Aristide Joseph Bonaventure Maillol

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Maillol, Aristide Joseph Bonaventure


Born Dec. 8, 1861, in Banyuls-sur-Mer, in the Pyrénées-Orientales; died there Sept. 27, 1944. French sculptor.

Maillol studied painting at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris from 1882 to 1886. He was influenced by P. Gauguin and was close to the Nabis. In the early 1890’s he was a tapestry designer and tried to revive the hand production of tapestries. In the late 1890’s, Maillol gave up painting for sculpture, at first creating small works marked by an archaic and simplified decorativeness in the spirit of art nouveau.

During his mature period, which began after 1900, Maillol was inspired by ancient Greek traditions yet did not lose a modern realistic approach. The artist strove for the generalization and structural clarity of plastic masses, achieving the harmonious combination of powerful and, at times, massive forms with fluid silhouettes (Night, 1902-09; Desire, 1905-08; Venus With a Necklace, 1930). He restricted himself primarily to the female nude (marble, stone, bronze), using it as an expression of his ideal of beauty. At the same time, Maillol sometimes conveyed a sense of contemplative tranquillity (Mediterranean, 1902-05) or a feeling of dynamics (Ile-de-France, 1920-25). In Mediterranean there is a suggestion of close ties between epochs; the figure Ile-de-France symbolizes the heroic character of a nation.

Devoting a great deal of time to each of his works, Maillol sought to relate the symbolic content of his images to modern times and their artistic rendering to their setting (for example, the monuments honoring the victims of World War I and the monuments of prominent men of the late 19th century). The powerful female figure in Action in Chains (bronze, 1906, National Museum of Modern Art, Paris), a monument in honor of L. Blanqui, conveys the fervor of Blanqui’s life and his devotion to struggle. A sculpture of a nymph with a laurel branch (1912-25), expressing the idea of harmony, embodies the artistic aims of P. Cézanne. In Maillol’s works of a decorative character, such as Pomona (1910) and The River (1939-43), pleasing the senses is of prime importance, and man’s unity with nature is revealed.

Maillol is also well known for his small-scale sculptures and his drawings (sketches for sculptures and original drawings); in addition he did some engraving and lithography. Maillol’s humanistic and essentially realistic works greatly influenced many prominent 20th-century sculptors.


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Claudel, J. A. Maillol, sa vie, son oeuvre, ses idées. Paris, 1937.
Rewald, J. The Woodcuts of A. Maillol. New York, 1943.
George, W. A. Maillol Neuchatel, 1964.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.