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Germaine Richier (1904-1959)
La Tauromachie
inscribed with signature and numbered 'G. Richier 0/6' (on the base); stamped with the foundry mark 'Susse Fondeur Paris' (on the side of the base)
bronze
46 x 20½ x 38 in. (116.5 x 52.5 x 96.5 cm.)
conceived in 1953. This work is number zero from an edition numbered zero through six plus four proofs, totaling an edition of eleven.
Provenance
The artist.
Jan Krugier, acquired from the above.
Literature
G. Waldemar, "Les idoles de Germaine Richier" in Art et Industrie, Nancy, summer 1954, no. 29.
P. Francastel, "La nouvelle sculpture, Richier Germaine" in L'Oeuil, September 1955, pp. 26-31, no. 9.
G. Waldemar, "Germaine Richier" in Prisme des arts, April 1956, no. 2.
D. Chevalier, "Un grand sculpteur: Germaine Richier" in Prestige francais et Mondanités, September 1956, pp. 60-65, no. 19.
A. Chastel, "Au musée d'Art moderne: Germaine Richier: La puissance et le malaise" in Le Monde, 13 October 1956.
D. Chevalier, "Sculpture encore: Dans son atelier, vaste forêt de plâtres et de bronzes, Germaine Richier, chef d'école, sculpte les grands mythes sylvestres" in Femme, Paris, October-November
1956, pp. 81-83.
P. Chatard, "Sculpture: Germaine Richier" in Nouvelle Gauche, November-December 1956.
P. Schneider, "Art news from Paris" in ARTNews, December 1956, p. 48.
M. Conil-Lacoste, "Chroniques: Germaine Richier ou la confusion de règnes" in Cahier du Sud, February 1957, pp. 307-311.
P. Guth, "Encounter with Germaine Richier" in Yale French Studies, 1957-1958, pp. 78-84, no. 19-20.
Y. Taillandier, "Germaine Richier" in Connaissance des arts, Paris, July 1958, pp. 24-29.
R. Barotte, "Le journal des arts: Germaine Richier: a mêlé la réalité à l'imaginaire" in Paris-Presse-L'Intransigeant, 4 August 1959, p. 6E.
R. Charmet, "Germaine Richier: une oeuvre d'une humanité déchirée" in Arts, 5-11 August 1959.
C. Roger-Marx, "Cette héritière inspireée des grands maîtres: Germaine Richier" in Le Figaro littéraire, 8 August 1959, p. 7.
R. Couturier, "Tribune de Paris--Adieu à Germaine Richier: La force de son oeuvre" in Tribune de Lausanne, 9 August 1959, p. 7.
A. Giacometti, "Tribune de Paris--Adieu à Germaine Richier: Assis parmi ses sculptures" in Tribune de Lausanne, 9 August 1959, p. 7.
V. da Silva, "Tribune de Paris--Adieu à Germaine Richier: Son atelier était plein d'une étrange musique" in Tribune de Lausanne, 9 August 1959, p. 7.
A. Pieyre de Mandiargues and G. Richier, eds., Synthèse, Brussels, 1959, pp. 3-8.
M. Seuphor, La sculpture figurative, La sculpture de ce siècle, dictionnaire de la sculpture moderne, Neuchâtel, 1959, pp. 109-118. F. Hellens, "Les beaux-arts à Paris: La première exposition posthume de Germaine Richier" in Les Beaux Arts, 22 April 1960, no. 894, p. 12.
H. Debrunner, "Die Plastikerin Germaine Richier: grosse Retrospektive im Kunsthaus Zürich" in Zücher Spiegel, 20 June 1963.
H. Cingria, "Itinéraire provençal: Arles" in Les lettres françaises, July-August 1964.
E. Crispolti, Germaine Richier, I maestri della scultura, Milan, 1968, pp. 50-52, no. 65.
P. Canoli, "Art moderne: Peggy Guggenheim se présente" in Connaissance des arts, January 1969, pp. 51-57 and 106.
M. Conil-Lacoste, Nouveau dictionnaire de la sculpture moderne, Paris, 1970, pp. 262-264.
E. Wolfram, "Art" in Harpers and Queen, July 1973, p. 57.
E. Lucie-Smith, "Richier, Germaine" in L'Art d'aujourd'hui, 1977, p. 508.
R. Barotte, "A la rencontre de Germaine Richier (1904-1959), le sculpteur qui va...au-delà de" in Vision sur les arts, November 1978.
C. Millet, "Germaine Richier, la gran epoca de la escultura" in Guadalimar, December 1978, no. 37.
Brassai, "Germaine Richier" in Les artistes de ma vie, 1982, pp. 194-197.
L. Jianou, G. Xurigura and A. Lardera, "Richier, Germaine" in La sculpture moderne, 1982, p. 178.
G. Jespersen, "Fantasterne" in Politiken, 14 August 1988.
G. Néret, "Qu'est-ce-que la sculpture moderne?" in 30 ans d'art moderne: peintres et sculpteurs, 1988, pp. 114-134.
C. Lichtenstern, "Den Kompass im Auge, das Lot in den Fingerspitzen: die Bildhauerin Germaine Richier" in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 25 November 1989, no. 274.
E. Lebovici, "L'atelier de Germaine Richier vu par Pierre-Olivier Deschamps" in Beaux-Arts, November 1989, pp. 94-99.
R. Bevan, "La Fondation Guggenheim s'agrandit" in Le Journal des Arts, May 1994.
H. Bellet, "Germaine Richier" in Atelier International, July 1996, pp. 15-25.
Exhibited
Paris, Palais de New York, IXe Salon de mai, May 1953, no. 22.
Sao Paulo Museum of Modern Art, II Bienal de Sao Paulo, 1953, no. 4 (another example exhibited).
Basel, Kunsthalle, Germaine Richier, Bissière, H.R. Schiess, Vieira da Silva, Raoul Ubac: sculptures-peintures, June-July 1954, no. 17.
Bienne, Collège des Près Ritter, Exposition suisse de sculpture en plein air, September-October 1954, no. 169 (another example exhibited).
XXVII Venice Biennale, June-October 1954, no. 149.
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Vieira da Silva, Germaine Richier, February-March 1955, no. 34 (another example exhibited).
New York, Museum of Modern Art; The Minneapolis Institute of Art; London, Hanover Gallery; Los Angeles County Museum of Art and San Francisco Museum of Art, The New Decade: 22 European Painters and Sculptors, May 1955-March 1956, p. 38 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Lille, Galerie Marcel Evrard, Germaine Richier, Roger Vieillard, 1955, no. 4 (another example exhibited).
Paris, Galerie Berggruen, Germaine Richier, June-July 1956.
Paris, Musée national d'art moderne, Germaine Richier, October-December 1956, no. 40 (another example exhibited).
New York, Martha Jackson Gallery, The Sculptures of Germaine Richier, November-December 1957, no. 10 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Sculpture by Germaine Richier, September-November 1958, no. 12 (another example exhibited).
Boston University School of Fine and Applied Arts, Sculpture by Germaine Richier, January-February 1959, no. 1 (another example exhibited).
Musée Grimaldi, Château d'Antibes, Germaine Richier, July-September 1959, no. 107 (another example exhibited).
Marseille, Musée Cantini, Sculpture contemporaine, March-April 1960, no. 18 (another example exhibited).
Venice, Palazzo Grassi, Dalla natura all'arte, 1960, no. 1 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
London, Hanover Gallery, Sculpture and Drawings, June-September 1961, no. 51 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Antwerp, Parc de Middelheim, VIIe Biennale voor Beeldhoouwkunst, June-September 1963, no. 132 (another example exhibited).
Kunsthaus Zürich, Germaine Richier, June-July 1963, no. 53, pl. XIV (another example exhibited).
Brussels, The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, La part du rêve, April-July 1964, no. 69 (another example exhibited).
Arles, Musée Réattu, Germaine Richier, July-September 1964, no. 31 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
London, Hanover Gallery, Contrast, July-August 1967, no. 56.
Paris, Musée Rodin, IIIe Biennale internationale de sculpture contemporaine, Formes Humaines, May-June 1968, no. 6 (another example exhibited).
New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Works from the Peggy Guggenheim Foundation, January-March 1969, pp. 136-137 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Paris, Musée de l'Orangerie des Tuileries, Art du XXe siècle--Fondation Peggy Guggenheim, November 1974-March 1975, no. 163 (another example exhibited).
Brussels, The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, La femme dans l'art, April-July 1975, no. 73 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Paris, Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Les années 50, June-October 1988 (another example exhibited).
Humlebaek, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Germaine Richier, August-September 1988, p. 33, no. 19 (another example exhibited and illustrated on the back cover).
Barcelona, Centre Cultural and Künstlerhaus Wien, Europa de postguerra 1945-1965, Art després del diluvi, May-December 1995, no. 76 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
Saint-Paul-de-Vence, Fondation Maeght, Germaine Richier, rétrospecive, April-June 1996, pp. 122-124 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin-Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Linie, Licht und Schatten, Meisterzeichnungen und Skulpturen der Sammlung Jan und Marie Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, May-August 1999, pp. 293 and 392, no. 188 (illustrated in color).
Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Miradas sin tiempo: Dibujos, Pinturas y Esculturas de la Coleccion Jan y Marie Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, February-May 2000, pp. 474-475, no. 220 (illustrated in color).
Paris, Fondation Dina Vierny--Musée Maillol, Le feu sous les cendres: de Picasso à Basquiat, October 2005-February 2006, pp. 79 and 154 (illustrated in color).
Munich, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Das ewige Auge: Von Rembrandt bis Picasso, Meisterwerke aus der Sammlung Jan Krugier und Marie Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, July-October 2007, pp. 468-469, no. 226 (illustrated in color).

Lot Essay

Please note this work is accompanied by a certificate issued by Françoise Guiter.


With these evocative, almost Surrealist, forms, Germaine Richier takes her place alongside Pablo Picasso and Henry Moore in the narrative of twentieth century sculpture as one of the pre-eminent practitioners of the drive to free sculpture from the traditional constraints of representation and use its free-flowing forms to delve into the hidden recesses of the human psyche. La Tauromachie is a striking portrayal of a disintegrating human form positioned alongside the remnants of a bull's skull and is a powerful demonstration of Richier's challenge to the hegemony of the closed form in sculpture. With this figure she dissolves away the outer layer to reveal the detailed and intricate armature and hollow spaces that lie within. Powerfully expressive, in terms of both form and texture, Richier claims these creatures portray the haunting and deeply moving battle for survival that humanity has faced throughout its history and as such, this sculpture conveys a universal message to which we can all relate.

La Tauromachie is comprised of two poignant figures; the skull of a bull complete with mighty horns placed next to the remains of a decaying human-like figure. Richier's figures often display a focus which is at odds with the conventions of traditional sculpture. Here, the head--normally the central focus of the human body--has been reduced to a stylized form, with its diminutive horns in stark contrast the powerful horns of his victim lying at his feet. In contrast to the head, Richier turns her attention to the heavily worked torso area in which she peels away the layers of skin to reveal a gnarled and twisted interior, which is in turn supported by two long, spindly legs. All this subverts the normal representation of the human that had dominated two millennia of sculptural practice--a subversion which is deliberate, and one which Richier relishes, "I like thin legs supporting heavy masses," she once commented, "But most sculptors do the opposite, they put a thin body on heavy legs. Yes, they made thick legs when sculpture had a respect for the canon. This I do not care to maintain" (G. Richier, quoted by P. Guth, "Encounter With Germaine Richier" in Yale French Studies, nos. 19-20, New Haven, 1957, p. 82).

Richier begins the sculptural process by painting "construction" lines of the contours of the body directly onto the surface of the clay. Then, with her fingers, she maneuvers the molded material slowly into the form that she wants, with direct pressure and force to manipulate each contour until she achieved the desired effect. The bronze still bears the intricate details of its construction with the surface of reading like a roadmap, taking us on an intoxicating journey through its creation. La Tauromachie is a fanciful creature; its body nothing more than a seemingly empty cavity devoid of recognizable human features. Yet, it is precisely this disquieting quality that, paradoxically, gives additional life to the sculpture.

For La Tauromachie, Richier brings together rich evocations from her ancestral and more contemporary past. The work's title and physical form makes clear references to the proud history of bullfighting for which her hometown of Arles was well known. She would have been familiar with the contradictions that are contained in the majesty and brutality of bullfighting, with its primeval ballet between man and beast rooted in almost unimaginable violence. Conceived in 1953, this work was produced as the dark clouds of war were beginning to clear over Europe and Richier's response to this was not to shy away from the horror of these conflicts but, paradoxically, to confront it and embrace the creative possibilities that she saw. "Our age, when you consider it, is full of talons" she once said, "People bristle, as they do after long wars. It seems to me that in violent works there is just as much sensibility as in poetic ones. There can be just as much wisdom in violence as there is in gentleness" (G. Richier, quoted by P. Guth, ibid).

In subject matter and style this sculpture recalls both Pablo Picasso's Surrealist bullfighting imagery of the 1930s and his sculptures of the early 1950s. Richier shared with Picasso an interest in its mythic, archaic implications. In addition, the robust three-dimensionality and raw surfaces may constitute a response to works such as Picasso's Chèvre of 1950 and Crâne de chèvre, bouteille et bougie of 1951-52. Like Henry Moore during the same year, Richier places her forms in situational relationships. As she wrote: "Finally, the sculpture is a place, an entity, a synthesis of movements. I don't know if the Tauromachy [sic] evokes the sand, but no form, it seems to me, can be separated from the universe, the elements. It is therefore something more than an image" (quoted by L. Flint, Art du XXe siècle: Fondation Peggy Guggenheim, Venise, exh. cat., Paris, 1974, p. 106).

The sense of decay is in part the embodiment of the tensions and doubts of a world still so visibly scarred by the war that had raged through it. It also has a formal purpose, allowing textural plays of light and darkness, presenting a variegated and organic feel to the work. While bullfighting played a great part in Picasso's art during this period, the influence of Alberto Giacometti, with whom Richier shared her wartime exile in Switzerland, is more evident. Not only do the feet and legs of the striding figure recall his work, but the organic build-up of the body is almost an inverted reflection of his work. Likewise, there is a sense of the constituent parts in Richier's work. La Tauromachie appears in part to be the result of the assemblage of found objects, making the scene a product of the real world. Despite this, where Giacometti's forms appear to have been built up, hewn from the clay of life itself, Richier, even in her use of objects from the world of the viewer, explores the opposite process, the decomposition of the figure. Richier implies that, despite his seemingly victorious killing of the bull, the figure is inexorably striding towards his own end.

In the years after the Second World War, Germaine Richier's sculptural figures took on an extraordinary form. She abandoned her training in realist sculpture that she had received from Rodin's assistant, Emile-Antoine Bourdelle and began to create powerful works that combined the formal language of expressionism with the mysterious fantasies of Surrealism. The human body was both the source of her inspiration and the point of departure for her new sculptural forms. Her startlingly original depictions of human and human-like forms helped to establish her work as among the most powerfully expressive art being created in Europe at that time.

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