François-Xavier Lalanne

François-Xavier Lalanne was born in 1927 in Agen, between Bordeaux and Toulouse. At the age of 18 he moved to Paris, enrolling at the Academie Julian. He rented a studio in the artist’s quarter Montparnasse, where his neighbour Constantin Brâncusi introduced him to the Surrealists, including Man Ray, Max Ernst and Marcel Duchamp.

He held his first exhibition at Paris’s Cimaise Gallery in 1952. There he met Claude, his future wife and artistic accomplice. The pair spent the rest of their lives working side by side. Collectively, they became known as ‘Les Lalanne’ and their whimsical, surrealist sculptures have become some of the most iconic works of the 20th century.

Les Lalanne’s shared vision was dominated by wildlife — their first joint exhibition, at Galerie J in Paris in 1964, was called Zoophites. A highlight was Rhinocrétaire I, François-Xavier’s now-legendary, nearly life-size, brass rhinoceros, which was crafted from panels that fold out to reveal a desk and bar. The work achieved a world auction record for the artist when it sold at Christie’s Paris for €18 million in 2023.

François-Xavier’s obsession with the animal kingdom lasted his entire lifetime. He created a menagerie of surrealist sculptures, including a bird bed, hippopotamus bath and sheep stools — the latter being arguably his most famous work. They come in a range of sizes, colours and coats. ‘I thought it would be funny to invade that big living room with a flock of sheep,’ he said. ‘It is, after all, easier to have a sculpture in an apartment than to have a sheep. And it’s even better if you can sit on it.’

The success of Les Lalanne lasted until François-Xavier’s death in 2008 in Ury, where the couple’s workshop was located. Their collectors included Yves Saint Laurent and the Rothschilds. In 2010, they were awarded a major retrospective at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs in Paris. In 2013, Claude turned a former gas station in New York into a pasture populated with 25 of her husband’s sheep in his memory.

In December 2022, Christie’s offered a selection of more than 150 Les Lalanne works from the collection of the couple’s daughter Marie. The highest price of the sale was achieved by Âne Planté (2000), a bronze donkey planter made by François-Xavier. It achieved $8,405,000.

FRANCOIS-XAVIER LALANNE (1927-2008)

'Petit génie de Bellerive', 2007

FRANÇOIS-XAVIER LALANNE (1927-2008)

Coupe-papier 'Barracuda', édition Baccarat, 1998

FRANÇOIS-XAVIER LALANNE (1927-2008)

'Singe SI', vers 1992

FRANÇOIS-XAVIER LALANNE (1927-2008)

Tapis 'Moutons', vers 1985, édition Artcurial

FRANÇOIS-XAVIER LALANNE (1927-2008)

'Mouton de Pierre', le modèle créé en 1979

FRANÇOIS-XAVIER LALANNE (1927-2008)

'Rhinocrétaire I', pièce unique, 1964

FRANÇOIS-XAVIER LALANNE (1927-2008)

'Hippopotame II' Bar, 1978

FRANÇOIS-XAVIER LALANNE (1927-2008)

'MOUTON DE PIERRE' A GROUP OF TEN PAINTED EPOXY STONE AND PATINATED BRONZE SHEEP, DESIGNED CIRCA 1979

FRANÇOIS-XAVIER LALANNE (1927-2008)

‘Troupeau d'Éléphants dans les Arbres’ Table, 2001

François-Xavier Lalanne (1927-2008)

'Gorille de sûreté II'

FRANÇOIS-XAVIER LALANNE (1927-2008)

Les Trois Grands Moutons de Peter , 2007

François-Xavier Lalanne (1927-2008)

'Moutons de Laine', Un Troupeau de 24 Moutons

FRANÇOIS-XAVIER LALANNE (1927-2008)

Unique 'Hippopotame I' Bathtub

FRANÇOIS-XAVIER LALANNE (1927-2008)

La Grande Ourse , 2007

CLAUDE LALANNE (1925-2019)

Très Grand Choupatte , 2014

FRANÇOIS-XAVIER LALANNE (1927-2008)

Gorille Consolé , 2014

FRANÇOIS-XAVIER LALANNE (1927-2008)

'Table aux antilopes', 2007

FRANÇOIS-XAVIER LALANNE (1927-2008)

Poisson Paysage V , 2008

FRANÇOIS-XAVIER LALANNE (1927-2008)

Oiseau de Jardin III A , 2012

FRANÇOIS-XAVIER LALANNE (1927-2008)

'SINGE ATTENTIF II', LE MODÈLE CRÉÉ EN 1999

FRANÇOIS-XAVIER LALANNE (1927-2008)

Moutons de laine (troupeau de cinq moutons et neuf ottomans)

FRANÇOIS-XAVIER LALANNE (1927-2008)

Grand Mouflon de Pauline

FRANÇOIS-XAVIER LALANNE (1927-2008)

Le Grand Oiseau de Peter Branché , 2008

FRANÇOIS-XAVIER LALANNE (1927-2008)

'Grand Mouflon de Pauline' Bar Cabinet, 2007

FRANÇOIS-XAVIER LALANNE (1927-2008)

OISEAU DE JARDIN , 2001

FRANÇOIS-XAVIER LALANNE (1927-2008)

'Moutons de Laine', Sheep and Two Ottomans, 1969-1971

FRANÇOIS-XAVIER LALANNE (1927-2008)

Singe Alternatif SIII

FRANÇOIS-XAVIER LALANNE (1927-2008)

'Mouton de Laine', 1992

FRANÇOIS-XAVIER LALANNE (1927-2008)

Babouin-Cheminée, 1984-1985

FRANÇOIS-XAVIER LALANNE (1927-2008)

Set of Three 'Moutons de Pierre', designed 1979

FRANÇOIS-XAVIER LALANNE (1927-2008)

OISEAU DE JARDIN , 2006-2008

FRANÇOIS-XAVIER LALANNE (1927-2008)

Singe Attablé Table, 2003

François-Xavier Lalanne (1927-2008)

Baignoire 'Hippopotame I'

FRANÇOIS-XAVIER LALANNE (1927-2008)

Grand Sanglier de Villepinte II , 2011

FRANCOIS-XAVIER LALANNE (1927-2008)

'MOUTONS DE LAINE', A SHEEP AND TWO OTTOMANS, 1968

FRANÇOIS-XAVIER LALANNE (1927-2008)

'Chouette perchée', 2001

FRANÇOIS-XAVIER LALANNE (1927-2008)

'Mouton de Laine,' 1969