The work, titled L’Implorante, is the Burrell Collection’s first acquisition in 10 years and the first sculpture by a woman in the museum.
The collection in Glasgow, which was amassed by shipping magnate Sir William Burrell, will reopen in March 2022 following a £68.25 million museum refurbishment and redisplay.
Glasgow Life, the charity which operates The Burrell Collection in Bellahouston, was able to purchase the sculpture with support from the Burrell Trustees, National Fund for Acquisitions, Art Fund and Henry Moore Foundation.
Claudel was a contemporary and close collaborator of Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), some of whose works are part of the collection.
Professor Frances Fowle, senior trustee at the Sir William Burrell Trust, said: “We are delighted to acquire this profoundly moving bronze by Camille Claudel for the Burrell Collection.
“This outstanding artist, although under-represented in this country, was an important role model for women sculptors at the turn of the 20th century.
“The sculpture will perfectly complement the museum’s important holding of works by Auguste Rodin, with whom Claudel’s career was so closely aligned.”
The artist was introduced to Rodin when she was 17 years old and two years later began working in his studio.
They soon became lovers but L’Implorante was created around the time her relationship with Rodin was coming to an end, and he returned to his long-term partner, Rose Beuret.
Sir William Burrell and his wife donated the collection to Glasgow in 1944.
He never bought a piece by Claudel, as at the time he was actively collecting it is unlikely there would have been an opportunity to buy her work, because she would not have been considered an important artist.
Councillor David McDonald, chairman of Glasgow Life, said: “Glasgow Life is proud to actively collect work by women artists and announcing acquisitions is a source of huge excitement, especially when it is the first of its kind in the UK.
“Until now Glasgow did not have a sculpture by Claudel. This piece bolsters the collection and connects well with other works that will be on show, most notably by Rodin.”
L’Implorante will initially be displayed as part of the inaugural exhibition in the newly designed Special Exhibition and Event space in the Burrell Collection.
The free exhibition, due to open in late summer 2022, will explore the legacy of Sir William Burrell as a man and collector and his motivations to establish an internationally renowned museum for the people of Glasgow and beyond.
Jenny Waldman, director of Art Fund, added: “Camille Claudel was an exceptional talent and Art Fund is delighted to support the acquisition of this expressive and powerful work. Her sculpture, L’Implorante, is the first work by Claudel to enter a UK collection.
“The sculpture will be enjoyed by visitors to the Burrell collection once it reopens in March 2022, featuring centre stage in its opening exhibition.”