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Henri Laurens

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Henri Laurens

*  1885 Paris
† 1954 Paris


Henri Laurens, born in Paris in 1885 as the son of a workman, trained at an early age in a decoration studio, where he modelled period-style ornaments and drew architectural designs. Afterwards Laurens worked on building sites and scaffolding, where he learnt the hands-on side of hewing stone. He also regularly attended the popular evening classes in drawing taught by 'Papa Perrin', who instilled in his pupils a serious attitude to craftsmanship. Laurens' first sculpture was influenced by Rodin until he met Braque in 1911. After encountering Cubism, Laurens began to translate the ideas of Analytical Cubism into sculpture, polychrome bas-relief and collages. Picasso, who liked what Laurens was doing, introduced the fledgling sculptor to Leónce Rosenberg, who was so enthusiastic about Laurens' work that he bought some of it and supported Laurens throughout the war years. A number of terracotta and stone reliefs Laurens did not long after the war reveal the influence of Jacques Lipchitz and African sculpture. By then repudiating Cubist geometric forms, Laurens again approached nature, developing an organic, curvilinear style in which he produced highly abstract, rhythmic figures - usually female nudes - that were poetic and powerful. In numerous works Laurens took up themes from Greco-Roman mythology and reinterpreted them. In 1944 Laurens started producing designs for 'La Grande Sirène' and in 1953 he did 'Amphion', a bronze sculpture over four metres high commissioned by the university city of Caracas, Venezuela. Laurens worked over each piece individually to ensure fullness and substance. Henri Laurens was awarded the Grand Prix for sculpture at the São Paolo Bienal in 1953. Apart from sculpture, Laurens' legacy comprises a copious graphic œuvre: woodcuts, etchings and book illustrations. Henri Laurens died in Paris on 5 May 1954.