Artist of the moment….Niki de Saint Phalle

Niki de Saint Phalle was a wonderful artist who excelled at painting, sculpting, and even produced some short films. Niki de Saint Phalle was born to a wealthy family in Neuilly-sur-Seine, Hauts-de-Seine, France. Her family was quite wealthy due to the family business of banking. Tough times and financial losses caused the family to relocate to the United States.

Price range information: The lowest priced works are serigraphs which can be found for less than one thousand dollars. Lithographs range $1,000 to $5,000. Acrylics range $10,000 to $70,000. Oils range $5,000 to $160,000. Sculpture works range from $10,000 to six figures.

The artist started her adult life as a fashion model appearing on the cover of Life magazine and also French Vogue before the age of 22 years old.

She married noted author Harry Matthews and moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her husband attended college to study music, Niki began to paint and find herself artistically.

At the beginning her family was unhappy and she chose to break the mold of living the married woman’s bourgeois lifestyle. The family wanted her at home raising the family and sticking to domestic activities. Living off the prestige and wealth of the family was a great lifestyle the men in the family thought. After having some mental difficulties the family gave their approval to allow her to pursue her artistic goals.

The artist was still modelling, at the time overseas in Paris, when she met American artist Hugh Weiss. Weiss gave her inspiration to keep painting and to develop her own style.  Weiss was himself a surrealist and modernist painter. Below is a great example of Weiss’s style.

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The artist also found inspiration from Spanish artist Antonio Gaudi. Gaudi was born in 1852 and became known for his style of art and architecture. Gaudi made de Saint Phalle aware of  creating a sculpture gardens and what I would call a gardenscape.

She divorced her first husband in the 1960s and remarried artist Jean Tinguely. Tinguely was himself an artist and the couple even produced some collaborations with de Saint Phalle. Tinguely was a Swiss artist that produced kinetic sculptures and also a fair amount of abstract works. Below is an example of one of his assemblage works.

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Niki de Saint Phalle and her second husband Jean Tingluey, the Swiss artist, made some collaborative works. Here is one.

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She started to produce her famous Nanas works in the mid 1960s. The works were made using plaster over wire and were painted white. For her shows she would also produce poems and even books for her show openings.

When comparing her sculptures to another artist I am reminded of the Colombian artist Fernando Botero. Both artists love to concentrate and softness of form and the curves of the female figure. Born in Medellin, Colombia Botero has sculptures around the world and below an example of his style.

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The artist has only one sculpture garden in the United States in Escondido, California. A link for the site:

http://queencalifia.org

A link to Niki de Saint Phalle’s website, great pictures of her sculpture gardens here!  http://www.nikidesaintphalle.com/

One of her largest sculpture gardens took twenty years to make and is located in Garavicchio, Tuscany.

Niki de Saint Phalle passed away in 2002 at the age of  seventy one years old.

Here we see some sculptures  located in Germany. The artist was made an honorary citizen of Hannover, Germany and donated 300 works of art to the city.

A retrospective show held at the Tate in London.

A great montage of works by Saint Phalle.

Niki de Saint Phalle is unique as an artist  because you have a child of privilege  that goes on to find her way in the world as a visual artist. Coming from a wealthy banking family her background in some ways it reminds me of Edgar Degas, who came from a family of wealthy bankers who lost their fortunes with an economic downturn. Her work is so playful and the colors and patters used make her work a great mixture of a highly talented artist mixed with the playfulness of  a child. Its reminds me of the quote attributed to Picasso. Everyone is an artist when they are a child. The tough thing to do is remain an artist as one grows up!

Draw or paint something on this first day of April!

D

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