Artistide Maillol: Artist Portrait

Aristide Maillol

Born 1861. Died 1944.
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Aristide Maillol Biography

Modern French artist Aristide Maillol produced art historically significant paintings, sculptures and prints in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and is perhaps most well known for his large-scale allegorical, archetypal representations of female nudes. Approaching the classical Roman female form with a modernist abstract and realist treatment, Maillol’s style reflects the preceding and contemporaneous movements of Impressionism, Symbolism and Post-Impressionism.

Born in Banyuls sur Mer, France, in 1861, Maillol moved to Paris at the age of 20 to study art. He lived in poverty over the course of several applications to the École des Beaux Arts until he was finally accepted in 1885. While there, he studied painting under Jean Léon Gérôme and Alexandre Cabanel, but his style shifted significantly when he came into contact with fellow artists Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and Paul Gauguin. He later began working in tapestry and sculpture, opening a highly successful tapestry workshop in 1893; however, he abandoned textiles two years later to more fully pursue sculpture after beginning to experiment with the material terracotta. Around the turn of the century, Maillol began producing large-scale statues of women, the first of which were based on his wife. Reconsidering the classical form, he approached the subject with a then experimental combination of abstraction, geometry and seemingly stable yet unbalanced composition. He was commissioned for war memorials after the end of World War I, and also produced a much-admired monument for Paul Cézanne in Paris upon the highly revered painter’s death. Maillol’s legacy left a significant influence on the work of later sculptors including Constantin Brancusi and Henry Moore.

Many of Maillol’s works can be found in outdoor public spaces, as well as in the grand staircase of the New York Metropolitan Opera House. He has had multiple retrospectives at major museums including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC, and the Haus der Kunst, Munich. His works can be found in the permanent collections of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, the Kröller Müller Museum, Otterlo, and the Art Institute of Chicago, among many others.

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