1864 – 1876: Early childhood in a provincial middle-class family
The Claudel siblings grew up in an insular family, in an atmosphere of constant squabbling, between an abrupt yet loving father attentive to the education of his children and a mother focused on day-to-day concerns and needy of affection.
Fère-en-Tardenois and Bar-le-Duc
Camille Claudel is born on 24 December in Fère-en-Tardenois (in the Aisne department), where her father, Louis-Prosper Claudel, is a collector of registry fees. He had married Louise-Athanaïse Cervaux in 1862. Camille is the eldest of three children. Her sister Louise is born on 2 February 1866, also in Fère-en-Tardenois, and her brother Paul is born on 6 August 1868 in Villeneuve-sur-Fère, in the presbytery where the family is welcomed in 1866 by the priest, Madame Claudel’s uncle.
In 1870, Louis Prosper Claudel is transferred to Bar-le-Duc (in the Meuse department).There, Camille is instructed by the Sisters of the Christian Doctrine.
Holidays at Villeneuve-sur-Fère
Villeneuve-sur-Fère would remain an important anchoring point for all three children. Camille and Paul would never forget their escapades among the stream of rocks sculpted by the elements, in the very heart of the forest, at the place known as “Le Géyn”.
Every year, they would also spend a few weeks with Louis-Prosper Claudel’s family in the Vosges, on the shore of Lake Gérardmer.
Camille and Paul
The Claudel children are raised within a closed, tense family circle. According to his son, Louis-Prosper Claudel is hard and severe, but honest and devoted to his family. Madame Claudel is occupied all day long with the household chores. “Never a moment to think about herself, nor very much about others", "She never kissed us". The family’s values are work, effort, economy, honesty and a sense of duty. Over the years, Camille and Paul have built up an intense relationship that would last all their lives. They support and encourage one another, becoming very close.