Aristide Maillol, Méditerranée dit aussi La Pensée (détail) (entre 1923 et 1927) musée d'Orsay ©RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d’Orsay) / Thierry Ollivier

Aristide Maillol (1861-1944). The Quest for Harmony

Apr 12, 2022 - Aug 21, 2022

Since Hommage à Maillol was organized in 1961 at the Musée National d’Art Moderne for the centennial of his birth, Aristide Maillol has not had a monographic exhibition in a Parisian museum. The Musée d’Orsay is finally devoting a major retrospective to him.

Maillol came late to sculpture. Initially a painter, he then turned to tapestry and the decorative arts. He discovered sculpture only around 1895, working first on wood and small dimensions. Exchanges with Maurice Denis, Édouard Vuillard, and Rodin underline the range of his network, which was to remain important throughout his career.

The exhibition compares the first Méditerranée made for Count Kessler (1905, Oskar Reinhart Foundation, Winterthur) and the second commissioned eighteen years later by the French Government (Musée d’Orsay). The sculpture appears as the manifesto of his “return to order”: Maillol bends any search for expression and introduces a new classicism in which female bodies, with their robust and sensual anatomy, are represented in simple geometric forms.

He moves with ease from the sketch to the monumental. The imposing Monument to Cézanne, an exhibition centerpiece, invites the visitor to take part in his creative process. The exhibition concludes with a selection of large figures, the culmination of a journey in which the quest for formal perfection plays an essential role.

The exhibition will then be presented at the Kunsthaus in Zurich from October 7, 2022 to January 23, 2023, and at La Piscine – Musée d’art et d’industrie André Diligent in Roubaix from February 18 to May 21, 2023.


Antoinette Le Normand-Romain, Honorary Director General of the Institut National d’histoire de l’art, Honorary General Curator of Heritage
Ophélie Ferlier-Bouat, director of the Bourdelle Museum, Paris

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