1886 - 1893 : Rodin and Camille Claudel: a tumultuous love affair and an impassioned, intense artistic dialogue.
While the earliest works by Camille Claudel at the beginning of her intense relationship with Rodin testify to her master’s influence, it is during this relationship that her own personality and the full extent of her talent become apparent.
The two sculptors are closest during this period. Rodin, who considers his young collaborator a great artist, shares with her all of his knowledge and in return enjoys "the happiness of being ever understood, of seeing his expectations ever exceeded". This constitutes “one of the great joys of his artistic life” (Mathias Morhardt).
Stay in England
In the springtime of 1886, Camille Claudel stays with the Lipscombs in Peterborough in England, then in August on the Isle of Wight with Dr Jeans, along with Jessie Lipscomb and Paul Claudel. At Nottingham Castle, she exhibits (with Jessie Lispscomb) the Portrait of Jessie in unbaked clay. She returns to Paris in September, bringing back charcoal drawings.
Upon her return from England, jealous and exclusive Camille Claudel demands of Rodin, in a “contract” signed on 12 October, that he accept no other (female) student but she, that he protect her within the artistic circles and that he marry her following a trip to Italy or Chile. This contract would never be followed up.
In November 1886, Camille Claudel focuses her energy on the creation of a large ensemble inspired by a drama by the Hindu poet Kalidasa: Shakuntala. Begun in the studio at 177 Rue des Petits Champs, this oeuvre would be completed in the studio at 113 Boulevard d’Italie, to which she would move in January 1888. A photograph shows her before the earthen model of the ensemble's young woman, most likely modelled after Jasmina, who is regularly mentioned in her correspondence.
On 8 November 1886, she writes to Florence Jeans:
"I’m now working on my two larger-than-life figures and I have two models per day: a woman in the morning, a man in the evening. You can understand how tired I am: I regularly work 12 hours a day, from 7 in the morning until 7 in the evening, and when I get home, it's impossible for me to remain standing and I go directly to bed."
Engagement of Louise et conversion of Paul
Her sister Louise and Ferdinand de Massary become engaged. They would marry in 1888. Camille Claudel sculpts a bust of Louise the year of their engagement, followed by a bust of Ferdinand de Massary the year of their marriage.
On 25 December, Paul attends Christmas vespers at Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral and converts to Catholicism.
The Folie-Neubourg and château de l’Islette
1887: Trip to Touraine with Rodin in search of references for the monument to Balzac. They stay at Château de l’Islette in Azay-le-Rideau.
1890 – 1892: Camille Claudel summers at Château de l’Islette in Azay-le-Rideau, where she is joined by A. Rodin.
1888: Rodin rents the Folie-Neubourg au Clos-Payen, n° 68 Boulevard d’Italie, to work alone with Camille Claudel, who in January moves to 113 Boulevard d’Italie (today Boulevard E. Blanqui), located nearly opposite the Clos-Payen. The lease is signed by Rodin.
S.A.F.: Young Roman (n° 3779) and Young Girl with a Sheaf, in terracotta (kept at the Musée Rodin)
S.A.F.: Shakuntala, plaster, (n° 3930), which earned an honourable mention (kept at the Chateauroux Museum)
Discovering of Far Eastern art
1889: Camille Claudel discovers Far Eastern art at the World's Fair in Paris, in the company of Claude Debussy. The dazzling pavilion welcomed 596 exhibitors.
Creation of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts
Creation of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts (“National Society of Fine Art”), which organizes its own exhibition. Rodin is a founding member.
Exhibition of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts: Bust of Charles Lhermitte (n° 4189). A bronze cast is kept at the Nogent-sur-Seine Museum.
A. Rodin and C. Claudel travel to Touraine in July 1889.
Beginning of independence
In 1892, Camille Claudel rents an apartment at 11 Avenue de la Bourdonnais, near the marble depot studio on Rue de l’Université, but keeps her studio on Boulevard d’Italie. The two sculptors grow further apart, both romantically and professionally.
S.N.B.A.: Bust of Rodin, in bronze (n° 1482). A cast is kept at the Nogent-sur-Seine Museum.