
—a plaster dated from around 1900 whose current location is unknown. —a marble from the same period, held in a private collection.
—bronzes produced in 1908 under the direction of Eugène Blot; the work described here is n°6 of this series. Eugène Blot, a producer and dealer, would have acquired the plaster of Dawn at the sale of the Norwegian painter Fritz Thaulow on May 6, 1907. Following a tradition set by a number of Camille Claudel’s sculptures, Dawn was planned as an edition of 25; however, “the edition was stopped after the sixth proof, which is considered the last.” Proof number 1 and an unfinished master-model (elements of the hair are missing) are held in the collection of the museum at Nogent-sur-Seine. Numbers 2, 3, and 5 are in private collections, and there is no record of number 4.
—bronzes cast from the marble. These are posthumous castings, made after 1990, and they bear the mark of the founder Delval. An edition of twelve was planned, but all may not have been cast. In short, there are two extant versions of Dawn:
—the marble, which is the source of the contemporary castings.
—the “Blot model” of which six copies were made, five of which are currently known. For this version, there was a plaster model (a mold of the plaster later acquired by Thaulow) and there is the unfinished master-model held in the collection of the museum at Nogent-sur-Seine.
The Context of Dawn's Creation
The initial version of Dawn was created around 1900, during Camille Claudel’s “second period” of creativity, which is distinct from her first period, when she was working in close conjunction with Rodin. Claudel executed her first works while still very young, toward the end of the 1870s, guided by the sculptors Alfred Boucher and Paul Dubois. In 1883, Rodin replaced Alfred Boucher as the professor who was to work with Claudel and her friends. Rodin’s reputation was just beginning to get established, and soon his student became his model, his assistant, and his companion. Claudel put her own talents at the service of “the master,” and some of her work from this period is marked by his influence, such as Bust of Rodin and Torso of a Crouching Woman. But she also developed her own style and supported it with a considerably accomplished technique. From 1893 to 1896, she was particularly productive and inspired. The year 1898, when she finally broke completely with Rodin, marks the beginning of her “second creative period,” during which she showed a distinct interest in reworking themes she’d undertaken in the preceding years. Her working rhythm also dramatically changed, slowing down due to the time she spent on her emotional and financial problems, which were aggravated by her constantly increasing physical exhaustion. From 1906 on, her psychological state continually degenerated. Little by little, she walled herself off into an increasing solitude, and on March 10, 1913, at the request of her family, she was committed to Ville-Evrard, near Paris, and then to Montfavet, near Avignon. She remained in the psychiatric hospital of Montfavet for the rest of her life, and produced no more creative work.
La Petite Châtelaine and Dawn : Variations on a Figure
Starting in 1897, at the beginning of her second creative period, Claudel chose to work from existing figures. For instance, Fortune is a reconsideration of the woman from The Walz, the Wounded Niobide is in large part a remake of Sakountala, and Dawn figures in the Petites Châtelaines series. La Petite Châtelaine is a bust she made in 1892 while staying in Touraine. Rodin was working on his Balzac at the time, and the two sculptors were living in the château at l’Islette, near Azay le Rideau. The model for La Petite Châtelaine, Marguerite Boyer, was the six year old daughter of the woman who owned the château. The bust exists in four successive marble versions, in which the hair is gradually modified. The braid, first on the right, becomes curved, then thicker, and then, in the last version, the hair is unbound and hangs down in heavy locks. This last version, dated 1896, is referred to as the one “with the hair let down.” The figure of Dawn is directly based on that of La Petite Châtelaine: depicting the same child, it most resembles the last version, the one referred to as “with the hair let down.” Once again, Claudel went deeper into a theme that was important to her, with her vision renewed by the passage of time. She explored the different expressive possibilities of the subject and developed the figure, letting the progression of her preoccupations show through. This working method, composed of variations around a single theme or image, is characteristic of great artists once they’ve reached their mature stage.
Camille Claudel’s busts and the stylistic sources of Dawn
Between 1880 and 1900, Camille Claudel created some 20 portraits displaying a broad stylistic range. Most of the models were people who lived around her. La Petite Châtelaine occupies a special place in the artist’s career because it marks the beginning of her liberation from Rodin’s style. It received much critical acclaim, which in turn assured its place with private collectors. She had experimented with this composition in an earlier bust of a child (1889), The Bust of Charles Lhermitte, and revisited it in her composition for “the Italian bust” before using it again for Dawn. In Dawn, Claudel continues a blend of distinct and personal influences and styles. Beyond the traditional Italian Renaissance composition, the finely modeled traits of the child’s face are full, smooth, and delicate. Onto this “classical” and disciplined foundation, the artist confidently grafted a mass of wild and striking hair that literally envelopes the child’s frail body with its “modernist” waves. In fact, Camille Claudel was aware of and attracted to the arabesques and decorative forms of Art Nouveau, just as she was a fervent admirer of the Japanese sensibility made popular by Japonisme in Paris. For instance, her sculpture The Wave clearly engages Hokusai’s celebrated treatment of the same theme, and the large, decorative curve of The Waltz fits easily into the modernist aesthetic. Similarly, the impetuous hair of Dawn, falling over the model’s shoulders, lends her a certain decorative value while at the same time mitigating the tragic intensity that emanates from La Petite Châtelaine. Though Claudel treated her intimate subjects with lyricism and intensity during this period, she was also careful to underscore their artisanal and decorative aspects.
Dawn : A Formal Project Completed
Considering Camille Claudel’s entire oeuvre, the importance of hair and the originality of its treatment are noticeable in several figures. The Gorgon in the Perseus group has serpents for hair, and while Clotho is imprisoned in her chord of hair, Dawn is enveloped in an undulating mass or decorative wave. The theme of water is also characteristic in Claudel’s work; it appears in The Wave and on the terrace of Maturity. The curve formed by the hair echoes the twisting of the bust, but in the opposite direction. This inverted double spiral creates the dynamic tension needed to convey the rising movement. The face is turned to the right and tilted towards the sky. The intensity of the gaze is both fascinating and unsettling. It can be read as interrogative, passionate, or uneasy. The look in the eye of La Petite Châtelaine is similar to that of Dawn, and was said by Claude Debussy to be “the demanding call of the face of a child facing the unknown.” It’s rare that the look on a sculpture is this expressive, and Claudel’s art clearly attains something unprecedented here.
Dawn, a subject rich in meaning
Throughout her work, Camille Claudel remained engaged with life's most basic and eternal themes: love, death, and the passage of time. Her work presents her vision of life's varying stages, and the contrast between the childlike freshness of Dawn, a being in the process of becoming, and the emaciated old age of Clotho (1893) is striking. Claudel put all the emotions and turbulence of her life into her work. Her brother Paul Claudel stated it simply: "My sister's work is the entire story of her life, and that's what gives it its striking particularity." Dawn is no exception. Animated by an uncommon vitality, this bust both embodies and emanates the search for transcendence. In considering the connection between this work and the sculptor's personal life, at least one question remains hanging: Did Claudel choose the title as a specific response to Rodin? Rodin had executed his own work titled Dawn in 1885, for which Claudel had been the model. On the other hand, it may have not been she, but rather her dealer, Eugène Blot, who chose the title. And there are many titles that would have fit the extremely expressive face of Claudel's Dawn. For that matter, La Petite Châtelaine of 1896 was also shown under the titles Inspiration and Contemplation, titles that would have also have fit Dawn.
Eugène Blot, Camille Claudel’s most faithful supporter
Eugène Blot played a crucial role in Claudel’s life and work, as he was her dealer and the only person to have the right to reproduce her work. Claudel herself held him in great esteem, remarking that, “Monsieur Blot has been a great help to me.” They met around 1900, and began making the editions around 1904. He both defended and promoted Camille Claudel’s work with integrity and passion. He showed many of her works in his gallery at 5 Blvd. de la Madeleine, editioned fourteen pieces, and gave her solo exhibitions in 1905, 1907, and 1908. Though much sought and admired today, Claudel’s work was not fully appreciated until the early 1980s. Having been a female sculptor at the beginning of the century, working in close proximity to Rodin, and then living a fairly marginal existence for her last 30 years were all factors that worked in concert to keep her immense talent from being properly recognized for such a long time.
 Archives of the Rodin Museum: letter from Eugène Blot to Mathias Morhardt, Sept. 21, 1935. At the sale, the Bust of a Little Girl was #174 and was bought by Blot for 930 francs.
 Rivière, Gaudichon, Ghanassia, 2001, n°63.3.
 A model, usually in bronze, used in sand-casting. It is often made in pieces that are held together by cotter pins, so that it can be taken apart and cast in pieces.
 The bust is cut horizontally under the shoulders.
 It’s worth noting that it was Henri Fontaine, an important collector of Art Nouveau, who commissioned and owned the last version of The Young Lady. In 1896, the bust was exhibited at Samuel Bing’s Salon de l’Art Nouveau.
 Letter from Camille Claudel to Gustave Geoffroy, end of March, 1905.
 Camille Claudel et Rodin, 2005, p.264-265.
 In 1982, the novel A Woman by Anne Delbée, published by Presses de la Renaissance, brought Camille Claudel to the attention of the general public, which continues to show a passion for her life and work.