3 May 2011
"Fugitive love" is a version of the popular theme of the lovers Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta, carried by a whirlwind in the Second Circle of Hell, where they report their fate to the poet Dante: at the moment of their first kiss, they were murdered for their illicit love affair by Francesca's husband and eternally damned. While working at his monumental 'Gates of Hell', Rodin frequently recurred to this subject and presented the couple in various constellations.
A specialist dates the origin of this love couple back to 1883-85, because its design no longer is dominated by Michelangelo's style, still clearly influencing earlier elements of 'The Gates' like 'Adam' and 'Eve' (around 1881); its expression of desperate desire might have its roots in the passionate relationship between Rodin and Camille Claudel, unfolding quite rapidly after their first meeting in Boucher's sculpture class in 1883.
Camille Claudel (1864–1943), seventeen years old, wanted to become a sculptor. At forty-one, Auguste Rodin (1840–1917) was on the threshold of a brilliant career. For a brief, happy period, the two artists had an intense love affair fired by a common passion for sculpture. Claudel was present and involved during the creation of Rodin's masterpieces in the 1880s and early 1890s. In the progression of her training in Rodin's studio, she soon sculpted works of remarkable character and expressive power. Then came the storm. While Rodin's new vision of sculpture spread over France and the world, Claudel struggled to have her work recognized in its own right. Irreconcilable artistic and personal differences developed. Their love dwindled.