Born in 1902 in Grans, France

Died in 1959 in Montpellier, France

Germaine RICHIER

solo shows

2014
- Germaine Richier, Retrospective, Kunsthalle Mannheim, Germany
- Galerie Perrotin, NY in collaboration with Dominique Lévy Gallery, New York

2013
- Germaine Richier, Retrospective, Kunstmuseum Berne, Switzerland

2007
- Germaine Richier, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Italy

1997
- Germaine Richier, Akademie der Kunste, Berlin, Germany

1996
- Germaine Richier, rétrospective, Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul, France

1993
- Olivier Debré. 50 tableaux pour un timbre. Découverte d'une autre édition artistique de la Poste: Germaine Richier, timbre Europa 1993, Musée de la Poste, Paris, France

1988
- Germaine Richier, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Copenhagen, Denmark

1964
- Germaine Richier, Musee Reattu, Arles, France

1963
- Hommage a Germaine Richier, Musée Grimaldi-Chateau, Antibes, France
- Germaine Richier, Kunsthaus, Zurich, Germany

1959
- Germaine Richier, galerie Henri Creuzevault, Paris, France
- Germaine Richier, Musee Grimaldi-Chateau, Antibes, France
- Germaine Richier, Appel et Paolozzi, galerie Martha Jackson, New-York, USA
- Sculpture by Germaine Richier, University School of Fine and Applied Arts, Boston, USA

1958
- Sculpture by Germaine Richier, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, USA

1957
- Germaine Richier, Martha Jackson gallery, New York, USA

1956
- Germaine Richier, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, France
- Germaine Richier, galerie Berggruen, Paris, France

1955
- Germaine Richier, Hanover gallery, Londres, Royaume-Uni
- Viera da Silva, Germaine Richier, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Holland

1954
- Germaine Richier, Allan Frumkin gallery, Chicago, USA

1951
- Die Plastiksammlung Werner Bar, Kunstmuseum, Winterthur, Switzerland

1948
- Germaine Richier, galerie Maeght, Paris, France

1947
- Sculptures of Germaine Richier, engraving studio of Roger Lacourière, Anglo French Art Center, London, UK

1946
- Germaine Richier, galerie Georges Moos, Geneva, Switzerland

1937
- Méditerranée, au Pavillon Languedoc méditerranéen, Paris, France

1934
- Galerie Max Kaganovitch, First exhibition, Paris, France

group shows

2014
- Girl, curated by Pharrell Williams, La Salle de Bal - Cultural space of Galerie Perrotin, Paris, France
- Giacometti, Marini, Richier. The tortured figure, Musée Cantonnal des Beaux-arts of Lausanne, Switzerland

2013
- Happy birthday Galerie Perrotin, Tri Postal, Lille, France

2006
- El fuego bajo las cenzias, Musée Maillol, Paris, France
- Big-Bang. Destruction et création dans l'art du XXe siècle, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France
- Découvrir, collections du Musée Fabre, Musée Fabre, Montpellier, France

2004
- La creazione ansiosa Da Picasso a Bacon, Palazzo Forti, Verona, Italy
- Paris 1945-1965.Metropole der Kunst Jahrzehnte des Aufburchs Maleri, Plastik, Grafik, Fotografie; Lentos Kunsmuseum, Linz, Austria
- De l'écriture à la peinture, Fondation Maeght, Saint Paul, France
- Da Modigliani al contemporaneo. Scultura dalle collezioni Guggenheim, Foro Boario, Modena, Italy

2003
- Le Corps transformé, Musée des beaux-Arts du Canada, Shawinigan, Canada

2002
- Paris capital of the Arts 1900-1968, Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Espagne
- Nouvelle présentation des collections du musée national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France
- The Upright Figure, Tate Modern, London, UK
- Passioni d'arte. Da Picasso a Warhold, Museo d'arte Moderna, Lugano, Switzerland
- Contemporaneos de Arpad Szenes e Vieira da Silva na Coleccao Berardo, Fundacao Arpad Szenes/Vieira da Silva, Lisbona, Portugal

2001
- The Return of The Real, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel-Aviv, Israel

2000
- Cosmos. From Goya to de Chirico, from Friedrich to Kiefer: Artin Pursuit of the Infinite, Palazzo Grassi, Venice, Italy
- Opening, Tate Gallery, London, UK
- Le Nu au XXe siècle, Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul, France
- The Timeless Eye. Works on paper from the Jan and Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski Collection, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Italy / Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin / Fundacion Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

1999
- Menschenbilder. Figur im Zeiten der Abstraktion ( 1945-1955), Kunsthalle Mannheim, Mannheim, Germany
- L'Ecole de Paris. 1945-1964, Musée d'art Modern Grand Duc Jean / Prefiguration, Luxembourg, Luxembourg
- Montparnasse. L'Europa degli Artisti 1915-1945, Museo Archeologico Regionale, Aosta, Italy
- Borduelle et ses élèves: Giacometti, Richier et Gutfreund, Musee Bourdelle, Paris / Campredon, L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue / The Czech Museum of Fine Arts, Prague

1998
- Auguste Rodin: Les Bourgeois de Calais. Postérité et filiation, Skulpturenmuseum Glaskasten, and Mariémont, Musée Royal de Mariémont, Marl, Germany
- Glancing at the Century, Basil and Elise Foundationof Contemporary Art, Andros, Greece
- New Displays 1998 (Room 12: Opposing Forces: Germaine Richier and art in Post-War Europe),Tate Gallery, London, UK

1997
- La collection du XXe siècle dumusée Fabre. Acquisitions, dons, dêpots, prêts, Musée Fabre, Montpellier, France
- De valloton à Dubuffet, Musée cantonal des beaux-arts, Lausanne, France
- Made in France, 1947-1997, Musée nationale d'art Moderne. Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France
- Exposition d'été. Collections 1950-1995, Musée de Grenoble, Grenoble, France

1996
-Passion privées, Musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris, Paris, France
- La valle della scultura. Da Rodin à Calder, i maestri del nostro secolo, Museo Archeologico Regionale, Aosta, Italy

1995
- Jean Cassou, 1897-1986, un musée imaginé, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Galerie Mansart, Paris, France
- Europa de postguerra, 1945-1965, Art després del diluvi, Centre Cultural, Sala Catalunya, Sala Sant Jaume, Barcelona, Spain
- Kunst 1945-1965, Europa nach der Flut, Kunstlerhaus Wien, Vienna, Austria
- Europaische Plastik des Informel, Duisburger Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg, Germany

1993
- Paris post War: Art and Existentialism, Tate Gallery, London, UK

1992
- De Matisse à aujourd'hui. La sculpture du XXe siècle dans les musées et les Fonds Régionaux d'Art contemporain du Nord. Pas-de-Calais, Musée Matisse, Le Coteau, France
- Manifeste, Musée nationale d'art Moderne. Centre d'art et de culture Georges Pompidou, Paris, France

1991
- L'écriture griffée, Musée d'art Moderne, Saint-Etienne, France

1990
- La France à Venise. Le Pavillon français de 1948 à 1988: 44e Venice Biennale, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Italy

1989
- L'art en France,un siècle d'inventions, Pushkin Museum, Moscow, Russia
- L'art en France, un siècle d'invention, Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia

1988
- L'art en Europe, les années décisives: 1945-19, Musée d'art Moderne, Saint-Etienne, France
- Les années 50, Musée national d'art moderne, Centre d'art et de culture Georges Pompidou,Paris, France

1986
- Un musée éphémère, Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul, France

1985
- In the Mind's Eye: Dada and Surrealism, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, USA

1984
- Le siècle de Kafka, Musée nationale d'art moderne, Centre d'art et de culture Georges Pompidou, Paris, France

1983
- Une exposition montréalaise: don de Eleanore et David Morrice, Museum of Fine Arts, Montréal, Canada

1982
- Aftermath. France 1945-1954: New Images of Man, Barbican Art Gallery, London, UK
- Paris after the War, New Images of Man, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Danemark

1981
- Paris 1937, Paris 1957, Musée nationale d'art Moderne,Centre d'art et de culture Georges Pompidou, Paris, France

1980
- Skulptur im 20. Jahrundert, Wenkenpark, Basel, Switzerland

1977
- L'animal de Lascaux à Picasso,Musée national d'hisoire naturelle, Paris, France
- Art du XXe siecle, Palais des beaux-arts, Brussels, Belgium

1976
- Arte del XXe secolo. La Collezione Peggy Guggenheim, Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna, Turin, Italy

1975
- Art du XXe siecle. Fondation Peggy Guggenheim Venise, Orangerie des Tuilerie, Paris, France
- La femme dans l'art, Musees royaux des beaux-arts de Belgique, Brussels, Belgium
- Apercu de la sculpture en France, Parc du chateau de Beloeil, Beloeil, Belgium

1974
- Jean Paulhan a travers ses peintres, Grand Palais, Paris, France

1972
- Women artists, The Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, USA

1970
- Der Skulpturensaal Werner Bar im Kunsthaus Zurich, Kunsthaus, Zurich, Switzerland

1969
- Works from the Peggy Guggenheim Foundation, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New-York, USA

1968
- III Biennale internationale de sculpture contemporaine: Forme humaine, Musee Rodin, Paris, France

1967
- Peggy Guggenheim Samlung fran Venedig, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden
- Sculpture 1947-1967, Musee de la peinture et de la sculpture, Grenoble, France
- Sculpture since 1945, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, USA
- Exposition universelle et internationale de Montreal, French Pavillon, Montreal, Canada

1966
- Dix ans d'art vivant 1945-1955, Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul, France

1965
- The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Tate Gallery, London, UK
- I Exposition internationale de sculptures panathenees de la sculpture mondiale, Athens, Greece

1964
- 1954-1964: Paintings and Sculpture of a Decade, Tate Gallery, London, UK
- La part du reve, Musees royaux des beaux-arts de Belgique, Brussels, Belgium
- I Biennale internationale de sculpture of a Decade: Formes humaines, Musee Rodin, Paris, France
- XXXII Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy

1963
- Modern Sculpture from Joseph H. Hirshhorn Collection, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New-York, USA
- VII Biennale voor Beelhoouwkunst, Middelheim Park, Antwerp, Bruxelles

1962
- Esposizione internationale di scultura contemporanea, Spoleto, Italy

1961
-Exposition internationale de sculpture contemporaine, Musee Rodin, Paris, France
-Stedelijk Museum visits Louisiana, Stedelijk Mudeum, Amsterdam, Holland

1960
- XVI Salon de mai, Musee d'art moderne de la ville de Paris, Paris, France
- Dalla Natura all'Arte, Centro Internationale delle Arti e del Costume, Venice, Italy
- Cent sculpteurs de Daumier a nos jours, Musee d'art et d'industrie, Saint-Etienne, France

1959
- ll Documenta'59 Kunst nach 1945 internationale austellung, Kassel, Germany
- Group exhibition, Musee Rodin, Paris, France
- Group exhibition, Iere Documenta de Kassel, Kassel, Germany
- New images of Man, Museum of Modern Art, New-York, USA
- Group exhibition, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, USA
- The Romantic Agony: From Goya to de Kooning, Contemporary Art Museum, Houston , USA
- Group exhibition, VIe Mostra, Turin, Italy
- Group exhibition, Kunstmuseum, Berne, Switzerland
- Franzosische Plastik des 20. Jahrunderts, Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund, Germany
- 50 Jaar Verkenningen, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Holland
- III Concorso internazionale del bronzetto, Padua, Italy
- VI Mostra, Turin, Italy

1958
- Group exhibition, Musee Rodin, Paris, France
- Group exhibition, Kunsthaus, Zurich, Switzerland
- Group exhibition, Sonsbeek, Arnhem, Netherlands
- Exposition universelle et internationale, 50 ans d'art moderne, Palais international des beaux-arts, Brussels, Belgium
- Group exhibition, XXIX Biennale, Venise, Italy

1957
- Group exhibition, Kunstgewerbe Museum, Zurich, Switzerland
- Group exhibition, Parc Middelheim, Antwerp, Belgium
- Group exhibition, Hanover gallery, London, UK
- Group exhibition, Museum of Modern Art, New-York, USA
- XIII Salon de mai, Musee d'art Moderne de la ville, Paris, France
- New Acquisitions, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA

1956
- Exposition internationale de sculptures contemporaines, Musee Rodin, Paris, France
- Group exhibition, Bazabel Museum of Art, Jerusalem, Israel
- The New Decade: 22 European Painters and Sculptors, Museum of Art, San Fracisco, USA
- Sammlung Geschwister Bechlter, Kunstmuseum, Winterthur, Switzerland
- Group exhibition, XXVIII Biennale, Venice, Italy

1955
- Exposition internationale de gravure , Ljubljana, Yougoslavia
- Germaine Richier avec Roger Viellard, galerie Lille, France
- The New Decade: 22 European Painters and Sculptors, Museum of Modern Art, New-York, USA
- The New Decade: 22 European Painters and Sculptors, Minneapolis Institute, Minneapolis, USA
- The New Decade: 22 European Painters and Sculptors, Los Angeles Country Museum, Los Angeles, USA
- Group exhibition, Museo de arte, Sao Paulo, Brazil
- Group exhibition, Kunsthaus, Zurich, Switzerland
- XI Salon de mai, Musee municipal d'art Moderne, Paris, France
- Vieira da Silva, Germaine Richier, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Holland

1954
- Group exhibition, Kursaal, Ostende, Belgium
- Exposition suisse de sculpture en plein air, College des Pres Ritter, Bienne, Switzerland
- 9 jaar: Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Stedelijk, Amsterdam, Holland
- Group exhibition, XXVII Biennale, Venice, Italy
- X Salon de mai, Musee municipal d'art moderne, Paris, France
- Germaine Richier, Bissiere, H.R.Schiess, Viera da Silva, Raoul Ubac, Kunsthalle, Basel, Switzerland

1953
- Germaine Richier Marino Marini, Wotruba et Arnold d'Altri, Kunstmuseum de Bâle, Basel, Switzerland
- II Rassegna internazionale di scultura all'aperto, La villa Mirabello, Varese, Italy
- Plastik im Freien, Kunsthalle, Hambourg, Germany
- Group exhibition, Parc de Middelheim, Anvers, France
- Younger Europeans, Solomon R. Guggenheim, New-York, USA
- IX Salon de mai, Palais de New-York, Paris, France
- II Biennale de sculpture, Middelheim Park, Antwerp, Belgium
- II Sao Paulo Biennal, Museu de arte Moderna, Sao Paulo, Brazil

1952
- Phantastiche Kunst des 20 Jarkinderts, Kunsthalle, Basel, Switzerland
- Sammlung Dr.Mayenfish, Kunsthaus, Zurich, Germany
- Group exhibition Stedelijk, Amsterdam, Holland
- VI Salon de mai, Palais de New-York, Paris, France
- XXVI Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy

1951
- I Sao Paulo Biennal, Museu de arte Moderna, Sao Paulo, Brazil
- Die Plastiksammlung Werner Bar, Winterthur, Kunstmuseum, Winterthur, Switzerland

1949
- La sculpture de Rodin a nos jours, Maison de la Pensée française, Paris, France
- Group exhibition, National Museum, Stockholme, Sweden
- Group exhibition, Bruxelles, Belgium

1948
- Arp, Germaine Richier, Laurens, Kunsthalle de Bâle, Basel, Switzerland
- Sculpteur contemporains de l'Ecole de Paris, Kunsthalle, Berne, Switzerland
- 13 Beeldhouwers uit Parijs, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Holland
- Sculptures francaise contemporaines en Tchecoslovaquie et en Allemagne, Berlin ( Germany )/Bratislava ( Slovakia )/ Brno ( Czech Republic )/ Munich ( Germany )
- Transadriatica societa' di navigazione aerea, XXIV Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy

1947
- Germaine Richier, Salon de mai, Paris, France
- La sculpture francaise de Rodin a nos jours, Berlin/Prague, Germany/ Czech Republic

1945
- Plastiken: Marino Marini, Germaine Richier, Fritz Wotruba. Zeichnungen: Rodin, Maillol, Despiau , Kunsthalle, Berne, Switzerland

1942
- Rene Auberjonois, peintures et dessins. Germaine Richier, sculptures Kunstmuseum de Winterthur, Switzerland

1940
- Cent ans de sculpture francaise 1933-1939, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium

1938
Trentieme groupe des artistes de ce temps, Petit Palais, Paris, France

1937
- Les femmes artistes d'Europe exposent, Musee du Jeu de Paume, Paris, France

1934
- La Passion du Christ dans l'art francais , Musee de la sculpture comparee du Trocadero et Sainte-Chapelle, Paris, France

public collection

- Museum of Modern Art, New-York.
- Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden,Washington D.C.
- Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois.
- Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.
- Baltimore Museum of Art.
- Detroit Institute of Art.
- San Francisco (California), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, United States.
- London, Tate Gallery, United Kingdom.
- Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne - Centre National d'Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou, France.
- Oslo, Astrup Fearnly Museum of Modern Art, Norway.
- Humlebaek, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark.
- Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Netherlands.
- Bern, Kuntsmuseum Bern, Switzerland.
- Brussels, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique - Art moderne, Belgium.
- Cologne, Museum Ludwig, Germany.
- Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, United Kingdom.
- Hamburg, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Germany.
- Stockholm, Moderna Museet, Sweden.
- Venice, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, Italy.
- Zurich, Kunsthaus Zürich, Switzerland.

Germaine RICHIER

Germaine RICHIER

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    ArtNews — 1 PAGE

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Germaine Richier- Introduction

by Philip Rylands

Germaine Richier's Tauromachy had haunted Peggy Guggenheim's garden ever since she purchased it from the Martha Jackson Gallery in 1960. How does it convey this spectral quality, which broadly links it to the Surrealism so pervasive in Paris in Richier's early maturity ? The preternaturally long forward leg is a hypotenuse, stretched from the groin as if in a warped photograph by André Kertész. It signifies motion, as do the horns of the ox-skull that companionably follows - but the figure is also static, as if paralysed in a dream. The crescent shaped trident that crowns the figure is richly evocative : it is moulded from the metal tip of the poles that guardians of the herds of bulls and horses in Richier's native Camargue traditionally carried. When Richier's niece, who was also her pupil, found one of these and sent it to her for Christmas, she was so moved that she used it to cast the walker's head. This is typical of how artists work - memory, symbol, emotion, nostalgia, and meaning are all wrapped in a single form. The partial metamorphosis of the human figure was peculiar to Richier, and perhaps casts the repertoire of her antecedents back through Surrealism to Bosch and the sixteenth century Germans such as Brueghel and Grien. Yet the diabolic component is missing. The transformation of this man implies an empathy with ancient custom, with the anthropology of the Camargue. From this comes the paganism of the image : the ox-skull stands for sacrifice; the figure itself is at one with the spirits of his craft and of his countryside, like the Romans in Walter Pater's 'religion of Numa.' Richier herself has said "... the sculpture is a place, an entity, a synthesis of movements. I don't know if the Tauromachy evokes the arena, but no form, it seems to me, can be separated from the universe, the elements. It is therefore something more than an image."

The figure and the skull are placed on a rough-textured base (the sandy floor of the bull ring?): this sets up a compositional relation between them that has been described as 'situational' and connects Tauromachy to Henry Moore's Three Figures also on display in Peggy Guggenheim's garden, as well as to Piazza by Alberto Giacometti. It has been argued that, by replacing the individual figure with a mise en scène, hence draining the symbolic force of the single figure, Richier's art partook of the existential philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre. This raises the question of Richier's positions in the history of twentieth century sculpture. Her 'genealogy' is in place : she was the pupil of Emile-Antoine Bourdelle from 1927 till his death in 1929, while Bourdelle had joined Auguste Rodin as an assistant in 1893. It is difficult not to see an echo of Bourdelle's Hercules the Archer in Richier's The Mountain, nor to be reminded of his Centaur when looking at a hybrid such as Richier's Water. Richier belonged to what Helen Lessore has called The Great Tradition carried forward by Richier's elders such as Rodin, Bourdelle, Charles Despiau and Aristide Maillol : the tradition of bronze figurative sculpture. This is self-evident, and yet Richier no less evidently lacks the classical and rhetorical components of these artists. She occupies what has been called a 'middle ground,' together with contemporaries such as Giacometti, Moore and Marino Marini, suspended between the humanist tradition that celebrates the centrality of the human figure and twentieth century modernism with its emphasis on new ways of seeing, on images corresponding to the contemporary (post World War II) psyche, and on a defining anti-classicism.

Richier shares with Moore and Marini a strong empathy with nature. Marini's favorite motif, the horse and the rider, is exemplified by a splendid version, The Angel of the City that stands proudly at the gates of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Here however Marini's theme (and subsequent, increasingly abstract and expressionist versions of the motif confirm this) is conflict, a loss of harmony between man and beast that has potentially catastrophic consequences. Like Richier, Moore took many of his forms from nature, or better a landscape often littered with found objects such as pebbles and bones. Yet the equation between his reclining figures, like paysages anthropomorphes, is fundamentally optimistic and reassuring, whereas Richier's figures typically contain within them menace, decay, and the blind forces of nature. Among English artists, perhaps the neo-Romantic painter Graham Sutherland is closer in spirit to Richier. Giacometti, like Richier a former pupil of Bourdelle and with whom Richier shared the pitted expressive surfaces of her sculpture, was altogether estranged from nature : his determination to embody the perceptual reality of his human subjects is perfectly opposed to Richier's private and poetic bestiary of hybrid creatures. When, from 1945 onwards, Richier would incorporate found objects into her work - twigs, leaves, tree branches - she was apparently aware of Picasso's collage sculpture. Yet she did not go as far as Dubuffet in his eclectic assemblages of poor and random materials. Traditional bronze remained her medium. Though she is discussed at length in the principal text on Dubuffet and art informel, Michel Tapié's Un Art autre (1952), every work in this exhibiton, with its clear and conscious intent to create figure sculpture in the great tradition, is alien to the tabula rasa of European abstraction in the 1950's. What emerges from this is a sculptural genius best described as unique. Richier's most memorable images come from the decade and a half from the mid-1940's to her death in 1959: a gallery of beings that testify to an extraordinary imagination, often nourished by her youth in Provence - metamorphosed humans that emulate animals, insects and plants, hybrids like the Forest Man, mythical creatures like Man with Claws, with its talons and fishy face, or personifications like the fearsome Storm.

Excerpt from 'Richier', exh.cat., Venice: Peggy Guggenheim Collection, 2006, pp. 9-11


Germaine Richier: the joy of sculpture

by Dominique Gagneux

Germaine Richier: The Joy of Sculpture
“Sculpture is first and foremost the joy of making it” - Germaine Richier

With the rise of gender studies and the attention given to female creation at recent exhibitions, Germaine Richier's place in the history of modern sculpture has only continued to grow in recent years. These events have helped to give her a prominent place in the world of art in the second half of the twentieth century, like Giacometti, with whom she is now often associated in the public mind. Yet Germaine Richier's critical success was not always the same: overcome by disease at the age of 56 at a time when her career, which had begun in 1934, was increasingly successful, she practically fell into oblivion before being rediscovered at the end of the 20th century to the extent of sometimes being considered the only woman sculptor of her time.
At the same time, Germaine Richier's men were never far away, whether sculptors (Rodin, Bourdelle, Marino Marini, Giacometti) or writers (George Limbour, Francis Ponge and René de Solier, André Pieyre de Mandiargues, Jean Paulhan).
First of all, Rodin, whose practice she came to know through one of his former assistants who was also her teacher at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Montpellier, Louis-Jacques Guigues. After winning first prize with Jeunesse, she studied in Antoine Bourdelle's studio from 1926-1929 where she practiced her craft. This dual heritage is readily visible: from Rodin, she learned how to animate surfaces as well as certain postures (those of The Walking Man, La Danaïde, Adam); from Bourdelle, she developed a taste for the use of live models, the analysis of shapes and discipline in execution, the work of the bust (for one of the latter, she was awarded the Prix Blumenthal in 1936). In addition to those seminal works, the plaster bodies of Pompeii, which she saw on a trip in 1935, made a lasting impression on her.
Richier’s modern style quickly became apparent. From the first works produced in her studio on Avenue de Châtillon in Paris, she showed great freedom in her execution and a widely discussed creative imagination, starting with the bronze Loretto in 1934, exhibited in 1936 at the Galerie Max Kaganovich, which strayed from the strictly academic canon due to its natural appearance. Sometimes the formal creativity is evident, such as with the mysterious faceless Bust no. 12 (1933-1934) where the expression is obtained solely through the shape of the head; sometimes it is perceived less clearly such as in Nu ou La Grosse (1939) where the classicism of the pose is contradicted by the disproportions and the visible modeling.
The third sculptor who played a role in her life was Swiss sculptor Otto Bänninger whom she met in Bourdelle's studio and married in 1929 and with whom she spent the war in Zurich. That was a time when her critical friendships with Jean Arp, Giacometti, Fritz Wotruba and Marino Marini were cemented, especially with the latter who also sought to combine great classical tradition with new shapes.
Though her sculptures can be grouped into families based on their technique, their style and their subject matter, Germaine Richier is an unclassifiable artist - just look at critics' attempts to assign her to a movement: expressionism according to Michel Seuphor, fantasy, surrealism, or even informal. Undoubtedly, through her material which is "tormented in a hundred ways, kneaded, twisted, broken, shredded, punctured," to quote Pieyre de Mandiargues, she comes from the aesthetics of the immediate postwar period. Her bodies, frail and emaciated, have an undeniable kinship with the slender figures of Giacometti's sculptures or the paintings of Bernard Buffet, with whom she rubbed shoulders in 1952 in the hall of the French pavilion at the 25th Venice Biennale.
It was during the 1940s that several inaugural works emerged: figures with a stretched body (June 1940), seated figures (Seated Woman, 1944), her first hybrids (The Toad, The Grasshopper, The Forest Man). Though some buxom female sculptures, such as Pomona (1945), continue to embody classical or allegorical themes, her "New Figures" such as The Foolish Virgin (1946), Storm Man (1947-1948), Hurricane Woman (1948-1949) - a female figure though hurricane is gendered male in French - and Praying Mantis (1946) allowed her to become a central figure in postwar art upon her return to Paris in October, 1946. In the fall of 1948, she therefore exhibited at Galerie Maeght, which published an issue of Derrière le miroir, including texts from Georges Limbour, Francis Ponge and René de Solier especially for the occasion. The following year, she was selected by Father Couturier along with Bazaine, Rouault, Bonnard, Léger, Chagall and Matisse - the list of names alone is enough to evaluate the repute of Germaine Richier at that point in time - to participate in the decoration of the church Notre-Dame de Toute-Grace of the Plateau d'Assy. Her Crucifix, whose skin was scratched and decaying and which, to the artist's dismay, was the subject of a violent controversy, could be described as “semi-figurative,” the term used by architect Maurice Novarina.
More than a break, it is the diversion of academic tradition that constitutes Richier's modernity. It is truly on the base of a perfect mastery of her practice that she multiplies the technical inventions - as maybe only Rodin before her - to resolve the problems of sculpture. Firstly, the relationship between stasis and movement. Though she is not static, her sculptures are unstable. That is why there was a necessity to invent mobility, and Richier was constantly in search of the position of balance. In The Fencers in 1943, she undertook, in a dynamic form, the study of the movement before the attack, at the moment where, slightly off-balance, the person - or animal - gathers their strength. This concentrated energy already existed in The Toad in 1940, an amazing little sculpture of practically real size.
With Richier, the technique and tool exhibit themselves: the works have pieces of hanging clay, coils that have hardly been worked, marks from tools, traces from wet fabric. The most striking of the apparent fabrication processes is in the presence of wires as not only materialization of the strength lines, but also as elements of representation and a structuring network for the figures. The first introduction of these wires came very naturally with the subject of Spider I (1946), described by Limbour as "stretched between the extremities of the limbs vividly capturing the space, reconstructing it between almost perfect lines." Giving free reign to a fantasy regulated by the lead wires, Richier created several such fantastic figures: Diabolo in 1950, formal heir of The Leaf, with its elongated adolescent body juggling with lines that are both the strings from the game and the trajectories of the bobbin through space; The Devil with Claws (1951-1952) inspired by the Tarasque of Arles and originally suspended from the ceiling, balancing its nervous body with wires from its outstretched eagle talons it has in the place of fingers; and The Ant in 1953, the last sculpture like this, which is also a composite work with a Camargue gardian's trident integrated into its head that can either become ant antennas or, as in The Bullfight from the same year, a bullfighter's montera.
One often stresses the autobiographical origins of her bestiary, linked to the countryside of her childhood in southern France: her animals - toad, bat, spider, grasshopper, praying mantis... – are all laden with connotations in popular imagination and are perceived with an emotion between fear and repulsion. Those feelings are magnified in the sculptures due to their anthropomorphism. One of the essential expressions of Richier's sculpture is the hybrid, to use the term coined by her second husband, René de Solier. Combining human, plant and animal elements, she continually procures enjoyment from postures that are similar between individuals in the different kingdoms. And in her studio, hybridity is not only a theme. As an additional sign of her modernity, Richier, like Rodin and the Surrealists, practices assembly. The sculptor’s tools, attractive and useful, found objects, herbs, shells or pebbles that accumulated in her studio windows all act as clues to the intimate order, an assumed pantheism that expresses a deep symbiosis between man and nature. This is explicit in The Mountain (1955-1956) which is, literally, a peak in her art. However, these "discoveries" are not only formal inventions, they are often linked to the very subject of the sculpture. They are tree branches for the Forest Man (1945) and The Mountain, the amphora used in the place of a head in the sculpture Water (1953-1954), her last seated figure with very thin legs that are fluid like trickles of water.
The instruments are also invited into her works, such as when Richier affixed oakum dipped in plaster to create the wings of The Bat (1946), or when the compass itself becomes an element of the sculpture (L'Os, the king from her Chessboard).
In 1956, three fantastical creatures correspond to the same canon, that of the model they share, with their round and massive torso, spindly legs and hanging arms: L'Ogre (1949), Hydra (1954) and Le Pentacle (1954) were brought together on a tubular frame created by Bruno Giacometti for the Venice Biennale. Making her sculptures dialog in conversation pieces was another way for Richier to give them life, as she did for The Leaf and The Forest, for the three tools on a workbench that constitute La Place (1954), for Storm Man, Hurricane Woman and Pomona, which were presented together at the National Museum of Modern Art in 1956. Because they are made to be moved, the Chessboard figures - those of 1955 smaller version as well as those of the 1959 large version in painted plaster - are the latest manifestation of this possibility of action between the sculptures.
Always concerned with animating shapes, Germaine Richier once confided in Yvon Taillandier: "Sculpture is serious, color is gay. I want my sculptures to be gay, alive." To do so, she opened more doors. She stopped at nothing to introduce polychromy and place the figures on a colored background: wood for Torso II (1941), Canson paper mixed with natural materials (The Shadow - 1955), brackets painted by her friends Maria-Helena Vieira da Silva (The City - 1951), Hans Hartung (The Top - 1953), Zao Wou-Ki (L’Échelle - 1956). These material oppositions were employed starting in 1952 with the use of lead for small sculptures cast in the workshop using an original technique, the golden metal set against a slate background and receiving pieces of colorful Saint-Gobain glass.
The year of her death, 1959, several of her sculptures were a part of the exhibition organized by Peter Selz at the MoMA in New York City, New Images of Man. Germaine Richier's works were on display alongside those of Kenneth Armitage, Reg Butler, César, Giacometti, as well as Bacon, Diebenkorn, de Kooning, Dubuffet, Paolozzi, Pollock, among others. To see them all together, their similarities become obvious: with their furrowed materials, the traces of the artist's gestures, their stasis in motion, Richier's sculptures, in which "like a grenade, they are exploding and breaking all over", are consistent with those of these artists who are, according to Peter Selz, closer to Marsyas than Apollo, and, by creating a profound correspondence between figurative representation and new formal structures, have forged a contemporary image of man after the war.
Dominique Gagneux