Open: Tue-Sat 11am-7pm

8 Avenue Matignon, 75008, Paris, France
Open: Tue-Sat 11am-7pm


Thu 7 Sep 2023 to Thu 5 Oct 2023

8 Avenue Matignon, 75008 Germaine Richier

Tue-Sat 11am-7pm

Artist: Germaine Richier

Installation Views

“I like tension, tautness and dryness, olive trees withered by
the wind, brittle wood—I have more of a feeling for a charred
tree than I do for an apple tree in blossom.” - Germaine 
Perrotin is pleased to present an exhibition of Germaine Richier,
in collaboration with Galerie de la Béraudière. The exhibition
reveals the multiple facets in the artist’s work, spanning her early
career to her final creations. After New York in 2014, this is the
second show that Perrotin has devoted to Germaine Richier.

Sculptor of metamorphoses and the first female artist to have an
exhibition at the Musée National d’Art Moderne during her lifetime,
Germaine Richier had a dazzling career. Born in 1902 in Grans, in the
Bouches-du-Rhone region, the artist found in the flora and fauna of
her native Provence the naturalist inspiration that runs through a corpus nonetheless centered on the human figure. Her studies at the
École des Beaux-Arts in Montpellier (1920–1926) and the private
studio of Antoine Bourdelle (1926–1929), himself a former student of
Auguste Rodin, informed her practice of working from a live model and
using a compass, as along with an expressive treatment of the material
that stood in stark contrast to Aristide Maillol’s idealized bodies,
leaving the structure of the sculptural work visible and lending verity
to her work. An artist close to the Montparnasse art set, notably
around Alberto Giacometti and Maria Helena Viera da Silva, both
former students of Bourdelle, from 1933 Richier hosted a limited
circle of women in her studio, enabling her to earn her freedom and
devote herself to her practice. From then on, she encountered multiple
successes. Her profoundly realistic work was shown the same year in
Zurich, then in Paris in 1934, when she was also awarded the
prestigious Blumenthal prize. Her first solo exhibition at Max
Kaganovitch’s gallery in Paris was so noteworthy, a year later the
French state acquired Loretto I (1934), the artist’s first piece. Richier’s
work was strongly marked by the experience of World War II, which
broke out while she was on a trip to Switzerland, where she remained
in exile until the end of the war. Far from the naturalism of her early
work, the humanity she then figured adopted a new form, revealing a
tragic vision of the unbearable reality of the horrors of war: man in
torment, his flesh riven; gnawed, shredded surfaces pitted with holes
in an aesthetic blurring the line between figuration and disfigurement.
The idea of metamorphosis made its way into her work, probably in an
attempt to regenerate humankind; references to the plant and animal kingdoms conceived a distinctive visual world spawning multiple
unique hybridizations, turning her into a creator of monsters whose
forms seem frozen on the brink of implosion, submitting to the power
of natural forces. If Germaine Richier’s formal research followed the
footsteps of her illustrious predecessors, the renewed human
expression at play in her production echoed the existential questions
of postwar society, recomposing the break between abstraction and
representation. Her first hybrid figures appealed to the intellectual
circles of the day, who praised the works she sent to the Salon in May
1947, including Sauterelle (1944), and appreciated her metamorphic
imagination, whose gestural spontaneity is not unrelated to the lyrical
abstraction of Zao Wou-Ki or Hans Hartung. After receiving the Légion
d’Honneur in 1954, she went on to obtain the ultimate consecration
with her solo exhibition at the Musée d’Art Moderne, held alongside
the retrospective devoted to Henri Matisse, figurehead of the previous
generation of artists. Germaine Richier was crowned “woman of the
year” by a jury comprising journalists from France Soir, Marie Claire
and Le Figaro, among others. During the 1950s, she tackled different
materials, many of which were employed for the very first time. She
included thin blades of flax, filasse, in the plaster covering the iron
framework of some sculptures, in an approach that not only heightened
the uneven aspect of the surface but also paved the way for a statuary
filled with fragility and foreboding. Richier completed the fusion of
animal, mineral and vegetal worlds with the use of organic elements,
such as squid bones, into which she chiseled fine nervures, nestling
them among sand casts destined to disappear when the bronze was
cast. The Seiches series (1954) perfectly illustrates this technique.
When experimenting making sculptures out of lead, a malleable metal
that she could cast in her studio, Richier studded them with colored
stones that emitted a new light. Her Plombs avec verres de couleur
(1952–1959) pieces bear witness to what would be her ultimate
artistic research, marked by a new opening into color that translated
her desire to create “cheerful, active” works, as she confided in 1959.
After her retrospective opened at the Musée Picasso in Antibes that
year, the artist passed away suddenly, without having the chance to
“disrupt everything I have done to date,” as she would have liked.
Germaine Richier’s career lasted just twenty-five years, yet she
managed to carve a central place in the history of modern sculpture,
thanks to a corpus that forms a link between Rodin and the first César.
Featuring several of the artist’s major masterpieces, such as Le Couple
(1956) and La Chauve-souris (1946), the exhibition at Perrotin 8 Avenue
Matignon, held in collaboration with Galerie de la Béraudière,
Brussels, reveals the multiple facets in Germaine Richier’s work. The
visit highlights the key moments in her activity, from her early career to
her final research. Whereas La Régodias (1938) scarcely evokes
notions of deformation and strangeness in favor of an expressive
modeling of the subject, L’Homme qui marche and L’Ogre (1945)
clearly testify to the turning point that characterizes her postwar production,
prolonged in the Guerriers series (1953–1955). Her numerous
hybridizations referencing the world of nature, such as L’Homme
(1945), La Femme-coq (1954) or La Sauterelle (1945), are also
brought to the fore in this presentation. The exhibition is an invitation
to discover the highly singular and complex world of an artist whose
spirit César poignantly summed up: “Germaine is like cutting a lobster
in two: there is lots going on inside.”
Isotta Bosi

View of Germaine Richier’s exhibition ’Germaine Richier, Sculptor of Metamorphosis’ at Perrotin Matignon 8, Paris, 2023. Photo: Tanguy Beurdeley. ©RICHIER/ADAGP, Paris, 2023. Courtesy of Galerie de la Beraudière

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