Aristide Maillol

1861 - 1944
Maillol was born in Banyuls-sur-Mer, (Pyrénées-Orientales), in the Roussillon region, in 1861. He studied at the Saint-Louis de Gonzague school in Perpignan, before coming to study in Paris in 1882, where he attended Jean-Léon Gérôme's course and, from 1885, the National School of Fine Arts. He was taught there by Antoine Bourdelle, who accepted him in 1889 when he had fallen victim to financial problems. In 1892 he met Paul Gauguin, who encouraged him to carry on with his studies. In that same year, whilst visiting the museum at Cluny, he discovered the decorative arts, techniques and styles that were to influence him for the rest of his life. In 1890, he turned to tapestry work and created a weaving studio in Banyuls. In 1894, after spending a year in Italy, he turned towards sculpture. He became known exhibiting his first works in 1897 at the National Society of Fine Arts, which helped him to find a patron two years later in the person of Princess Bibesco.
  • Les trois Nymphes. Lead. Jardin du Carrousel (Paris)

    Les trois Nymphes. Lead. Jardin du Carrousel (Paris). Source:

  •  La Méditerranée. La Pensée. Museum of Orsay.

    La Méditerranée. La Pensée - Marble - 1905-1923. 118 cm x 111 cm x 69 cm. Source: Museum of Orsay

Between the 15th and 30th June 1902 he organised his first large exhibition at the Vollard gallery (Paris). And so the career of the artist began: in 1905, La Méditerranée achieved acclaimed success at the Paris autumn salon and he was to donate it to the city of Perpignan. In 1908, he created the highly controversial (because of the character's nudity) Auguste Blanqui Monument for the town of Puget-Théniers - but it was not until 1923 that Maillol would complete his first order for the State: a Méditerranée in marble (Museum of Orsay). The following year, Count Harry Kessler, his most important patron, commissioned him to create Le Désir and Le Cycliste, whilst the Russian collector Ivan Morozov ordered Les Quatre saisons. The first Maillol exhibition overseas was held in Rotterdamer Kunstring (Netherlands) in 1913, predating his trans-Atlantic exhibition in Buffalo by twelve years. Having stood the test of the First World War, he created four commemorative monuments free of charge between the two wars: at Elne in 1921, at Céret in 1922, at Port-Vendres in 1923 and at Banyuls-sur-Mer in 1933.
A good exponent of the Nabis school, Maillol puts all his emphasis on aesthetic expression to the detriment of its relationship with history. On the Banyuls monument, he uses a triptych to portray his subject: The Dying Warrior or Immolation, The Wife and Mother or Consolation, The Three Young Girls or le Deuil (Bereavment). His figures, in relief, are monumental. That of the soldier is out of proportion with the rest of the composition, portrayed full size so as to stand the test of time. The two other scenes are modelled on the Parthenon frieze: a procession of characters like the Attic kouroi, with their chests facing forward and legs in profile, one on top of the other.
In 1934 the sculptor met Dina Vierny, the daughter of a Ukrainian revolutionary, who would be his model for ten years. In 1939, as a tribute to Henri Barbusse, Maillol created La Rivière, before retiring to Banyuls-sur-Mer as war was declared. The victim of a car accident whilst returning from visiting Raoul Dufy in Vernet-les-Bains, he died on the 27th September 1944, leaving his last work, Harmonie, unfinished.
Source: Cahn I., L'ABCdaire de Maillol, Paris, Flammarion, 1999 - Les monuments aux morts de la Grande Guerre (Monuments to those who died in the Great War), Paris, M.P.C.I.H., 1991 - Lorquin B., Aristide Maillol, Paris, Editions du Seuil, 2005
< Back to the list of personalities