Lot 77
  • 77

Germaine Richier

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
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  • Germaine Richier
  • La Montagne
  • incised with the artist’s signature, numbered HC 1 on the base and stamped with the foundry mark G. Richier Hc1 Susse Fondeur Paris on the side of the base
  • bronze
  • 185 by 330 by 130cm., 72 3/4 by 129 7/8 by 51 1/4 in.
  • Executed in 1955-56, this work is number 1 of 3 Hors Commerces, aside from an edition of 8 plus 1 artist’s proof.


Acquired directly from the artist’s estate by the late owner in 1992


Valencia, Institut Valencià d’Art Modern, El Fuego bajo las cenizas: De Picasso a Basquiat, 2005, pp. 256-57, illustrated in colour

Paris, Fondation Dina Vierny-Musée Maillol, Le Feu sous les cendres: De
Picasso à Basquiat, 2005-06, p. 83, illustrated in colour 


Exhibition Catalogue, Paris, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Germaine Richier, 1956, n.p., no. 77, pl. XII, XIII, illustration of another example and illustration of another example on the cover

Waldemar George, ‘Germaine Richier’, Prisme des arts, No. 2, April 1956 (text)

Bernard Milleret, ‘Envoûtement de Germaine Richier’, Les Nouvelles littéraires,
Paris, 11 October 1956 (text)

André Chastel, ‘Germaine Richier: la puissance et le malaise’, Le Monde, Paris,
13 October 1956 (text)

Barbara Butler, ‘Art and Artists: International Museum Week’, New York Herald
Tribune, 17 October 1956 (text)

Denys Chevalier, ‘Sculpture encore: dans son atelier, vaste forêt de plâtres
et de bronzes, Germaine Richier, chef d’école, sculpte les grands mythes
sylvestres’, Femme, October-November 1956, pp. 81-83, illustration of another example

Georges Limbour, ‘La vie des arts: le pouce de Germaine Richier’, France
Observateur, Paris, 1 November 1956 (text)

P. Chatard, ‘Sculpture: Germaine Richier’, Nouvelle gauche, Paris, 18 November-1 December 1956 (text)

Michel Conil-Lacoste, ‘Chroniques: Germaine Richier ou la confusion des règnes’, Cahiers du sud, Marseille, February 1957, pp. 307-11 (text)

Exhibition Catalogue, Paris, Musée Rodin, Sculpture Française Contemporaine et de l’Ecole de Paris, 1958, n.p., no. 52, pl. XIV, illustration of another example

Georges Limbour, ‘Personnages imaginaires’, Lettres nouvelles, Paris, 17 June
1959, pp. 31-32 (text)

Raymond Charmet, ‘Germaine Richier: une oeuvre d’une humanité déchirée’, Arts, Paris, 5-11 August 1959 (text)

Claude Roger-Marx, ‘Cette héritière inspirée des grands maîtres: Germaine
Richier’, Le Figaro littéraire, Paris, 8 August 1959 (text)

Michel Seuphor, Ed., La Sculpture de ce siècle; dictionnaire de la sculpture modern, Neuchâtel 1959, pp. 111 and 322 (text)

Exhibition Catalogue, Venice, Palazzo Grassi, Centro Internazionale delle arti e costume, Dalla natura all’arte, 1960, n.p., no. 4, illustration of another example

Jean Cassou, Germaine Richier, London 1961, p. 71, illustration of another example

Hugo Debrunner, ‘Die Platikerin Germaine Richier: grosse Retrospektive im
Kunsthaus Zürich’, Zürcher Spiegel, Zurich, 20 June 1963 (text)

Henri Creuzevault, Ed., Germaine Richier 1904-1959, Paris 1966, n.p., illustration of another example

Radu Varia, ‘Un poet tragic’, Secolul 20, Bucarest, Summer 1968, no. 3 (text)

Enrico Crispolti, I Maestri della scultura, Milan 1968, pp. 50-52, no. 65, illustration of another example

Michel Conil-Lacoste, ‘Richier’ in: Robert Maillard, Ed., Nouveau dictionnaire de la sculpture moderne, Paris 1970, pp. 262-64 (text)

Exhibition Catalogue, Paris, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Jean Paulhan à travers ses peintres, 1974, p. 47, no. 677, pl. XXIII, illustration of another example

Jean-Marie Dunoyer, ‘Jean Paulhan à travers ses peintres’, Le Monde, Paris, 7
February 1974 (text)

Brassaï, ‘Germaine Richier’, Les Artistes de ma vie, Paris 1982, pp. 194-97 (text)

Pierre Restany, ‘L’objet de la Chair’, in: Exhibition Catalogue, Paris, Centre
Georges Pompidou, Les années 50, 1988, pp. 234-39 (text)

Exhibition Catalogue, Humlebæk, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Germaine Richier, 1988, pp. 20-21, no. 34, illustration of another example

Elisabeth Lebovici, ‘Lieux: L’atelier de Germaine Richier vu par Pierre-Olivier
Deschamps’, Beaux-arts Magazine, No. 73, November 1989, pp. 94-99 (text)

Florence Montreynaud, ‘Germaine Richier, l’Ouragane’, Le XXème siècle des
femmes, Paris 1989, pp. 366-67 (text)

Iain Gale, ‘Inside the bronze menagerie: Germaine Richier’s sculptures were half-insect, half-human. Iain Gale visits the studio of an outsider in post-war Paris’, The Independent, London, 8 June 1993 (text)

Exhibition Catalogue, Saint-Paul, Fondation Maeght, Germaine Richier: Rétrospective, 1996, pp. 158-59 and 161-65, no. 88, illustration of another example in colour

Geneviève Breerette, ‘Les étranges creatures de Germaine Richier enfin
rassemblées’, Le Monde, Paris, 17 April 1996 (text)

Philippe Piguet, ‘Dans ses sculptures, Germaine Richier reconcile l’homme et la nature’, La Croix, Paris, 18 April 1996 (text)

Michael Gibson, ‘Germaine Richier, an Original’, International Herald Tribune,
Neuilly-sur-seine, 4 May 1996 (text)

Arnaud Spire, ‘Jean-Louis Prat pour le service des artistes’, L’Humanité, Saint-
Denis, 9 May 1996, p. 21 (text)

Arnaud Spire, ‘Germaine Richier ou la stratégie de la mante religieuse’,
L’Humanité, Saint-Denis, 9 May 1996, p. 20, illustration of another example

Itzhak Goldberg, ‘Les bêtes humaine de Germaine Richier’, Beaux-arts Magazine, Paris, May 1996, pp. 64-68, illustration of another example

Philippe Piguet, ‘Germaine Richier’, Art Press, Paris, June 1996, pp. 60-61 (text)

Harry Bellet, ‘Germaine Richier’, Atelier International, No. 828, July 1996, pp.
15-25, illustration of another example

Exhibition Catalogue, Berlin, Akademie der Künste, Germaine Richier, 1997, pp. 130-31 and 173, no. 93, illustration of another example; and p. 48, installation view of another example


Colour: The colour in the catalogue illustration is fairly accurate. Condition: This work is in very good condition. There is some light weathering to the bronze, with small spots of oxidisation in some of the crevices.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

La Montagne is a monumental sculpture with a rich international exhibition history. Designed for Germaine Richier’s 1956 retrospective at the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris, this work is considered by many, including the artist herself, to be the very highpoint of Richier's oeuvre: fluent in the complex dialogue between sculptural forms, eclectic in its imagery, and deft in pushing the structural possibilities of the medium to the absolute limit. Counterpoint, conflict, and force are all deployed here to create an overall effect that is as dynamic as it is beguiling.

This sense of conflict is rooted in the sharp contrast between the two figures that make up the work: one is angular and skeletal, the other is taller and columnar; one looks avian and zoomorphic, the other appears more human with a cavernous basin for a torso. Sinewy connections shoot between the two like spears. Considering their weapon-like appearance, it is ironic that they are actually structurally integral to the work. This irony is recapitulated in the piece’s wider interpretation: two figures that appear so opposed and so pugnacious in their relationship, are joined to make a harmonious whole. Richier avoided giving these figures specific animal or human forms as she had in other works. Instead she opted to focus on the abstract relationship, on the nature of conflict itself: “we may say that here a drama is enacted… because in this case the crude forces of nature occupy the stage” (Jean Cassou, Germaine Richier, London 1961, n.p.).

There is plenty in this work that fits neatly with the rest of Richier’s oeuvre. We might compare the interlinking chords to those in Le Griffu completed in 1952, and originally in the collection of Francoise Guiter – Richier’s niece. We might examine the monumentality of the larger figure and compare it to the 1951 L’Ogre. However, there is also much evidence of Richier’s external influences here. In the deep patina and the pock-marked metal surfaces, she identifies with her contemporary Alberto Giacometti who she came to know while studying in the studio of Antoine Bourdelle in the late 1920s. In the vast scale of the work, and the considered relationship of pose, Richier also references Auguste Rodin. This comparison would have been more to her taste. She was at pains to emulate the Impressionist sculptor throughout her career. Indeed, it has been suggested that she used Libero Nardone, the same model who many years earlier had posed for Rodin’s The Kiss, as the inspiration for the taller and more rotund figure.  

However, in the design for La Montagne, Richier did not just take influence from others. She also provided inspiration. We might look in particular to the work of Louise Bourgeois, whose 1997 Spider shares many features. In the sense of sinewy power, in the reliance on zoological form, and in the sophisticated structural casting techniques, there are fascinating parallels to be made. However, the most pertinent comparison is between the militant impetus of Richier’s composition and the spikey maternal defensiveness of Bourgeois’ spider; these moods of conflict are what imbue each work with their enigmatic gravitas.

When she was asked as to the origins of the title of this work by the critic Denys Chevalier, Richier replied “because it represents a sort of peak” (Françoise Guiter quoted in: Exhibition Catalogue, Venice, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Richier, 2006, p. 108). She may have meant this literally and there is certainly a sense of upwards thrust suffused through the work. However, it seems more likely that the work represents a peak within Richier’s career. In the creation of a balanced composition still charged with conflict, in the manipulation of pose to connote both tension and harmony, in the synthesis of influence from her contemporaries and her forebears, and in the elevation of cast bronze to the absolute limit of its capabilities, with La Montagne, Richier again asserts her position as the matriarch of post-war bronze sculpture.