Camille Claudel

May 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

Rodin’s talent is grossly exaggerated.  His drawings of the Balinese ballet illustrate the point:  that the figures are graceless should clinch the point but a surprisingly large number of people don’t notice and argue — how else?  relativistically! — “perhaps it is graceless to you“, etc. (meaning, “other people might like it and who are you to disagree”, etc.). Indeed:  they don’t mind his other stuff, why should they notice that his Balinese sketches are all ugly?  But, more to the point, and damning beyond any shadow of a doubt:  Rodin’s sketches of the Balinese are wrong:  no such pauses are allowed in Balinese dance.  (This is not a matter of opinion; it is a fact; and I happen to be an expert judge). So, there you have it, QED.

(Oh, you don’t get it, someone will say, no doubt, “that’s Rodin’s vision“. But this is, precisely, my point:  the vision thing is — defective).

Now, Rodin, like all nineteenth century European art, is ugly, convoluted, violent, and above all, overrated. It is a function of the age — that tiresome, dull age of purposeful hard work; nineteenth century discovered purpose and merit; but also the people — the new men who came up from the bottom to dictate the style.  People whose ancestors have had nothing to do with art for ten thousand years and who have never needed the cognitive apparatus required to recognize it.  People who got up by figuring out a faster way to get the grain to the market, or a way to screw some colored people out of a natural resource.  People who did that 14 hours a day 7 days a week.  What would they know about art?  What they liked was stories of sweat, commitment, passion, powerful emotions, and — meaning.  Lots and lots of meaning.  Purpose.  Manon.

Yeah, they liked Manon.

Camille Claudel the film does not make any of this more palatable.  Conversations about art oscillate between incomprehensible (see “how the artist’s mind ranges beyond our powers of comprehension?”) and trite (“she has the soul of a man!”) — and back again.  The love story is just like any other love story, illustrating plainly that Rodin and Claudel, at any rate, were no different from the rest.

(Which is, precisely, my point).

And throughout:  ugly sculpture (misshapen bodies, twisted in some nightmarish agony, covered with warts, parts missing), people wearing ugly clothing badly, dull colors, wet clay, murk, dirty streets of Paris.

Why look at this at all?  Is it telling me something valuable and worth knowing about love?  No.  About Rodin?  I was happy not to know.  So, why?  So many people worked so hard, spent so much time and money, to waste 40 minutes of my time.

I have to get better at identifying drivel early — so that I can kill it earlier.

I am making progress.  Last Tuesday I identified — and killed — Marquise after 8 minutes.


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