French sculptor and painter Aristide Joseph Bonaventure Maillol was born on December 8, 1861, in Banyuls-sur-Mer, a small town on the Mediterranean, right next to the border with Spain. Although his Catalan homeland was important to Maillol his whole life, when he was 20, he moved to Paris to study art where he was accepted at the École des Beaux-Arts.
He was there at the same time as Paul Gauguin and there is a similarity between the styles of the two men. In fact, with Gauguin’s support, he tried his hand at tapestry making, but his skill at sculptor led him to concentrate his efforts there, instead. Almost all of his sculptures are female nudes. They can be found in museums and important installations throughout the world, including three bronzes on the grand staircase of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. He also created woodcut illustrations for the works of several writers, including Paul Verlaine.
He died in a car accident on September 27, 1944. Fifty years after his death, his friend and former model established the Musée Maillol in Paris. It holds, of course, a large collection of Maillol’s work, but also that of those artists, such as Ingres, who influenced the sculptor, those who were his contemporaries, such as Raoul Dufy, and those who he influenced, such as Marcel Duchamp. It also has important temporary exhibits, such as the present one on Canaletto. I’ve never been to this museum, but it’s now on my list for a future trip. Maillol’s former atelier in Banyuls has also been converted into a museum.
One of his most famous works is La Nuit, which means Night, above. It made me thinks of a French saying, la nuit porte conseil (lah nwee port konsay), which literally means “night brings counsel.” We’d say, “Sleep on it.” Maillol is justly considered to be one of the most important 20th-century sculptors, and there’s no need to sleep on that in order to be sure.
Read more about Aristide Maillol
- Eight Hidden Galleries in Paris (dualshow.com)
- Remembering Auguste Rodin, the French sculptor and artistic innovator (csmonitor.com)