Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Camille Claudel - Artist, Sculptor, and Lover of Auguste Rodin

 "A revolt against nature: a woman genius"...Octave Mirbeau

Camille Claudel 
8 December 1864 – 19 October 1943

Camille Claudel was a French sculptor and artist. Her fascination for clay, stone, and dirt, began when she was a young child, and as she came of age, despite the protestations of her mother, her father supported her to study art. Around 1884, she started working with Auguste Rodin and before long became his lover and confidante. Obviously her family was outraged by the affair. 

Camille Cladel sculpting in her workshop

After 1905, she was afflicted by a mental illness. In the throes of her paranoia, she destroyed much of her work. Today, only 90 pieces exist. She disappeared for long periods of time, which alarmed her family. She came to believe that Rodin had stolen her all her ideas and he would soon kill her. As a result, she hid from the world, locking herself in her workshop to work. In 1913, her brother convinced her to voluntarily enter a psychiatric hospital where she had numerous outbursts. Despite her agitation, whenever engrossed in creating art, she was always lucid and calm. On numerous occasions, doctors did their best to convince Camille's family that she could be released back to the world, but her mother refused and kept her locked up with no mail other than her brother. there with no . This outraged the public for they believed the family had committed and locked away a sculptor of genius talent. Her mother forbade her to receive mail from anyone other than her brother. The hospital staff regularly proposed to her family that Claudel be released, but her mother adamantly refused each time. 

After a long terminal illness Camille Claudel died on 19 October 1943. No one came to her funeral and she was buried in a communal grave in the garden of the asylum where she had been for 30 years. 

Bust of Camille Claudel 
Artist - Rodin

She was a fireball and a prodigy. He was a genius. Their art was revolutionary. Sparks flew between and around them...She burnt out much too soon.

At the turn of the nineteenth century, seventeen year-old Camille Claudel dreams of becoming a famous sculptor, but becoming a female artist means pushing the boundaries of convention a little too far.

In Paris Camille will be able to attend art school and possibly have an atelier of her own. Thus, the Claudel family relocates in search of better opportunities for their two most talented offsprings.

Camille soon overshadows her classmates in art school, and her private tutor, a renowned sculptor, sees greatness in her. When he wins a prestigious prize and must leave Paris for Rome, he convinces his friend Auguste Rodin to nurture Camille's talent. But what's with this fiery young beauty who manages to make Rodin feel so uncertain yet capable of tackling anything?!

Rodin's Lover reverberates with intensity. I could picture the unfolding story in my mind as if I were watching a movie.
I have read passages of a book on Mendeleev's quest to organize the chemical elements into a reasonable system. The book is after my own heart, but I have never been able to finish it because I become overwhelmed by emotion to the point that I feel I am on fire, blood pumping in my ears, and bells tolling in my chest. That was the effect Rodin's Lover had on me. I felt uncomfortably aglow, feeling intensely the chemistry between Rodin and Camille--not only the measure of their desire for each other but their intellectual compatibility as well.

Heather Webb has managed quite a feat: to penetrate the mind of a genius, shed light on the chaos that sometimes reigns inside, and expose his creative process. Rodin has come alive in all his glory and complexity: his desires, his dreams, his energy and all-consuming passion...And so has Camille. Webb has zeroed in on how it must have felt as a talented woman to work in a field dominated by men and be overshadowed by them. It is an issue as timely in this day and age as it was at the end of the nineteenth century.

It is said that the line that divides genius and madness is a fine one; Webb has masterfully made it blurry. In Camille there is virtually no difference between a driven individual and an obsessed one.

"Camille dropped to her knees in the mud. Her skirts absorbed last night's rain and the scent of sodden earth. She plunged a trowel, stolen from her neighbor's garden, into the red clay and dug furiously, stopping only to slop hunks of earth into a wooden trough. She needed one more load to mod the portrait of Eugenie. The maid would sit for her again, regardless of her protestations." Opening Sentences. 

Rodin's Lover is a biographical novel about the life of French scuptor and artist, Camille Claudel. Despite her mother's interference, Camille's father arranged for her to study art in a time when women were banned from doing so. She came under the guidance of Auguste Rodin, and they soon fell in love and began an affair. After an unwanted abortion, Camille became paranoid and possibly schizophrenic, prone to outbursts. She voluntarily committed herself to a psychiatric hospital, but when doctors tried to release her, her mother intervened and insisted she be kept there. 

Set in France during the 1900's, Rodin's Lover is a comprehensive telling of a young woman who defied social norms and became a beloved sculptor. Like many biographical novels, the pace slows sometimes, but the story was compelling enough to keep me reading. The author portrayed Camille in a most sympathetic way, and I found her fascinating for her courage, dedication to her work, and willingness to learn. The author also did a thorough job of describing art techniques and the various historical characters in a very real, believable way. A lovely, but sad story. 

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Eusapia Palladino - Psychic Medium

21 January 1854 – 16 May 1918 
Eusapia Palladino was a poor woman from Naples. She claimed to be a spiritual medium who could conjer the dead at seances. Seances were all the rage in this era at the end of World War I when many had lost loved ones. So psychic mediums were gaining fame in every corner of Europe and North America. However, many of these mediums were nothing more than tricksters. Of all the mediums who gained fame during this time, Euspasia Palladino was one of the most credible. She claimed to have the powers to levitate tables and communicate with the dead through the aid of her spirit guide, John King. Many were convinced of her powers. 

Eusapia levitating a table in Milan in 1892

She travelled across Europe and submitted willingly to testing. Ultimately however, she was caught in deceptive trickery several times and was finally declared a clever trickster.

A skeptic by the name of Paul Kurtz wrote the following about Palladino: 
"[Palladino] was caught red-handed in blatant acts of fraud by members of the Society for Psychical Research in Cambridge and by scientific teams at Columbia and Harvard Universities. She was shown to be substituting her hand or foot and using them in darkened seances to move objects so that they appeared to be levitating. Even her defenders conceded that she cheated, at least some of the time. The problem that puzzles me is this; If one finds sleight-of-hand techniques being used some of the time by such individuals, then why should one accept anything else that is presented by them as genuine?... Skeptics question the first Feilding report because in a subsequent test by Feilding and other tests by scientists, Palladino had been caught cheating."
A psychologist by the name of Millais Culpin wrote that Palladino was a conscious cheat but also had symptoms of hysterical dissociation and likely deceived even herself. 

I encourage you to read more about this fascinating woman. You can read a book that is based on Eusapia's life - The Witch of Napoli by Michael Schmicker!

FitDesk v2.0 - Yes, you can now work out while working!

I am crazy in love with my FitDesk v2.0. For those of us who make our living sitting at a desk on our laptops or computers for most of the day, like me, work/life balance and squeezing in time for fitness is always a challenge. The moment I saw the FitDesk v2.0 online on, I purchased it! The product was delivered within 10 days and was easy to put together, even coming with its own tool. We were able to assemble it in less than 45 minutes. For those of you in search of a way to workout without losing valuable writing time, this is the way to go! 

The desk tray is sturdy and rubberized, so your laptop will not slip, but just to be sure, the manufacturers have added a strap that wraps around the desktop and your device to keep it securely in place. The entire desktop tray slides back and forth tray so that you can adjust the amount of space you need to comfortably type.  

There is a nice large meter that comes with batteries. All you have to do is plug it in and insert it into the slot at the top of the desk. It records time, speed, distance, calories, and there is even an odometer. I have been peddling for over 2 hours today and continue to do so as I write this review. My average speed is 16 mph, which is a good steady pace for endurance bicycling. 

Beneath the desk, there is a secret drawer. It's not very big, but enough to store my essentials. Here you will see some retractable earbuds, a USB port to charge my portable devices, and a screen duster for my laptop. There is enough room to store my iphone, etc. too if I wish.

I find the ergonomic arm rests very comfrortable and if you slide your arms back and forth, it gives a bit of a massage for weary wrists and arms when typing for longer periods of time. 

The seat is an extra wide gel exercise seat of very high quality. It is very comfortable as is the back rest. However, like all bicycling, if you plan to ride for extended periods of time, your sit bones will become sore and I invested in some bike shorts to alleviate this problem, since I like to ride my FitDesk for 2 hours or more each day. 

The FitDesk is fully adjustable - it's back rest, seat height, tray distance, pedals, and tension. I cannot express how pleased I am with this wonderful piece of equipment. I no longer have to leave the house and my work behind to squeeze in a workout. Everything about this desk is put together with careful consideration and with materials of excellent quality. I love my FitDesk! Kudos to the company for coming up with such an excellent product.