Niki de Saint Phalle

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Niki de Saint Phalle
NikideSaintPhalle.jpg
Born Catherine-Marie-Agnès Fal de Saint Phalle
(1930-10-29)29 October 1930
Neuilly-sur-Seine, Hauts-de-Seine France
Died 21 May 2002(2002-05-21) (aged 71)
California, United States
Nationality French
Known for Painting, sculpture, film making
Awards Praemium Imperiale

Niki de Saint Phalle, born Catherine-Marie-Agnès Fal de Saint Phalle (29 October 1930 – 21 May 2002) was a French sculptor, painter, and film maker.

The early years[edit]

The Golem, Kiryat Hayovel, Israel

Niki de Saint Phalle was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, Hauts-de-Seine, near Paris, to Count André-Marie Fal de Saint Phalle (1906–1967), a French banker, and his American wife, the former Jeanne Jacqueline Harper (1908–1980).[1][2][3] She had four siblings, and a double first cousin was French novelist Thérèse de Saint Phalle (Baroness Jehan de Drouas). After being wiped out financially during the Great Depression, the family moved from France to the United States in 1933, where her father worked as manager of the American branch of the Saint Phalle family's bank. Saint Phalle enrolled at the prestigious Brearley School in New York City, but she was dismissed for painting fig leaves red on the school's statuary. She went on to attend Oldfields School in Glencoe, Maryland where she graduated in 1947. During her teenaged years, Saint Phalle was a fashion model; at the age of eighteen, she appeared on the cover of Life (26 September 1949), and, three years later, on the November 1952 cover of French Vogue.

At eighteen, Saint Phalle eloped with author Harry Mathews, whom she had known since the age of twelve, and moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts. While her husband studied music at Harvard University, Saint Phalle began to paint, experimenting with different media and styles. Their first child, Laura, was born in April 1951.

Saint Phalle rejected the staid, conservative values of her family, which dictated domestic positions for wives and particular rules of conduct. Poet John Ashbery recalled that Saint Phalle's artistic pursuits were rejected by members of Saint Phalle clan: her uncle "French banker Count Alexandre de Saint-Phalle, ... reportedly takes a dim view of her artistic activities," Ashbery observed.[4] However, after marrying young and becoming a mother, she found herself living the same bourgeois lifestyle that she had attempted to reject; the internal conflict caused her to suffer a nervous breakdown. As a form of therapy, she was urged to pursue her painting.

While in Paris on a modeling assignment, Saint Phalle was introduced to the American painter Hugh Weiss, who became both her friend and mentor. He encouraged her to continue painting in her self-taught style.

She subsequently moved to Deià, Majorca, Spain, where her son, Philip, was born in May 1955. While in Spain, Saint Phalle read the works of Proust and visited Madrid and Barcelona, where she became deeply affected by the work of Antonio Gaudí. Gaudí's influence opened many previously unimagined possibilities for Saint Phalle, especially with regard to the use of unusual materials and objets-trouvés as structural elements in sculpture and architecture. Saint Phalle was particularly struck by Gaudí's "Park Güell" which persuaded her to create one day her own garden-based artwork that would combine both artistic and natural elements.

Saint Phalle continued to paint, particularly after she and her family moved to Paris in the mid-1950s. Her first art exhibition was held in 1956 in Switzerland, where she displayed her naïve style of oil painting. She then took up collage work that often featured images of the instruments of violence, such as guns and knives.

In the late 1950s, Saint Phalle was ill with hyperthyroidism which was eventually treated by an operation in 1958. Sometime during the early 1960s, she left her first husband.[5]

Shooting Paintings and Nanas[edit]

Niki de Saint Phalle created "Shooting Paintings" in the early 1960s.[6] These pieces of art were polythene bags of paints in human forms covered in white plaster. The piece were shot at to open the bags of paint to create the image.

After the "Shooting paintings" came a period when she explored the various roles of women. She made life size dolls of women, such as brides and mothers giving birth. They were primarily made of plaster over a wire framework and plastic toys, then painted all white.

1964

Inspired by the pregnancy of her friend Clarice Price, the wife of American artist Larry Rivers, she began to use her artwork to consider archetypal female figures in relation to her thinking on the position of women in society. Her artistic expression of the proverbial everywoman were named 'Nanas'. The first of these freely posed forms—made of papier-mâché, yarn, and cloth—were exhibited at the Alexander Iolas Gallery in Paris in September 1965. For this show, Iolas published her first artist book that includes her handwritten words in combination with her drawings of 'Bananas'. Encouraged by Iolas, she started a highly productive output of graphic work that accompanied exhibitions that included posters, books, and writings.

In 1966, Saint Phalle collaborated with fellow artist Jean Tinguely and Per Olof Ultvedt (sv) on a large-scale sculpture installation, "hon-en katedral" ("she-a cathedral") for Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden. The outer form of "hon" is a giant, reclining 'Nana', whose internal environment is entered from between her legs. The piece elicited immense public reaction in magazines and newspapers throughout the world. The interactive quality of the "hon" combined with a continued fascination with fantastic types of architecture intensified her resolve to see her own architectural dreams realized. During the construction of the "hon-en katedral," she met Swiss artist Rico Weber (de), who became an important assistant and collaborator for both de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely. During the 1960s, she also designed decors and costumes for two theatrical productions: a ballet by Roland Petit, and an adaptation of the Aristophanes play "Lysistrata."

In 1971, Saint Phalle and Tinguely married.

The Tarot Garden[edit]

Main article: Giardino dei Tarocchi

Influenced by Gaudí´s Parc Güell in Barcelona, and Parco dei Mostri in Bomarzo, as well as Palais Idéal by Ferdinand Cheval, and Watts Towers by Simon Rodia, Niki de Saint Phalle decided that she wanted to make something similar; a monumental sculpture park created by a woman. In 1979, she acquired some land in Garavicchio, Tuscany, about 100 km north-west of Rome along the coast. The garden, called Giardino dei Tarocchi in Italian, contains sculptures of the symbols found on Tarot cards. The garden took many years, and a considerable sum of money, to complete. It opened in 1998, after nearly 20 years of work. Her main benefactor of the period was the Agnelli family.

Later years[edit]

Saint Phalle moved to California in 1994. On 17 November 2000 she became an honorary citizen of Hannover, Germany, and donated 300 pieces of her artwork to the Sprengel Museum. In 2001, she made another donation of 170 pieces to the Musée d'art moderne et d'art contemporain of Nice. Niki de Saint Phalle died of emphysema in California on 21 May 2002.

Public works[edit]

As a tribute to Niki de Saint Phalle, her work was on display outdoors in the center of Park Avenue from 52nd Street to 60th Street in New York City through November 2012.[7]

L'Ange Protecteur in the hall of the Zürich Hauptbahnhof

Many of Niki de Saint Phalle's sculptures are large and some of them are exhibited in public places, including:

Literature[edit]

Film[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Jacqueline Harper American Lawyer's Daughter Marries Count Andre de St. Phalle at Château de Fillerval", The New York Times, 7 June 1927
  2. ^ Biographical information, title of count, and birth dates cited in Joseph Valynseele's Les maréchaux de la Restauration te de la Monarchie de Juillet, leur famille et leur descendance (1962), page 292
  3. ^ According to the Saint Phalle's wedding announcement in Town and Country (1927), Jeanne Jacqueline Harper, known as Jacqueline, was a daughter of Donald Harper, an American living in Paris, France, and his wife, the former Jeanne Bernard.
  4. ^ John Ashbery, Reported Sightings: Art Chronicles, 1957-1987 (Carcanet, 1989). Alexandre de Saint-Phalle was the brother of Niki de Saint Phalle's father and also married to her mother's sister, the former Helen Georgia Harper, as explained in "Jacqueline Harper Marries Count: American Lawyer's Daughter Marries Andre de St. Phalle at Château de Fillerval", The New York Times, 7 June 1927.
  5. ^ "Living with Niki: Harry Mathews on Niki de Saint Phalle". Tate.org.uk. Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  6. ^ http://nikidesaintphalle.org/life_02
  7. ^  . "Park Ave. Exhibit Celebrates Power Of Women". NY1.com. Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  8. ^ "Queen Califia's Magical Circle Garden". Queencalifia.org. Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  9. ^ "Public Art Department". Port of San Diego. Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  10. ^ "Von 2001 bis 2003 ist die historische Grotte nach den Plänen der Künstlerin Niki de Saint Phalle neu ausgestaltet worden". Hannover.de. Retrieved 9 August 2010. 
  11. ^ [1][dead link]
  12. ^ [2][dead link]
  13. ^ "Where the Wild Things Art". designistdream.com. 4 November 2007. Retrieved 16 November 2010. 
  14. ^ "Niki de Saint Phalle Chronology (1930-2002)". ci.escondido.ca.us. Retrieved 16 November 2010. 
  15. ^ Sarah Gay (11-09-2009). "Firebird Finds its Nest at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art". Charlotte Viewpoint. Retrieved 9 August 2010. 
  16. ^ "La Tempérance, 1992 — Luxembourg". Nikidesaintphalle.org. Retrieved 20 May 2011. 

External links[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Jill Carrick, “Phallic Victories? Niki de Saint-Phalle’s Tirs”, Art History, vol 26, no. 5, November 2003, pp. 700–729.