Henri Laurens was born on 18 February 1885, in Paris, where he attended drawing classes in 1899. The sculpture he produced during the early years of the twentieth century reflects the influence of Auguste Rodin. In 1911, Laurens met Georges Braque, who introduced him to Cubism and would become a lifelong friend. Laurens participated for the first time in the Salon des Indépendants in Paris in 1913, and two years later met Juan Gris, Amedeo Modigliani, and Pablo Picasso. He became a friend of Pierre Reverdy in 1915 and illustrated the writer's 1/2s Poèmes en prose that same year. By 1916, Laurens had begun producing Cubist collages, sculptures and constructions, exploring various media from wood and iron to, eventually, terracotta and bronze.
The artist was given a solo show at Léonce Rosenberg's Galerie l'Effort Moderne in Paris in 1917, and signed a contract there the following year. During the 1920s he executed designs for various architectural projects and stage decors. From 1932 to 1933 he divided his time between Paris and nearby Etang-la-Ville, where his neighbors were Aristide Maillol and Ker-Xavier Roussel. Laurens contributed substantially to the World Fair in Paris in 1937, also winning the Helena Rubinstein Prize that year. In 1938 he shared an exhibition with Braque and Picasso that traveled from Oslo to Stockholm and Copenhagen. His work was shown in 1945 at the Galerie Louis Carré in Paris and in 1947 at the Buchholz Gallery in New York. Laurens exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1948 and 1950. In 1951, a major Laurens retrospective took place at the Musée National d'Art Moderne in Paris. The following year he received a commission for a monumental sculpture for the University of Caracas. He exhibited extensively in Europe and the United States during the early 1950s, and received the Prize of the IV Centenary of São Paulo at the São Paulo Bienal in 1953. Laurens died in Paris on 5 May 1954, and is buried in the Cimetière du Montparnasse, Paris, in a tomb decorated by his own sculpture, La Douleur.
Laurens' work can be found in the following selected international collections: Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien (MUMOK), Vienna; the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Tate Collection, London.
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