This work by the sculptress Camille Claudel is in the Rodin Museum in Paris, and there the figure has two names on the Catalogue. It is known both as The Wave and as The Bathers.
It is a relatively small sculpture, since it is only 62 centimeters high and is made of a peculiar combination of bronze with onyx. In the representation we see three bathers who hold hands and try to protect themselves against the arrival of a huge wave of the sea. A representation that is always related to the famous engraving of The Great Wave off Kanagawa by the Japanese artist Hokusai, whose prints were truly admired among the artists of Parisin the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Precisely the moment when Claudel made this work, dated between 1897 and 1903.
The Wave by Camille Claudel
However, as always happens with the works ofClaudelit seems that they are only understandable if we link them with her personal life, and especially with her relationship with her teacher and her lover Auguste Rodin. Who lived an affair with her, but also cheated on her both professionally and lovingly. That is why this sculpture is often interpreted as a metaphor for that relationship, with Rodin being the great wave that will eventually destroy the fragile woman.
However, it is perhaps fairer to analyze the work and thesculptor by herself, since she was certainly an artist of enormous quality with fantastic creations such as The Mature Age or this other representation in which she dares to work at the same time casting bronze and carving a stone as difficult as onyx. And certainly the result is very interesting.
This duality of materials gives the representation a curious bicolor at the same time. Something very popular in the sculpture of the time, when it was highly valued to use the natural polychromy of the materials used in sculpture as expressive resources. A trend that established another sculptor of the time: Charles Cordier. But in addition to expressiveness, in the case of Claudel these two tones serve to better capture movement on stage, which is undoubtedly full of life. A scene that comes to capture an image of destiny from which no one can escape. A somewhat catastrophic vision and here we have to remember again that Camille Claudel's life ended in a psychiatric sanatorium due to the mental disorders that her unhe althy relationship with Rodin generated, and that by then the great sculptor had deceased.