Aristide Maillol (1861-1944)

La Montagne

Aristide Maillol (1861-1944)
La Montagne
signed with monogram and numbered '2/6' (on the front of the base); inscribed with foundry mark '.Alexis Rudier. .Fondeur Paris.' (on the back of the base)
bronze with dark brown and green patina
Height: 10 5/8 in. (27 cm.)
Length: 10 in. (25.6 cm.)
Conceived in 1936; this bronze version cast during the artist's lifetime
Perls Galleries, New York.
Private collection, New York.
Jeffrey H. Loria & Co., Inc., New York.
Acquired from the above by Achim Moeller Fine Art on behalf of John C. Whitehead, 1993.
J. Rewald, Maillol, New York, 1939, p. 166 (terracotta study for the stone version illustrated, pl. 120).
W. George, Aristide Maillol et l'âme de la sculpture, Neuchâtel, 1977, p. 245 (larger lead version illustrated, p. 115).
B. Lorquin, Aristide Maillol, New York, 1995, pp. 130, 140 and 199 (lead version illustrated, pp. 136, 138 and 139; larger stone version illustrated, p. 184).
New York, Achim Moeller Fine Art, The Whitehead Collection, Late 19th and 20th Century French Masters, A Collection in Progress, April-May 1997, p. 118, no. 73 (illustrated in color, p. 119; illustrated again in color on the back cover).

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Morgan Schoonhoven
Morgan Schoonhoven

Lot Essay

The late Dina Vierny has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

La Montagne (The Mountain) was commissioned by the Musée national d'Art moderne, for display at the great Exposition Internationale, held in Paris in 1937. It was initially conceived as a monumental piece in which a larger-than life-size female figure is shown seated on the ground, with her left knee raised and her left hand raised above her head (fig. 1). It is one of a series of monumental seated figures by Maillol, beginning with La Méditerranée, first exhibited in 1905.
During the early 1890s Maillol was mainly involved in easel painting, printmaking and designing tapestries. He was affiliated with the young followers of Paul Gauguin who called themselves "Les Nabis," and like them he sought to explore the decorative possibilities in modern art. Emulating the example of Gauguin, Maillol carved some reliefs and statuettes in wood, but he did not turn to sculpture as his primary means of expression until 1898, when a chronic eye inflammation caused him to close his tapestry workshop. He began to model clothed and nude female figures in clay and terracotta. Maillol displayed in these earliest efforts his characteristic classical manner, in which he deliberately eschewed the emotional subjects and dramatic movement seen in the sculpture of Rodin, which was then in vogue. He instead chose poses of simplicity, stillness and calm, in which he refrained from outward expressive display. In contrast to the tactile and refractive faceting found in Rodin's sculpture, Maillol favored smooth, plain surfaces that reflected light more softly.
La Montagne is a key sculpture in Maillol's ongoing effort to fuse an earthly sensuality with the formal traditions of classical antiquity, which he viewed as the rightful artistic inheritance of his Mediterranean homeland. However, the artist never becomes formulaic in his approach. As John Rewald noted, "…Maillol is convinced that there are rules of harmony in sculpture as well as in music, and he sets out to find them. But he refuses to fetter his genius with formulae and set rules; he is guided only by his taste, his inborn sense of beauty and harmony and artistic conscience" (op. cit., p. 23).
Indeed, the artistic goal Maillol set out to achieve and his working methods remained more or less the same throughout his long career: "Form pleases me and I make it, but for me it is a means of expressing an idea. I look for ideas. I avail myself of form in order to achieve that which is formless. I am inclined to express the unpalpable and the intangible…. That is why it is nothing to copy the nude. Reproducing a nude woman does not mean making a statue. It is necessary, when composing the face of a young girl, that I give her the expression of all young girls. My feeling passes from my mind into my fingers. My statues are poems of life. Instead of using the medium of verse I explain myself in sculpture" (quoted in ibid.)

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