Arts Everyday Living: Artists in Love, Rodin & Claudel, Kandinsky & Munter


Unfortunately “l’amour” can be painful, especially for creative pairs such as Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) and Camille Claudel (1864-1943) or Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) and Gabriele Munter (1877-1962) who are the subjects of this year’s blog for Valentine’s Day.

I’ve provided some fast facts about them below. You’ll note similarities between the couples and of course differences too.  Yet, ultimately both duos are bonded by their artistry on display in arts museums today (see: Musee Rodin and Lenbachhaus Museum).


Camille Claude, c. 1884, photographer unknown

The Meeting: Exact date of their meeting is not known. Auguste Rodin, 44, who was gaining recognition as leading French sculptor, was asked to teach a class in which Camille Claudel,19, was a student. Rodin impressed by her talent and beauty; some 25 years separated them in age.

The Art of Passion: One of the most intense personal and professional relationships in history of art. Claudel  models for some of Rodin’s most expressive sculptures (I am Beautiful and Eternal Springtime), while his works inspire her sculptural creations. (Theory, too, that Claudel’s style might have influenced Rodin.)

The Other Woman:  However, Rodin also keeps a mistress Rose Beuret with whom he has been living since his early twenties; she is the mother of his son as well. Rodin’s refusal to leave Rose probably leads Camille to end her ties with him after about a decade.

Tragedy for Camille: Camille Claudel continues her sculptural career producing such works as The Age of Maturity. Begins to displays signs of mental illness, particularly hostile to her former lover Rodin; at 45, committed to asylum by family for the rest of her life. Nearly 80 when she dies in 1943.

Triumph for Rodin: Rodin achieves international artistic renown for monumental works The Burghers of Calais, Balzac, and The Gates of Hell, among others. Rodin finally weds Rose Beuret two weeks before her death in early 1917; he survives her by less than a year.

Together Again: Claudel’s sculptures now occupy a special section of the Musee Rodin in Paris honoring her genius and memory.


Wassily Kandinsky, Gabrielle Munter, 1905, oil on canvas, Lenbachhaus, Munich, Germany

Beginnings:  Gabriele Munter, was initially a student of Wassily Kandinsky at a progressive art school in Munich. Munter was in her mid-twenties and had traveled widely; 35 year old Kandinsky, a rising figure in the avant-garde art world, was already married (he divorced in 1911).

Artistic Companions:: For some dozen years, Munter and Kandinsky share their lives on creative and intimate levels. Both involved in founding of Der Blaue Reiter, an Expressionist art movement of early 20th century. Eventually reside in Murnau in Bavaria.

War, Separation, and Betrayal: Kandinsky returns to Russia because of World War I, leaving extensive body of work with Munter; promises to return and marry her.  However, in 1917, unknown to Munter, weds Nina Kandinsky.

Keeper of the Flame: Munter, publicly humiliated when Kandinsky moves back to Germany in 1921 with new wife, starts lengthy legal battle to keep his artistic output in her possession. Munter eventually wins yet, in spite of personal animosity towards Kandinsky, plays a major role in preserving his legacy.

During World War II, at great risk to herself, Munter hides Kandinsky’s work from the Nazis. Then, in1956, donates her collection of Kandinskys plus her own paintings and prints to the Lenbachhaus Museum in Munich, where both their contributions to modern art are currently honored.

Sources: Rodin and Claudel from website of Musee Rodin in Paris; Kandinsky and Munter from Vassily Kandinsky: A Colorful Life by Vivian Endicott Barnett, Dumont, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, 1995.

The above images are used solely for educational purposes.














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