Over the course of his art collecting career, Norton Simon acquired close to 50 works by French artist Aristide Maillol, many of which are on permanent display in the Museum’s galleries and garden. The exhibition Maillol’s Miniatures offers a rare look at 15 Maillol works that are not usually on view, providing a better understanding of the artist’s working methods.
Maillol was born to humble beginnings on December 8, 1861, in Banyuls-sur-Mer, France. His small childhood home, owned by his aunt Lucie, later became a winter retreat from his studio and tapestry workshop. Maillol was accepted into the École des Beaux-Arts in 1885, after several attempts at admission. He was inspired, encouraged and praised by contemporaries and fellow artists such as Paul Gauguin, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Émile Bernard. After years of creating intricate tapestries, he abandoned this medium because of the toll the highly detailed creations were taking on his vision. He then turned to sculpture, a more visceral art form that did not strain his failing eyesight. Finally, in 1896, Maillol began exhibiting his wood carvings, wax statuettes and ceramic objects, slowly gaining success as the years progressed. Some of Maillol’s better-known large-scale projects include monumental lead sculptures such as Air,La Méditerranée and Harmony.
The bronze and marble pieces exhibited in Maillol’s Miniatures show Maillol’s studio work on a smaller scale and serve as an entry point to his larger works scattered throughout the Museum’s galleries and garden. Included in the exhibition is a video of an interview with Dina Vierny, Maillol’s muse and studio model, and now the director of the Musée Maillol in Paris. Over a period of ten years, Vierny posed for many of Maillol’s famous sculptures, including those that grace the garden of the Museum and this intimate exhibition. Filmed in the summer of 2007, the interview offers a rare glimpse into Madame Vierny’s association with Maillol, as well as the story of Norton Simon’s interest in Maillol’s artworks.