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'Cultivating a Metallic Garden', the Beauty of Natural Forms at Atelier Lalanne

By Sotheby's
Sotheby's Important Design sale in Paris on 28 May features a collection of works created by celebrated designers François-Xavier and Claude Lalanne. 'Les Lalannes' as they referred to their collective work are today a household name in the design community.

A cross all their works, François-Xavier and Claude Lalanne brought to design a love of the natural world and a sense of humour that has seen their creations lauded as works of art. The short film below, made in 1982 by Chantal Perrin, shows them working in their studio in Ury near Fontainebleau. Offering a glimpse of of the artists’ lives, work and inspiration, Atelier Lalanne shows a studio bathed in their spirit of Surrealist poetry, humour, fauna, flora and children's curiosity.

Atelier Lalanne, Directed by Chantal Perrin, Image: Philippe Welt, Sound: Antoine Ouvrier, Music: Fernando Falcao and Luis Castineira de Dios, Produced: by Petite Maison Production.

With sheep, monkeys, donkeys, toads, camels and cats just a few of the animals that formed their crafted menagerie, alongside the wonderfully evocative plant and tree forms created by Claude, they showed the beauty of form in the familiar and paid homage to the natural world while engaging with both the exploratory, dreamlike aesthetic of Surrealism and Art Nouveau’s homage to natural forms.

Claude’s bronze depictions of flora and fauna manage to convey the tenderness of living forms even rendered in metal, and were once described by her husband as ‘the peaceful cultivation of a metallic garden’, who compared her work to figures in classical myth as she, Midas-like, turned living plants into copper and bronze creations.

François-Xavier’s use of animal forms and their associated metaphors were extremely popular. One particularly zealous fan was Salvador Dali: “François and I used to go and see them at the Meurice, but he also came to the house.” Claude told Sotheby’s in an interview. “He came flanked by two wild animals, and I had to ask him to tell me exactly when he was coming so that I could put my dogs in a safe place. On one of his visits, he saw François’s Rhinoceros and expressed his desire to have it. François knew that Dalí liked getting presents, but he never gave it to him.”

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