Claude Lalanne best-known for her Surrealist inspired sculptures and Neo-Art-Nouveau bronze furniture and jewelry depicting flowers and playful animals has died in Fontainebleau, at the age of 93.
I adore my work, and I normally work in the atelier every day, where I create models with my hands – Claude Lalanne
She studied architecture in Paris at the École des Beaux-Arts and the École des Arts Décoratifs. After marrying François-Xavier Lalanne in the 1960s, the two began to work closely alongside each other and exhibit as ‘Les Lalanne’, receiving early commissions from Yves Saint Laurent. The Lalannes’ work is represented in many prominent collections around the world, including the National Design Museum, New York; Cooper Hewitt Museum, New York; Musée Nationale d’Art Moderne, Paris; Musée d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris; and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.
Claude was recognised for creating original and imaginative bronze objects that straddled the line between the fine and decorative arts. Working closely with her husband, Francois-Xavier Lalanne, she produced a diverse body of sculptural work ranging from oversized animal figures to Neo-Art-Nouveau furniture based on tree branches and other vegetation. By adding whimsical aspects to functional objects, she aimed to enrich life by injecting art into the everyday. Lalanne and her husband chose not to embrace the abstraction that pervaded the mid-20th-century art world, preferring to represent real-life subjects (for Claude, typically some form of plant life) in a manner often regarded as surreal. This approach won her great acclaim, and her work has been widely collected, including by Yves Saint Laurent, who commissioned Lalanne to create a mirrored room with vine-like mouldings for his home.
Les Lalanne François-Xavier Lalanne (1927–2008) and Claude Lalanne (1924–2019 created a large body of fantastical work. While the Pop Art movement was enjoying considerable success in the 1960s, the couple were making nature-inspired sculptures based on animal and plant forms. As early as 1965, Yves Saint Laurent commissioned from them the legendary bar that would first occupy his apartment on the Place Vauban before being moved to his library on the Rue de Babylone. A mirror commissioned by Saint Laurent sold in this estate sale at Christie’s for £1.2m
Francois-Xavier Lalanne was born in Agen, France, and received a Jesuit education. At age 18, he moved to Paris and studied sculpture, drawing and painting at Académie Julian. In 1948 Lalanne worked as an attendant at the Louvre in the Oriental antique section. Francois-Xavier rented a studio in Montparnasse, next door to friend Constantin Brâncuși, after completing mandatory military service. Brâncuși introduced Lalanne to artists such as Max Ernst, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, and Jean Tinguely. He met Claude Lalanne at his first gallery show in 1952. The show signified an end of painting for François-Xavier as he and Claude began their career sculpting together.
The Lalannes’ charming, dreamy, and surrealistic body of functional sculptures will be influential for years to come.
Top Photo: P C Robinson © Artlyst 2019
Les Lalanne is represented by Paul Kasmin Gallery in New York City and Ben Brown Fine Arts in London.