Beaubourg, sculptures of Germaine Richier under sign of destruction and terror

Almost seventy years after the artist’s last French exhibition, at the National Museum of Modern Art, in 1956, his work was the subject of a retrospective at the Georges-Pompidou Center, in Paris.

by Philippe Dagen

Germaine Richier (1902-1959) was the first woman to have been exhibited during her lifetime at the National Museum of Modern Art, in Paris. In this year 1956, his sculptures then succeeded in theaters at the Matisse retrospective: this is national consecration.

Three years later, when she died during the summer, her bronzes faced those of Giacometti and the canvases of Bacon, Dubuffet, Pollock or Kooning in the exhibition “New Images of Man” at Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) of New York: the international consecration came, prepared by exhibitions in New York, London or Bern and by its participations in the Biennale de Sao Paulo, from its first edition in 1951, and, several times Also, that of Venice. Picasso, Ernst, Miro and many others show him their admiration. Jean Paulhan, Georges Limbour, Francis Ponge … The authors who write about it are also numerous.

it does not prevent. Between the 1956 exhibition and that which was held in Beaubourg until June 12 – and Ira, from July 12 to November 5, at the Fabre Museum, in Montpellier -, there was not a single large -scale retrospective in a Parisian museum; That of the Maeght Foundation, in 1996, remained without follow -up for a quarter of a century.

Why this eclipse, so long that his name was only familiar to lovers of modern sculpture, when Richier’s recognition had been strong in the 1950s? Or, to put it differently, what convinced his contemporaries and kept the following generations at a distance?

If she had not been so successful during her lifetime, we would accuse the machismo of an artistic environment, that of sculpture, then almost exclusively male and where the role devolved to women was to undress and pose. But it does not seem to be that she was the victim: she thus affirmed, in 1956, to have met “no difficulty” because woman. “The current era opens all doors to both men and women and women and men,” she says. This generality leaves skeptical, but it is true that his career, far from being delayed, is favored by his peers, including Bourdelle, who welcomed in his workshop, in 1926, the young woman from Montpellier.

The artist exhibits in Paris salons each year from 1928, obtains orders, has his own workshop and, soon, students. In 1939, the Director General of Fine Arts asked her for a large sculpture, a project erased by the war. She passes it to Zurich, where her first husband is from, sculptor himself, Otto Bänninger, and, during these Swiss years, works and exhibits as much as in France previously. She meets Jean Arp, the Giacometti brothers, Marino Marini and, already, writers who support her, including Charles-Albert Cingria. When she reinstalls herself in Paris after the war, she is therefore nothing unknown.

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/Media reports cited above.