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SPOTLIGHT: Camille Claudel, sculptor and RODIN'S LOVER

Friday, October 16, 2015

Heather Webb is the author of RODIN'S LOVER, a heart-wrenching biographical novel about the French sculptress Camille Claudel. On the blog today, Heather writes about the story behind her novel ...  

For the Love of Art

By Heather Webb

Being a female artist in Belle Époque France was a challenge to say the least, yet young sculptor Camille Claudel would carve out a name for herself—at all cost. Attending proper art school with nude models was frowned upon, and in most cases forbidden, as was wearing trousers to do the intense lifting, scrubbing, and chiseling that came with being a sculptor. To make matters worse, women seldom won the coveted positions at the Champs-Elysée Salon. On the rare occasion a female artist was nominated for her work, she garnered lesser awards, leaving the prestigious Salon prizes for their male counterparts—allegedly the most creative and intelligent of the sexes. 

Yet Camille managed all of these feats. Not only did she work with live, nude models, but she received commissions for her work, as well as a prominent award for her sculpture Sakuntala; a depiction of an Indian woman resting her head atop her lover’s, who pleaded for her forgiveness. Still, Camille’s sensual work was deemed indecent by many, and her Sakuntala  (among other pieces) was not accepted everywhere. 

On one occasion in 1895, Camille sold an Alexander Harrison painting she owned to a museum in Châteauroux to support herself—buying stone, clay, and tools for sculpting, never mind rent for her atelier cost a small fortune, and she, among other artists struggled to make ends meet. Camille was so relieved by the museum’s purchase that she donated a copy of Sakuntala to the museum as a thank you. Delighted, the art committee featured her work in the main hall. 

Camille visited the museum to view how they displayed her piece, and received a warm welcome, prompting the committee to submit an article praising her work in the town newspaper. Once again, Camille met strife. Several conservative bourgeois from the town were shocked—as other critics in Paris had been—by the sensual nature of her work. They pushed back against her and the art committee, ridiculing her skills and making both sexual jokes about the Hindu legend she had depicted, as well as mocking the committee for their choice in showing it. One article even suggested hiding the sculpture behind a curtain.

Luckily for Camille, she had gained the support of a few well-known critics who came to her defense. Gustave Geoffroy said, “Those who saw [Sakuntala] retain in their memory…the anatomical science and the passionate expression of these two figures.” Rodin, Camille’s collaborator, teacher, and lover, offered his unfailing support of her as well.

In my novel RODIN’S LOVER, I explore the politics of art, the tumultuous affair between the famed Auguste Rodin and his volatile, yet brilliant student Camille Claudel, and the fine lines between obsession and madness. 

For those interested in seeing some of Camille’s works, a few of my favorites are: The Waltz, The Wave, Maturity, The Gossips, and Clotho. I have photos on my website under FOR FUN, as well as a Pinterest board packed with photos of her work as well as Rodin’s. For more information, check out my website

Heather Webb is the author of historical novels BECOMING JOSEPHINE, RODIN’S LOVER (Jan 27, 2015), and A FALL OF POPPIES: An Anthology of Armistice Day to be released from HarperCollins in 2016. In addition, she is a freelance editor and contributor to award-winning writing sites and Heather is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association.

INTERVEW: Heather Webb, author of RODIN'S LOVER

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Heather Webb is the author of BECOMING JOSEPHINE, which tells the story of Napoleon’s wife, Josephine Bonaparte, against a background of the French Revolution; and RODIN’S LOVER, which chronicles the passionate and tragic story of Camille Claudel, sculptor, collaborator, and lover to Auguste Rodin. 

Please welcome her to the blog!

What was the first flash of inspiration for RODIN'S LOVER?

I fell in love with Camille while in my French film class in college. The film called Camille Claudel, was multiple award-winning in Europe and the U.S. with stars Isabelle Adjani and Gérard Depardieu playing the roles of Camille and Rodin. Their tragic love story gripped me and I swooned at the beauty they created both together and separately. After the film, I became rather obsessed with sculpture in general. Many years later, I had not forgotten Camille, and knew I wanted to delve more into her life. When I kept seeing renditions of Rodin's "The Thinker" all over the place the month I was choosing a new topic, I knew it was a sign. (I'm one of those! Signs are important to me.) 

What do you love most in the world?
Beyond my children and family, I'd say a great meal while I'm on the road traveling. I love, love, love to travel and I'm a foodie so there we have a perfect marriage.

What do you fear most in the world?
Again, beyond something horrible with loved ones, I would say war coming to U.S. soil. Oh, and cockroaches. Those bugs are crunchy and NASTY. They carry over a hundred diseases and I'm convinced they'll be around long after the apocalypse. 

What are your 5 favourite childhood books?

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Nancy Drew Mysteries by Carolyn Keene


What are your 5 favourite books read as an adult?

This is so difficult! It changes based on the phase in my life and my mood, but here are a few favorites I still think about:

Ahab's Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Longbourn by Jo Baker

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Mystic River by Denis Lehane

What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?

Probably the variety. I read lots of young adult, historicals, and literary, but I also read the occasional romance, mystery, or science fiction.

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Murder as a Fine Art by David Morrell

How would you describe perfect happiness?

Perfect happiness is sitting on a beach in the sun, listening to the waves and the gulls, sipping a glass of wine. Knowing everyone you love is safe, knowing that life is short and precious and being content with all you have. Being free from fear of what comes next in my career, life, love...

What are your dreams for the future?

Like many writers, I'd love to hit one of the big lists or win some literary prize, but mostly, my dreams involve continuing to write good stories that capture the public imagination and heart. I dream about my kids growing up happy and having families of their own. And lots more adventure! 

REVIEW: Rodin's Lover by Heather Webb

Friday, October 09, 2015

Rodin's Lover

by Heather Webb 


A mesmerizing tale of art and passion in Belle Époque France

As a woman, aspiring sculptor Camille Claudel has plenty of critics, especially her ultra-traditional mother. But when Auguste Rodin makes Camille his apprentice—and his muse—their passion inspires groundbreaking works. Yet, Camille’s success is overshadowed by her lover’s rising star, and her obsessions cross the line into madness.

Rodin’s Lover brings to life the volatile love affair between one of the era’s greatest artists and a woman entwined in a tragic dilemma she cannot escape.


I remember watching the movie ‘Camille Claudel’, starring Isabelle Adjani and Gerard Depardieu in the late 1980s, and being stirred by the intensely romantic yet tragic story of this young sculptor as she struggled to make her way as a woman and a creative artist in the male-dominated world of the late 19th century. 

Heather Webb has now brought Camille Claudel to life on the page, in this delicate and haunting novel told from her point of view. 

We see her as a strong-willed and determined young woman, stealing clay from a garden late at night so she can use it for her sculptures. Then we see Camille’s meeting with Auguste Rodin, the controversial sculptor, and the beginning of their tumultuous affair.  

The tension between Love and Art torments Camille. She breaks off their relationship as her work is dismissed as being copies of his, even as she longs for him. 

Her emotional and psychological breakdown is deftly and sensitively handled, and the ending brought tears to my eyes. A beautiful novel for anyone who (like me) loves books inspired by real-life artists.

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