20 January 2013

Don't marry her...

Camille Claudel is, to my eyes, a far better sculptor and greater artist than Auguste Rodin; her work is consistently warmer, more imbued with emotion, more genuinely passionate. That she is less celebrated is partly a result of the breakdown and subsequent incarceration which cut short her career in middle age, partly the perennial problem of female artists being consistently written out of art history by a male establishment.
A very good and thought provoking recent lecture, in which the mutually dependent/destructive symbiotic/antagonistic artistic relation between the two was the focus, has had me mentally revisiting their work and the interaction which it displays. A meandering journey which brought me to Claudel’s L’Age mûr and paused there.
L’Age mûr is usually seen as a despairing autobiographic public cri de coeur in the face of Rodin’s refusal to leave his lifelong partner Rose Beuret. In this interpretation, the elderly woman at camera left is the implacable fate Clotho (representing Beuret) leading the unresisting central male figure (Rodin) away from life in the form of his younger lover (Claudel) who pleads on her knees at camera right.
Looking at the sculpture today, it suddenly merges in my mind with the lyrics of a song: an equally passionate and doomed cry of anguish from a lover who also finds that she cannot use youth and flesh to overturn more compelling loyalties.
The song is Don't marry her, sung by The Beautiful South. There are two slightly different versions, the original release and a later radio edit which (this being a family show, and since either would equally do for my present purposes) I've decided to choose here:
Think of you with pipe and slippers
Think of her in bed
Lying there just watching telly
Think of me instead

I'll never grow so old and flabby
That could never be
Don't marry her, have me...
Melded together, as they now are, sculpture and song both appear to me in a sadder and kinder light.
Of course there's nothing unique in this context about these two particular pieces; it just happened that way. I could equally well, perhaps, have alighted on Tracey Emin's Everyone I have ever slept with 1963–1995 tent and Alanis Morissette's You oughta know...)

  • Paul Heaton and Dave Rotheray, Don't marry her. 1996 (quoted radio edit: 2002)


Ray Girvan said...

I have to admit that I just love the original version of Don't marry her. There's something wonderfully bizarre about the juxtaposition of sunny, naive Kirsty McColl style with lyrics as bitter as, say, those of John Cooper Clarke.

Jazz said...

I had the Beautiful South song popping into my head several times for days after reading this post. While I like the track, I didn't have a copy of it, so I went off in search of it, and found the original version.

I'd never known about the original version, and I prefer it to the radio edit, so thanks for that!