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César Baldaccini is a sculptor born in 1921 and died in 1998.

César (1921-1998) is a French artist, heir to the tradition of welded sculpture and inventor of new techniques. His work is sometimes summarized in a sort of paperboard, industrially reproduced (created in 1976) that every year on the podium brandish the personalities of French cinema.


Born of Tuscan parents in the Belle-de-Mai neighborhood in Marseille under the name of César Baldaccini, he began artistic studies at the age of fifteen. He entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Marseille in 1935 and then entered the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1943. A period during which he worked the plaster before making his first sculptures in scrap metal. If he turns to inexpensive recovery materials for the sake of economy, he soon discovers, in metals, the place of expression of his creative power.


The spiritual son of Rodin and Giacometti, César met Picasso and Germaine Richier in Paris, and lived in the same house as Alberto Giacometti in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district. These encounters have a major influence on the beginnings of his artistic creation. César is also inspired by the work of Brancusi, Pablo Gargallo and Julio Gonzales.


His assemblages of metal scraps gave rise to a disturbing bestiary, bat, shredded chickens, carapace tortoises and fish eaten up to the ridge have allowed him to propose his own very expressive versions of the human figure. In 1954, he obtained the "Prix des Trois Arts" from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris for a sculpture representing a fish of 3.40 meters in length. In 1956 he took part in the Venice Biennale.


At the same time, his research led him to the invention of more audacious creative techniques, with first of all the "compressions" of automobile bodies. He discovered this technique in 1958, while rummaging at a scrap dealer in Gennevilliers. Using a hydraulic press, he compresses cars and exposes them to the public like sculptures. This act of appropriation, is launched as a challenge to the consumer society, besides its "Compressions" make scandal to the saloon of May of 1960.


He then created the Polyurethane "Expansions" from 1965, in his hands, the liquid resin spreads out horizontally, swells, creases, starts to assault the vacuum it molds. The "Expansions" are available in bronze variations. This year is also the year when the artist creates one of his most famous pieces: his Thumb, 1.85m high, often reproduced since. The one that was installed in 1994 in the district of the Defense is 12 meters high. To create these pieces, he uses an "enlarger" and synthetic resin for molding, starting from the idea of ​​the hand, it arrives at the "Thumb". His Impressions divide the criticism and oppose on the one hand the supporters of the "classical" vocations and on the other hand the defenders of the "avant-garde" creations of the sculptor.


In 1970, he created the Fist, a monumental sculpture of 7 tons in polished stainless steel cast iron, installed in the place d'armes at the Lycée Militaire de Saint-Cyr. In 1983, he began his Centaure in tribute to Picasso, a sculpture of 4.70 meters high, completed two years later. The sculpture is installed at the crossroads of the Red Cross in Paris. Also in 1983, César realized his Hommage à Eiffel for the Fondation Cartier in Jouy-en-Josas.


Through the Compressions, Human Footprints and Expansions, César challenges the canons of traditional sculpture. The use of hydraulic press, expanded polyurethane and impression allows it to appropriate the real directly, reducing its manual intervention. Marking César's fascination with the aesthetics of industrial waste, these works have made him one of the major representatives of the New Realism in France (Yves Klein, Arman, Jacques Villeglé and Raymond Hains). From the eighties, however, the artist returned to a more traditional and deliberately aesthetic sculpture. César receives on July 27, 1988 the Prix Rodin.


At the great retrospective exhibition devoted to him by the National Gallery of Jeu-de-Paume in Paris in the summer of 1997, César finally exhibited his "Great Blind Self-portraits" and his "Vanities". Their naked faces behind iron gangue arise with pride in the face of death, giving him humbly deed of all the bells, bits of ribbons and tarnished medals hanging from their skulls. César ends his career with this series of portraits and self-portraits, face to face marking with death.


On December 6, 1998, César died at his home, rue de Grenelle in Paris, at the age of 77 years. Many posthumous tributes, including those of President Jacques Chirac, politicians, the world of the arts, and the general public. The Cartier Foundation presents a major exhibition devoted to the artist César, ten years after its disappearance (from July 8 to October 26, 2008). A major artist of the twentieth century, he defined himself as an "absolute autodidact."


"With my experience, my age - I am in my seventieth year - I do not want to have any illusions about myself, when I come from where I come from, I am constantly in doubt. I do not know that I hold the truth There is no single truth I understand everyone, perhaps because I am not a con, including intellectuals, even if they give me from time to time But if they have heads bigger than mine, it's only in front, no profile ... "César.

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