Aristide Maillol was born in 1861 in the southern town of Banyuls-sur-Mer, France. In 1881, he moved to Paris to study art, and in 1885, enrolled in l’École des Beaux-Arts. Greatly influenced by the Nabis, a group of French artists whose work was composed of decorative patterns, Maillol excelled at tapestry and eventually opened a workshop that would gain him acknowledgement for revitalizing this art form in France.
At nearly 40 years old, Maillol was forced to abandon the intricacies of tapestry after being afflicted with an eye disease. He then turned his attention to sculpture. Though he would delve into painting and woodcut illustration, Maillol’s concentration would remain in sculpture throughout the rest of his life. In this medium, Maillol set the standard for European and American sculpture until the end of World War II and served as inspiration for future artists including Henry Moore, Constantin Brancusi, and Alberto Giacometti.
With his focus always on the female form, Maillol sought to preserve the pure simplicity of Classical ideals in his sculpture, exhibiting a calm expression and harmonious balance. He desired for his artwork to be uninhibited from all literary associations and architectural context. Maillol was less determined that his figures be meticulously accurate, but rather that his art emphasized a rigorous analysis of geometric form and mass that could be viewed in the round. Maillol was commissioned to create numerous works, including a 1912 monument to Cézanne and several monumental war memorials after World War I. A major exhibition of his works was held in 1937 at the Petit Palais in Paris.
Maillol’s artwork permanently adorns the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, MA; Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany; The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Neue Pinakothek, Munich, Germany; the Tate Gallery, London, England; and the gardens of the Louvre Museum, Paris, France. The Maillol Museum in Paris was established by his companion and muse for the last ten years of his life, Dina Vierny.