EN
GERMAINE RICHIER
1 Apr 2021 - 30 Jun 2021

GERMAINE RICHIER

& the Modern Masters

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Germaine Richier (1902-1959), nicknamed The Hurricane Woman by her friends from the title of one of her sculptures, is an extraordinary artist whose importance in the art history of the twentieth century no longer needs proving, but rather to be given greater prominence.

This sculptress, who devoted her entire oeuvre to the human figure in a particularly sensitive way, was born in 1902 in Provence. She studied sculpture first of all with Guigues, a former pupil of Rodin, and then continued her apprenticeship in Paris with Bourdelle, whose teaching left a permanent mark on her practice. In 1930, she moved into a studio where she produced nudes and busts in a realistic style.

In 1939 Germaine Richier left for Switzerland with her husband, the sculptor Charles-Otto Bänninger, where they remained for the duration of the war. There she frequented and developed friendships with many artists such as Alberto Giacometti, Marino Marini, Hans Arp and Fritz Wotruba, with whom she exhibited regularly during this period.

Marked by the war, her art evolved towards hybrid figures like The Toad in 1940 or The Grasshopper in 1944. Little by little Richier developed her own specific language, still centred on the human body but incorporating an important dialogue with nature. She took the experiment to the point of grafting tree branches, leaves, stones and various organic elements into the plaster, as in The Forest Man in 1945.

She handled her material by a process of erosion, working it by incisions and scratches, playing on an aesthetic of the accidental, an approach that was very new in her day. This violent treatment, she explained, was her personal way of bringing sculptures to life. In so doing Richier explored new images of humanity in an era of privation and existentialist angst. Her practice confronts the savagery of the conflicts of her time with the fragility of the human spirit in moving and powerful works.

Having achieved recognition early in her career, she was one of the first French sculptresses to enjoy international success during her lifetime. In 1952 she was already exhibited in many museums in Switzerland, the Netherlands and Germany, as well as the United States and South America. In 1956 she was the first woman to present a retrospective at the National Museum of Modern Art in Paris. The year 1959 saw a major retrospective organized at the Picasso Museum in Antibes. This was also the last exhibition during the artist’s lifetime. Germaine Richier died in Montpellier in 1959 at the age of 57.

Since then, several major exhibitions have been devoted to her work, such as the retrospectives at the Maeght Foundation in 1996, at the Museums of Fine Arts in Bern in 2013, and more recently at the Picasso Museum in Antibes and at the Beelden aan Zee Museum in The Hague in 2019.

After a first exhibition in Geneva in 2014, Galerie de la Béraudière is pleased to honour the work of this exceptional artist, alongside other great names of Surrealism or post-war art such as Max Ernst, Jean Dubuffet and Serge Poliakoff.

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