Henri Laurens (1885-1954)

Henri Laurens began his education doing decorative work and making direct carvings, while also taking evening courses in drawing from Père Perrin. Around 1905, he met his future wife, Marthe Duverger, and in 1911, he got to know Georges Braque, who became a close friend and introduced him to cubism. Up to 1918 or 1920, Laurens’ work encompassed collages, multi-media polychrome constructions, colored reliefs, and cubist sculptures. Then his pieces began to change, becoming denser, their sharp edges smoothing out and their curves softening. The human body became his sole subject, and the female dominated­ nymph or siren; standing, reclining, or crouching; carved from marble, moulded in terra cotta, or cast in lead or bronze. From 1924 to 1931, he also worked in the fields of architecture and decoration, accepting commissions from the decorator Jean-Michel Franck, the Viscount of Noailles, Jacques Doucet, and the Russian Ballet. His drawing evolved along with his sculpture; in the course of his career, he illustrated Pierre Reverdy’s first book of poems, Raymond Radiguet’s Les Pelicans, Theocritus’ Idylls, and Lucien de Samosate’s L’Ane.

In 1921, Daniel Henri Kahnweiler became his dealer, which brought his work to the attention of a much wider public. This additional exposure resulted in various prizes, including the Helena Rubinstein Prize in 1935. His visibility was further raised by the many group shows in which he exhibited; he showed work in Paris in 1937, 1939, 1942, and 1945, in New York in 1938 and 1953, in Scandinavia in 1938, at the Venice Biennale in 1948, and in Brussels in 1949.