by James Nicholls JN Investment art
Aristide Maillol was regarded in France as the most important sculptor to embrace the form and shape in sculptor. Auguste Rodin referred to him as the “Genius in sculpture.”
He was a powerful influence on European sculpture in the first half of the 20th Century and is often referred to as the “Cézanne of sculpture.”
We are delighted to have currently obtained the mandate to sell this very rare collection of 28 x drawings from Aristide Maillol. The story is fascinating and it is a very special investment opportunity for these historic works.
These were his own personal references that he always had with him. He used them as references for his sculptures. He almost always refused to sculpt based model, preferring to use his own sketches taken from life.
Maillol was not trying to copy nature but draws its models, whether his sister Mary, his wife Clotilde Narcissus or Dina Vierny, whom he met in 1934 while it is a girl of fifteen. She became the inspiring figure of the last decade of the artist who realizes the large-format drawings in charcoal and chalk, two of which are in this collection.
These drawings mark the path of his thought and show the progress of his research. Each sculpture is preceded by a series of notes on nature gesture, attitude, movement and purifies it simplifies work after work.
When Maillol died in 1944, he left these personal works to his son Lucien with the condition they not be sold. However, upon the death of Lucien, a long legal procedure over more than 20 years, divided his heirs, until quite recently when it was finally decided that these works be sold.
The owner we represent purchased these works and has provided the ‘mandate’ for us to sell these works by ‘the master’ which are of such historic importance.
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Maillol was born in Banyuls-sur-Mer, Roussillon. He decided at an early age to become a painter, and moved to Paris in 1881 to study art. After several years of living with poverty, managed to attend the École des Beaux-Arts in 1885. His early paintings show the influence of his contemporaries Paul Gauguin and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes.
Paul Gauguin encouraged his growing interest in decorative art, an interest that led Maillol to take up tapestry design. In 1893 Maillol opened a tapestry workshop in Banyuls, producing works whose high technical and aesthetic quality gained him recognition for renewing this art form in France.
He began making small terracotta sculptures in 1895, and within a few years his concentration on sculpture led to the abandonment of his work in tapestry.
In July of 1896, Maillol married Clotilde Narcisse, one of his employees at his tapestry workshop. Their only son, Lucian, was born that October.
Maillol’s first major sculpture, A Seated Woman, was modelled after his wife. The first version was completed in 1902. That same year, the famous art dealer, Ambroise Vollard provided Maillol with his first solo exhibition, which proved to be an outstanding success. The exhibition was greatly admired by Mirbeau and Rodin.
Vollard initiated unlimited editions of some of the most popular small sculptures by Maillol, which can be found in numerous museums and private collections.
The subject of nearly all of Maillol’s mature work is the female body, treated with a classical emphasis on stable forms. The figurative style of his large bronzes is perceived as an important precursor to the greater simplifications of Henry Moore and his serene classicism set a standard for European (and American) figure sculpture until the end of World War II.
In 1904 he met his most important patron, Count Harry Kessler, for whom he executed some of his major works. Together they both travelled to London, Greece and Germany. As a result of his travelling exhibitions, his fame of Maillol spread abroad.
His important public commissions include a 1912 commission for a monument to Cézanne, as well as numerous war memorials commissioned after World War I.
1913, the first solo exhibition outside France took place in Kunstkring Rotterdam, were shown two bronzes, six plaster figures and photographs. In the same year works of Maillol were in the famous Armory Show in New York.
He made a series of woodcut illustrations for an edition of Vergil’s Eclogues published by Harry Graf Kessler in 1926–27. He also illustrated Daphnis and Chloe by Longus (1937) and Chansons pour elle by Paul Verlaine (1939).
Three of his bronzes grace the grand staircase of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City: Summer (1910–11), Venus Without Arms (1920), Kneeling Woman: Monument to Debussy (1950–55). The third is the artist’s only reference to music, created for a monument at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Claude Debussy’s birthplace.
He created a monument to Cézanne, installed in the Tuileries Gardens, in Paris. His works are featured in the Musée d’Orsay.
He died in Banyuls at the age of eighty-three, in an automobile accident. While driving home during a thunderstorm, the car in which he was a passenger skidded off the road and rolled over.
A large collection of Maillol’s work is maintained at the Musée Maillol in Paris which was established by Dina Vierny, Maillol’s model and platonic companion during the last 10 years of his life. His home a few kilometres outside Banyuls, also the site of his final resting place, has been turned into a museum where a number of his works and sketches are displayed.
In 1964 Dina Vierny offered the State 18 x sculptures for gardens and the Carrousel du Louvre in 1995, to commemorate the opening of Musée Maillol.
“I’m happy that I’ve seen that the word Genius is appropriate here. Yes, Maillol embodies in himself the genius of sculpture.
What safety of taste! What comes to light in the simple wisdom! He believes that art must be about complicated and incomprehensible. And that’s exactly what it indicates Eternal Maillol art to admire, I would say this is the purity, clarity and transparency in craftsmanship and in thought.”
By James Nicholls, JN Investment Art