Aristide MAILLOL: artist

Not On Display

About the work

Maillol practised successfully in other visual arts before turning to sculpture somewhere between the age of thirtyfour and forty; authorities differ as to the exact year. He studied first to be a painter but was not in accord with the rigid methods taught in the art schools and was expelled from the Beaux Arts Paris. Although he did return to study with a different master, he gained little from those teachers, whose reputations then were so impressive.

On a small allowance from his family he struggled on in Paris but meetings with Paul Gauguin and other painters made him dissatisfied with his own efforts. He applied himself to tapestry with enthusiastic thoroughness, designing the cartoons, dyeing the yarns and doing the weaving. He built his own kiln to fire clay statues and even made the paper for printing a series of woodcuts.

Maillol had set up his own workshop and attained considerable success when he was stricken by an eye disease which deprived him of sight for months and made it impossible for him to continue with work requiring such close scrutiny. After his sight was restored his entire attention was directed to sculpture, initially carving in wood or stone and then modelling in clay for casting in bronze or plaster, a medium which proved to be ideally suited to his natural idiom. His style was immediately mature, and he sustained a conception of serenity, harmony and simplicity throughout his long creative life; conveying an image of perfect balance by means of the idealised female form. He returned frequently to the village in southern France where he was born and found models among the young women of that country district.

Maillol's sculpture has a marked relationship to architecture and he said that he based structure on the square, lozenge and triangle, seeing these simple geometric forms underlying the natural, sensual humanity of the figures. His work is reminiscent of classic Greek sculpture in its sense of timeless values and contemplative calm. Maillol's own words reveal the constant direction of his thoughts, 'Nature is good, healthy, strong. One has to see inside it and listen to its language.'

Marie is a superb example of Maillol's idealisation of womanhood, always his principal theme, through which he communicated his belief in nature's ultimate perfection. Although serene, the sculpture nevertheless has the strength of the artist's conviction of goodness and dedication to his theme.

A suggestion of the solidity of a healthy working girl in the sturdy legs indicates Maillol's reliance on a model from a farming district but gives the impression of firmness, not heaviness. The simplicity of the pose personifies innocence and youth and is a beautifully composed figure from any angle. Its contours undisturbed by irrelevancies, build a complete harmony of parts and the smoothness of finish adds lustre to this embodiment of female grace.

Ella Fry, Gallery Images, St George Books, Perth, 1984

Reference: Guiseppe Marchiori, Modern French Sculpture, Oldbourne Press, London, 1964.
Artist/Maker and role
Aristide MAILLOL: artist
158 x 54 x 40 cm
Credit line
Purchased with assistance from The Zink Foundation, 1983
The State Art Collection, The Art Gallery of Western Australia
Accession number

This is one of the sculptures in our collection.