The marvelous and visionary French sculptor Claude Lalanne died on April 10 in Fontainebleau at age 93. I had the privilege to know her and her husband Francois-Xavier Lalanne (who died in 2008), since I had organized an exhibition of their collaborative work in Lyon in 1989. My visits to their farm and studio in Ury, where the artists were surrounded with hens, cats and rabbits in a garden that inspired their poetic work, remain fond memories.
Claude neo-art-nouveau copper and bronze sculptures, playing with the vegetal and animal world, carry a Surrealist touch, such as “L’Homme à la tête de choux” (man with a cabbage head, chosen by Serge Gainsbourg for the cover of his eponymous album), Pomme d’Hiver (a large-scale bronze apple), Choupatte Géante (a cabbage with chicken feet), a series of Crocodile benches, intricate candlesticks or mirrors framed by bronze foliage. She also made sinuous jewelry and pieces of furniture often molded from twisted branches, leaves and flowers.
She was admired and collected by leading fashion designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, with whom she collaborated on jewelry as well as two robes. “What I find so appealing is that she combines craftsmanship and poetry with the same standards of excellence. Her beautiful sculptor’s hands seem to part the mists of mystery to attain the shores of art,” Yves Saint Laurent once said about his partner.
Next summer, the Clark Art Institute will host an exhibition of work by Les Lalanne.
She will be greatly missed.