Aristide Maillol

Dates1861 - 1944

Aristide Maillol focused almost exclusively on a single subject--the female nude. Depicting a handful of models again and again, Maillol used the female form as a means to explore the way mass, volume, line, and contour occupy space. Influenced by classical art, his work evokes its serenity and harmony, but his own approach to the human form opened up a new perspective in modern sculpture.

Maillol was born in the South of France into a family of farmers. At twenty, he decided to devote himself to art and left for Paris. For many years, the often-destitute artist explored painting and tapestry design. Maillol only turned to three-dimensional work around the turn of the century. He made his first sculptures in wood and also modeled modest figurines in terra cotta.

Many of Maillol's earliest figures are clothed, but after his marriage, his wife Clotilde Narcisse served as his principle model and he began focusing on unveiling the female body. Maillol worked deliberately, creating sketch after sketch, study after study. He gradually explored different poses--standing, seated, crouching, reclining--in a desire to simplify and harmonize the female nude.

By 1905, Maillol began receiving commissions and working on large sculptural projects in stone. He executed a number of monuments and his purified female form sometimes doubled as a symbolic or allegorical figure. Casts of his work, both in bronze and lead, have found homes in museums and sculpture gardens around the world.