Marcel GILI (1914 - 1993)

Marcel Gili was born February 12, 1914 in Thuir in the eastern Pyrenees. The son of a stonecutter, he began his career in Gustave Violet’s studio at the age of 16. He quickly attracted the attention of Aristide Maillol, who soon had him working on his own sculptures and gave him much instruction and advice. He showed his first works in Perpignan in 1932 at the age of 18, and the following year, he helped organize the “Art Mural” salon in Paris. In Paris, he also came to know the members of the Abstraction-Creation group, including Robert Delaunay, Fernand Léger, and Raoul Dufy. After the war, he participated in the first “May Salon,” as well as in numerous group exhibitions, such as the Venice Biennale in 1948, The French Art Salon in Tokyo in 1951, The Salon of French Sculpture in Brussels in 1952, the Biennale of Open Air Sculpture in Antwerp in 1953 and 1955, and the Milan Triennale in 1954. He also showed his works in solo exhibitions at the Maison de la Culture in Bourges in 1955 and 1965 and in Paris at the Museum of Decorative Arts in 1954. In 1995, the Center for Contemporary Art in Saint-Cyprien presented a retrospective of his work. Gili taught at the Beaux-Arts school in Bourges, then at the Beaux-Arts in Paris until 1981. In his teaching, he shared his enthusiasm for art in all its forms. His earliest works were influenced by Maillol, but he destroyed most of these later on and in his later direct carvings, he distanced himself from the naturalist tradition of his master and his predecessors. He choose instead a measured modernism, mitigating his feminine curves and protuberances with a play of angular lines, all the while retaining his true sense of the monumental. His art remained profoundly humanist in the manner of his Pregnant Woman. He modeled clay, hammered brass or aluminum, and cast some of his pieces in bronze. During the 1960s he worked on two series, the Possibles and the Coverings, both of which explored the human face and its expressions. Toward the end of his life, he divided his time between his native Catalonia and Paris, where he died December 10, 1993.