Aristide Maillol was born on 8 December 1861, in Banyuls-sur-Mer. In 1881, he travelled to Paris where he applied to the École des beaux-arts; he was eventually accepted in 1885. Maillol would grow disillusioned under the academicism of the teaching and, seeking new inspiration, discovered the work of Paul Gauguin at an exhibition at Café Volpini in 1889. Maillol embraced the Post-Impressionist flattening of form and use of colour, coming to associate with the Nabis with whom he would exhibit in both 1895 and 1896 at Le Barc de Boutteville, Paris. Although trained as a painter, Maillol developed an interest in the decorative arts and took up tapestry design. He exhibited at the Salon des Beaux-Arts, Paris, and in 1893, set up a tapestry workshop in his hometown of Banyuls-sur-Mer. Around 1895, on account of his declining eyesight, Maillol began exploring terracotta; by 1901, Maillol was working almost exclusively as a sculptor.
Maillol developed a style focussed on the female figure that prioritised form of the emotional or psychological engagement associated with August Rodin. Harmoniously composed, his figures are thick-limbed, solid and monumental in stature, often with an air of imperturbable poise.
In 1902, Ambrose Vollard exhibited Maillol’s statuettes for the first time, shown alongside his tapestries. In 1905, he exhibited a half-seated, half-reclining plaster figure based on his wife, La Méditerranée, 1905, at the Salon d’Automne. In spite of his poor eyesight, Maillol did still work in media other than sculpture: in 1912, he created a series of woodcuts for an edition of Virgil’s Eclogues, and in 1939, prints for Paul Verlaine’s Chansons pour elle. Maillol continued to work largely in sculpture for the remainder of his life, dying in a car accident on 27 September 1944 in Banyuls-sur-Mer.
The Musée Maillol, Paris, was inaugurated in 1995 and features a major collection of Maillol’s work. His work can also be found in the following selected international collections: the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA); National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo; the State Hermitage, St. Petersburg; Neue Pinakothek, Munich; Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna; Musée d’Orsay, Paris; the Courtauld Institute of Art, London; the Tate Collection, London.
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