23 September 2012

Aristide Maillol: Painter Of Women

Aristide Maillol, the sculptor, whose bronze wood, and terracotta figures  are both modern in feeling and classical in form, is well known.  But there were other Maillols: Maillol the Nabi painter and Maillol,  the son of a fabric seller, whotried to revive tapestry-making and bring work to the people of his  hometown  in the French Pyrennes and nearly lost his eyesight while trying.

Now, the Rotterdam Kunsthal's new exhibition will display rarely seen works of Aristide Maillol the painter.  Just as his models in sculpture were classical (Phidias the Olympian), and in tapestry the medieval  weavers of Cluny, his models in painting were among the best of the Italian Renaissance.   Maillol portrayed his female sitters through the lens of Leonardo da Vinci and Ghirlandaio.  

In the Catalan language of Maillol's native Pyrennes, maillol means "young grape vine."  The artist would need that kind of hardiness.
His years of study in Paris brought extreme hardship, overwork, unsanitary living conditions and malnutrition which caused Maillol's rejection for military service.  Yet, Maillol survived to  an age beyond most of his contemporaries, only to die in an automobile accident on a rainy road near his hometown of Banyuls-sur-mer.

"How did I escape unscathed?  I came close to losing my life,  Deathly ill as a result of deprivation and a lack of care, and knotted with rheumatism, I spent long periods of time in the hospital, and came out only to fall into misery.  I occasionally thought of putting an end to it by leaping into the Seine."

Maillol (1861-1944) only executed his first large sculpture at  thirty-five, after six months of temporary blindness brought on by eye strain caused him to give up weaving.  The tactile aspects of sculpting attracted him during this enforced period of limited vision.

Dina Vierny was a fifteen year old student when she met the seventy-three year old Maillol.  Vierny, like Maillol's friend the Hungarian artist Jozef Rippl-Ronai, was also from eastern European.  She came from Moldova, located between Romania and Ukraine. Vierny, like the artist's late wife Clothilde, radiated the calm demeanor of classical portraiture, or so Maillol has painted them.  Their self-possession is probably realistic, a sign of the artist's respect for his subjects, and he compels that in the viewer, and our admiration as well.

Visit Musee Maillol online.

1. Aristide Maillol - Two Young Girls, 1891, Musee Maillol, Paris.
2. Aristide Maillol - Woman In White (Clothilde Narcisse before her marriage to Maillol), 1891, Baron Adolphe Kohner Collection, Budapest.
Aristide Maillol - Dina At The Farm, 1941, Musee Maillol, Paris.
Aristide Maillol - untitled, Musee Maillol, Paris.


Anonymous said...

These are beautiful portraits, indeed! There is a wonderful peacefulness in "Dina at the farm".


Tamborim Zim said...

I love Maillol

Jane said...

Maillol was the most faithful of the Nabi painters, until the end of his career. WEho kows what paintings we would have if he had not turned to sculpture. But who could wish things other than they turned out?