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Germaine RICHIER

(1902 - 1959)


The sculptor, draughtswoman and printmaker Germaine Richier was taught by Antoine Bourdelle in Paris between 1925 and 1929, at the same time as Alberto Giacometti, after she had studied at the École des Beaux-Arts de Montpellier. For many years she did her sculptures traditionally, modelling faces with precise contours and fraught looks after a model, until she emancipated herself from the model, and started to work on remarkable works interesting to entomologists. This form of figuration, unique, and going to the boundaries of the fantastic, was born in 1940. She produced human insects, an imagined world of a prehistoric universe that unfolds in the vegetation of the artist’s studio. Forms in motion, however, as a result of a sinewy modelling probably concerned both her imagination and Germaine Richier herself. She wrote to Otto Banninger of her work: “In nature there are no variations. Currently I am devoted to a bust that I must work on with concentration, but I would rather devote myself to the unexpected and to experiences, even if they are errors. I know I must have to make these mistakes, but in fact I don’t believe they are mistakes.” The Mountain perhaps will illustrate the battle that took place on the road to form, as well as the unimaginable violence of the bronze that will fall in upon the living or on what is left of them, an image of eternity, in the manner visible in the models that were devised by the archaeologist Giuseppe Fiorelli in 1863 to depict the victims of Pompeii. Germain Richier visually reconciled the time of the production of the work and the results, combining the human, animal and plant kingdoms, integrating into her works branches and parts of plants, like leaves, which the process destroys. An oeuvre of metamorphoses, the sculptures of Germain Richier occupy an important place in the art of the 20th century. The mythology of the hybrid figure is connected with an examination of the need for sculpture to bear a trace of all the manipulations of which it was the object. Her objective is to see the human being return to the origins of which only she, it would seem, had an understanding.

La Montagne
La Montagne, 1955-1956

Bronze
180 x 330 x 130 cm
Don de la famille Richier, 1996
Collection Fondation Maeght