Musée Maillol, Paris

Musee Maillol, a small museum devoted to the work of Aristide Maillol, a pioneering turn-of-the-century sculptor.

14 Apr 20 · 6 mins read

Musée Maillol, Paris

Home to the Seine-front Musee d’Orsay, the Eiffel Tower, and the Hotel des Invalides, the 7th arrondissement features heavily on the standard sightseeing tour of Paris. But head into the quiet streets of this residential neighbourhood and you’ll find one of the many hidden gems of the ‘city of light’: the Musee Maillol, a small museum devoted to the work of Aristide Maillol, a pioneering turn-of-the-century sculptor.

Aristide Maillol
Aristide Maillol. Photograph by Alfred Kuhn, 1925.

Born in provincial France, the young Aristide Maillol decided at an early age to become a painter. He moved to Paris and – after several rejections – was accepted to the École des Beaux-Arts. Influenced by Paul Gauguin, Maillol took up tapestry art, opening a tapestry workshop that brought him recognition around France. Soon after, he turned his interest to sculpture, which would soon define his artistic career.

Maillol’s artistic style would be defined by his monumental female nudes. Taking inspiration from Greek sculpture, his works emphasised the formal lines of the body in a time when the dominant tendency in sculpture was influenced by the naturalism and emotion of Auguste Rodin. Some of his most famous sculptures include The Mediterranean (La Méditerranée, 1905), a sitting/reclining figure based on his wife, Clotilde Nargis, and Ile de France, a female nude that retains a placid, self-sufficient air, even as she is in motion.

Aristide Maillol, Woman Arranging Her Hair (1936). The Met.

Dana Vierny and the Maillol Museum:

The Maillol museum was established in 1995 by Dina Vierny, the artist’s last model and muse. Housed in a hotel particulier (grand townhouse) that was the residence of the poet Alfred de Musset in the 19th century. In the 1950s it hosted a cabaret, run by the surrealist poet Jacques Prévert and his brother Pierre, which was associated with the bohemian writers and artists of the Latin Quarter and Saint Germain neighbourhoods on the ‘left bank’ of the Seine River. While the museum holds the majority of his works, several can be seen in the Tuileries Garden.

In addition to Maillol’s works, the Museum is home to a number of interesting works of modern art from Vierny’s private collection. Vierny was particularly passionate about the primitive artists of the 1920s and beyond, who followed the lead of Henri Rousseau. Several of Rousseau’s works can be seen in the collection. His Portrait of Frumence Biche in Civil portrays Biche, a soldier, in his ‘civil’ dining wear:

Henri Rousseau
Henri Rousseau, Portrait of Frumence Biche in Civil.

The museum also displays The Spirits of the Forest, one of Rousseau’s celebrated ‘jungle scenes’. Rousseau, who had never been to the jungle, combined flora and fauna that did not exist in reality, which – combined with his off-kilter scale and large-eyed, simplistic animals – gave his scenes a dreamlike, surreal quality:

Henri Rousseau, The Spirits of the Forest.
The first ‘modern primitive’ artist to to attract Vierny’s attention was André Bauchant, a self-taught artist who produced hundreds of paintings over a thirty-year span. A First World War veteran, Bauchant was inspired by his love of Greek mythology and wartime stopover in the Greek islands to paint simple, stark depictions of events and places derived from mythology. Below, the Styx (the river in hell) is portrayed as emerging from cliffs, rendered on the basis of his memory of Greece:
The River Styx, portrayed by André Bauchant.

A gardener by trade, Bauchant was fascinated by flowers, particularly dahlias, which he portrayed in numerous paintings – even posing alongside them for his self-portrait.

André Bauchant’s self-portrait portrays himself with flowers.
Dahlias painted by André Bauchant.
André Bauchant, Bouquet Le Corbusier
The self-taught painter Camille Bombois – who had previously worked as a farm labourer, metro worker, and fairground entertainer – was celebrated for his lively depictions of circus scenes, pastoral landscapes, and sun-dappled suburban streets. One of several depictions of young girls, his Fillette a la poupée portrays a young girl playing with a doll in a suburban home.
Camille Bombois
Camille Bombois, Fillette a la poupée (1925)

Competed during the German occupation of World War II, Jean Eve’s Huile sur Toile lovingly evokes a sumptuous meal – which was of course, denied during the period of privations.

Jean Eve
Jean Eve, Huile sur Toile (1941)

One of the most interesting self-taught painters in Vierny’s collection is Séraphine Louis, a lay nun and housekeeper who claimed that the Virgin Mary had come to her in a dream, urging her to take up painting. Beginning her career at around forty, her floral paintings became ever-more surreal and dreamlike throughout her career. She believed that the end of the world was approaching, and many of her paintings have an apocalyptic feel:

Louis Louis

Odyssey Traveller visits the Maillol Museum as part of our tour of Paris, 21 Days in Paris. This guided tour aims to explore the city in depth. You will live like a Parisian in a self-catered apartment, and explore the art, history, and literature of the city with the help of our expert guide.

Did you know that – with over 297 galleries, museums, and historic sights – Paris has the most cultural attractions in the world? You’re probably familiar with some of them – the Louvre and Mona Lisa, the Eiffel Tower, and the Palace of Versailles. But many of the remainder lie off the standard Paris sightseeing path. On this tour of Paris, we aim to bring you to some of Paris’s lesser known museums, including the Maillol Museum.

On this trip, every tour guide is chosen for their local expertise. We take you on a tour of places associated with the French Revolution, including Place de la Concorde, where Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI were executed, and the Arc de Triomphe, at the end of the Champs Elysees, dedicated to the soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. We make a walking tour of the Latin Quarter haunts of Enlightenment thinkers, and visit Montmartre and the Moulin Rouge. Those with a love of church architecture will enjoy our vists to Notre Dame Cathedral, Sacre Coeur, Sainte Chapelle, the priory of Saint Germain des Pres, and our day trip to Amiens, where we take a walking tour of a UNESCO World Heritage listed cathedral.

Our tours in Paris are designed to give you plenty of time for independent Paris sightseeing. If it’s your first time in the ‘city of light‘, we recommend the classics: Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, a river cruise down the Seine, and a day tour of Versailles, particularly the Marie Antoinette’s Hamlet. If you’ve been to Paris before, think about getting off the beaten path. Why not make a bike tour through one of the city‘s many parks? Or take a food tour of the markets where the top French chefs buy their ingredients? Whatever your interests, our tour guide and tour director will be happy to make suggestions so that you can make the most of your optional excursions.

Odyssey Traveller has been serving world travellers since 1983. Every Odyssey guided tour is designed for mature and senior travellers who want to learn as they travel, seeking an informed experience of their destinations. Whether you’re taking this tour of Paris, on a trip through the Loire Valley, or visiting Germany’s oldest city, Trier, every Odyssey city tour or bus tour is limited to a small group of between six and twelve, so that you can meet like-minded people and benefit from the expertise of your guide. If that interests you, click here for more information.

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