The Most Important French Sculptor of the Second Half of the XX Century

Valérie Da Costa, Professor at University of Strasbourg, talks about Germaine Richier's work

L'orco (1949) by Richier GermaineLa Galleria Nazionale


Germaine Richier was the most important French sculptor of the second half of the twentieth century, establishing herself on the French and international art scene, at the time largely dominated by male artists.

She is the only woman to have had a retrospective at the National Museum of Modern Art in Paris in 1956 during her lifetime.


Her work was short and lasted only 25 years, from the mid-thirties until 1959 (the year of her death).

But it is above all in the immediate post-war period, during her exile in Zurich, Switzerland, that the direction of her work asserts itself with its hybrid beings that cross the plant, mineral and human world by adding elements of the real world to the sculpture such as branches or leaves.


Or, also, observing nature and especially the world of insects to better make it part of her work.

Her representation is the result of the combination of these worlds that leads to a universe in which the real and imaginary mix.


Her work is supported by some of the most noteworthy names in French literature and literary criticism of the 1950s: Francis Ponge, Jean Paulhan, René de Solier, Henri Pieyre de Mandiargues, but also the writer Dominique Rolin.


In her studio, Germaine Richier shifts from the living model to the earth model that never stops metamorphosing while she works, exacerbating the material.

Her works can be read in female form. Her sculptures are named: The ant, the praying mantis, the leaf, the hurricane, the mountain.

Nature is the main subject of her work, the artist sees life in everything: a stone, a branch, a leaf.

This animist dimension is key to developing her sculpture as it allows her to understand how to link a man with a branch, a woman with a leaf.


This global awareness of life makes her an artist abreast with modern issues and allows us to ponder how her work fully aligns with our contemporaneity.

Credits: Story

Voice message by Valérie Da Costa, art historian, art critic and curator. Professor of Contemporary Art History (University of Strasbourg).

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