The years after 1905 bear witness to an important junction in the history of the development of modern sculpture and Maillol was at the fore of a new group of artists who railed against the sterile academicism of the late 19th century. Attempting to break with classical tradition, they adopted instead a simplification of form and subject that heralded a new idea of modern sculpture and which would find its progeny in the work of Brancusi, Arp and Moore. As André Gide commented in 1905 on the exhibition of La Méditerranée; 'She is lovely; she doesn't signify a thing. She is a silent work of art. One has to go far back in time, I believe, to find such a complete indifference to any concern foreign to the simple presentation of beauty' ('Promenade au Salon d'Automne', Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 1 December 1905, p. 476).
In these early years Maillol was greatly influenced by Gauguin, who had recently exhibited some of his primitivistic carvings from his oceanic journeys and who introduced Maillol to the expressive power inherent in working directly with original materials. With the exception of Maillol, most of this emerging generation of artists, including Charles Despiau and Antoine Bourdelle, had worked as assistants to Rodin and had adopted various academic transfer techniques popular with Western sculptors in preference to direct carving. Maillol, however, considered himself a craftsman and, as such, saw no distinction between art and craft. Thus there is no discontinuity between the artist and the medium, no distinction between the conception and the execution. This notion of direct carving and the rediscovery of the immediacy of working with basic materials was to contribute greatly to the liberation of modern sculpture.
Petite Flore vêtue, conceived in 1907, foreshadows the larger Flore from 1911, commissioned by Ivan Abramovich Morosov as part of a group of figures to represent the four seasons. She stands unmoving and half-clothed, yet graceful and dignified, holding the folds of her drapery against her figure. She is the depiction of female perfection, a refined and sensuous vision of nature whose simplistic, vertical form is both opposed and enhanced by the elegant, sweeping lines of her clothing. John Rewald has observed that 'To celebrate the human body, particularly the feminine body, seems to have been Maillol's only aim. He did this in a style from which all grandiloquence is absent, a style almost earthbound and grave. The absence of movement, however, is compensated by a tenderness and charm distinctively his own; and while all agitation is foreign to his art, there is in his work, especially in his small statuettes, such quiet grace and such warm feeling that they never appear inanimate. He has achieved a peculiar balance between a firmness of forms which appear eternal and a sensitivity of expression - even sensuousness - which seems forever quivering and alive' (exh. cat. Aristide Maillol, New York, 1958, pp. 6-7).