Germaine Richier (1902-1959)
Germaine Richier (1902-1959)

La Montagne

Germaine Richier (1902-1959)
La Montagne
signed, numbered and incised with foundry mark 'G Richier 4/4 Susse Fondeur Paris' (on the top of the base)
bronze with brown patina
72¾ x 129 7/8 x 51¼in. (185 x 330 x 130cm.)
Conceived in 1955-56 and cast at a later date, this work is number four from an edition of seven plus four artist's proofs
The Estate of the artist.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
G. Waldemar, "Germaine Richier", in Prisme des arts, Paris, April 1956, no. 2.
B. Milleret, "Envoûtement de Germaine Richier", in Les Nouvelles littéraires, Paris, 11 October 1956.
A. Chastel, "Germaine Richier: la puissance et le malaise", in Le Monde, Paris, 13 October 1956.
B. Butler, "International Museum Week", in New York Herald Tribune, Paris, 17 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, October-November 1956, pp. 71-83 (another from the edition illustrated).
G. Limbour, "La vie des arts: le pouce de Germaine Richier", in France Observateur, 1 November 1956.
P. Chatard, "Sculpture : Germaine Richier", in Nouvelle gauche, Paris, November-December 1956.
M. Conil-Lacoste, "Chroniques: Germaine Richier ou la confusion des règnes", in Cahiers du sud, Marseille, February 1957, pp. 307-311.
G. Limbour, "Personnages imaginaires", in Lettres nouvelles, Paris, 17 June 1959, pp. 31-32.
R. Charmet, "Germaine Richier: une oeuvre d'une humanité déchirée", in Arts, Paris, August 1959.
C. Roger-Marx, "Cette héritière inspirée des grands maîtres: Germaine Richier", in Le Figaro littéraire, Paris, 8 August 1959. J. Cassou, Richier, Paris 1961.
H. Debrunner, "Die Plastikerin Germaine Richier: grosse Retrospektive im Kunsthaus Zürich", in Zürcher Spiegel, Zurich, 20 June 1963.
Germaine Richier, exh. cat., Paris, Galerie Creuzevault, 1966 (another from the edition illustrated, unpaged).
R. Varia, "Un poet tragic", in Secolul 20, Bucarest, 1968, no. 3.
E. Crispolti, "Germaine Richier", in I Maestri della scultura, Milan 1968, no. 65 (another from the edition illustrated, pp. 50-52).
M. Cornil-Lacoste, "Richier", in Nouveau dictionnaire de la sculpture moderne, Paris, 1970, pp. 262-264.
J-M. Dunoyer, "Jean Paulhan à travers ses peintres", in Le Monde, Paris, 7 February 1974.
Brassaï, "Germaine Richier" in Les Artistes de ma vie, Paris, 1982, pp. 194-197 .
Arted Editions d'Art (ed.), La Sculpture moderne, Paris 1982, p. 178.
L'objet de la chair, exh. cat., Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, 1988, p. 234-235.
E. Lebovici, "L'atelier de Germaine Richier vu par Pierre-Olivier Deschamps", in Beaux-arts magazine, Paris, November 1989, no. 73, pp. 94-99.
F. Montreynaud, "Germaine Richier, l'Ouragane", in Le XXe siècle des femmes, 1989, p. 366-367.
I. Gale, "Inside the bronze menagerie : Germaine Richier's sculptures were half-insect, half-human. Iain Gale visits the studio of an outsider in post-war Paris", in The Independent, London, 8 June 1993.
F. Guiter, "La Montagne, 1955-56", in Richier, exh. cat., Venice 2007, pp. 108-109.
F. Guiter, "Biography", in Richier, exh. cat., Venice 2007, pp. 131-135.
Paris, Musée national d'Art moderne, Germaine Richier, 1956, no. 77, pl. XII, XIII (original plaster cast exhibited).
New York, Martha Jackson Gallery, The Sculptures of Germaine Richier, 1957, no. 20 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated).
Paris, Musée Rodin, Sculpture française contemporaine et de l'Ecole de Paris, 1958, no. 52, pl. XIV (another from the edition exhibited).
Antibes, Musée Picasso, Germaine Richier, 1959, no. 63 (another from the edition exhibited).
Venice, Palazzo Grassi, Centro Internazionale delle arti e del costume, Dalla natura all'arte, 1960, no. 4 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated).
Zurich, Kunsthaus, Germaine Richier, 1963, no. 85 (another from the edition exhibited).
Paris, Grand Palais, Jean Paulhan à travers ses peintres, 1974, no. 677, pl. XXIII (another from the edition exhibited).
Humlebaeck, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Germaine Richier, 1988, no. 34 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated).
Saint-Paul de Vence, Fondation Maeght, Germaine Richier, Rétrospective, 1996, no. 88 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated in colour, pp. 158-159 and illustrated in artist's studio, pp. 161-164).
Berlin, Akademie der Künste, Germaine Richier, 1997, no. 93 (another from the edition exhibited).
Strasbourg, Musée d'Art moderne et contemporain, Exposition inaugurale du musée d'Art moderne et contemporain de Strasbourg, 1998 (another from the edition exhibited).
Saint-Paul de Vence, Fondation Maeght, Vision nouvelle d'une collection - 35e anniversaire de la Fondation Maeght, 1999 (another from the edition exhibited).
Valencia, Institut Valencià d'Art Modern, El fuego bajo las cenizas (de Picasso à Basquiat), 2005 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated).
Paris, Fondation Dina Vierny - musée Maillol, Le feu sous la cendre, de Picasso à Basquiat, 2005-06 (another from the edition exhibited). Venice, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Richier, 2007 (another from the edition exhibited).

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Lot Essay

Françoise Guiter will include this work in the upcoming Richier Catalogue Raisonné in preparation and we are grateful for her assistance.

'Germaine Richier has [in my opinion] created a wonderful statue, which she calls La Montagne, but which would be better named, because of the cavern or grotto which it containsthe Egg of the World'
(J. Paulhan, quoted in G. Limbour, quoted in J.L. Prat (ed.), Germaine Richier: Rétrospective, Paris, 1996, p. 162)

One of the largest sculptures that Germaine Richier ever created, this immense pair of duelling chimera are exemplary examples of her unique sculptural language. These creations - the half-human/half-animal amalgams that inhabit an unknown world - clash violently with their long, sinewy limbs acting as both weapons, and paradoxically, as their support to stop their bodies from falling over. Powerfully expressive, in terms of both form and texture, these creatures portray the haunting and deeply moving battle for survival that humanity has faced throughout its history and as such, the sculpture conveys a universal message to which we can all relate.

La Montagne was conceived for the artist's landmark retrospective at the Musée d'Art Modern in Paris in 1956. Despite its size, this sculpture undoubtedly derives from her earlier series of smaller Trios sculptures which were inspired, in part, by her observations of a group of French agricultural workers using traditional long handled farming tools . a Montagne's large size is testimony to Richier's new desire to organise relationships between her characters, whose metamorphosis is such that only the barest resemblances to humans are left, even though she was still using human models at the time. For this particular piece she used her favourite model, Nardone who she also used as the model for another sculpture, L'Ogre - see lot 43), as the source for the fleshy contours of the bulbous figure. Richier described the resulting figures as 'fantastic creatures from an age which we are incapable of recognising, but which is ours, since the world of forms increasingly arises from our research and observation' (Germaine Richier, quoted in J.L. Prat (ed.), Germaine Richier: Rétrospective, Paris, 1996, p. 162). A major work by Richier, this sculpture is in the permanent collection of several major European museums including the Musée National d'Art Moderne in Paris, Foundation Maeght in Saint-Paul and the Sprengel Museum in Hannover.

The broken and haunting forms fashioned by Richier in La Montagne are, in part, her response to her wartime experiences in Europe. At the outbreak of the Second World War, Richier and her first husband Otto Banninger had been holidaying in Switzerland and had decided to stay for the duration of the war. In Switzerland Richier came into contact with a new group of artists among them Alberto Giacometti and Marino Marini whose influence along with the impact of the war profoundly altered the direction of her work. Returning to Paris in 1946, Richier began work on a new series of sculptures whose startling originality marked her maturation as a sculptor and established her work as amongst the most powerfully expressive art being created in Europe. The resulting intertwining natural forms, abstraction and references to enduring human symbols that appear in La Montagne mark the perfect balance between timelessness and modernity, between universal, eternal themes and the contemporary existentialism that gripped Richier's war-weary generation. SJ

'Germaine Richier directly borrows elements from the natural worldthese borrowings lead to a great anti-naturalistic work of imposing size, quite dizzying in the chasm that it partly opens....The intrusion was to lead to a very vast monument which we see here, cast in pale bronze, with a light patina. La Montagne, an enigmatic monument at first, evoking mysterious natural forces and the formidable abysses where cataclysms and metamorphoses hatch'
(Georges Limbour, quoted in J.L. Prat (ed.), Germaine Richier: Rétrospective, Paris, 1996, p. 162)

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