Pastoral Lovers Of French Painter, Engraver, and Sculptor Aristide Maillol
3 september 2021 

Pastoral Lovers Of French Painter, Engraver, and Sculptor Aristide Maillol

In this article, we’ll look at Aristide Maillol’s sensual sculptures and illustrations for texts by Vergil and Horace. These simple red and black prints give us an engaging representation of the Golden Age.

portrait Maillol

Fig. 1. Maillol (Wikipedia.org)

Master of Tapestry and Genius of Sculpture

Aristide Maillol (1861-1944) was the penultimate of five kids in the family of the linen merchant in Roussillon. His aunt Lucie was taking care of his education. Maillol began studying at the Saint-Louis-de-Gonzague Catholic school. At the age of 21, he enrolled at the National School of Fine Arts in Paris. His mentors were Jean-Léon Gérôme and Alexandre Cabanel. Maillol’s artistic vision shaped under the influence of Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and Paul Gauguin. The latter stimulated his interest in decorative art. Besides, the artist was deeply impressed by the famous The Lady and The Unicorn tapestry in the Cluny museum and eventually opened a tapestry workshop in Banyuls in 1893. The quality and esthetic perfection of his production allowed him to gain public recognition. In 1895, Mailol began creating small terracotta sculptures influenced by Greek statues. His wife, Clotilde Narcis, was the first model for paintings and sculptures. Maillol’s exhibitions, which were held in 1900-1902 years, struck Rodin and Mirbeau. As Rodin once said, “Maillol has the genius of sculpture… You have to be in bad faith, or very ignorant, not to recognize him.”

The Lady and The Unicorn Maillol

Fig. 2. The Lady and The Unicorn, 1500s (Wikipedia.org)

Tapestry by Maillol

Fig. 3. Tapestry by Maillol, 1895 (vangoghmuseum.nl)

Maillol The Crouching Woman

Fig. 4. The Crouching Woman (hermitagemuseum.org)

The Bather Holding Her Hair by Maillol

Fig. 5. The Bather Holding Her Hair (hermitagemuseum.org)

Pure Geometry

The Mediterranean, created in 1905, is one of the most recognizable among early Maillol’s works. The thoughtful naked girl seated with the elbow on her knee is an example of the perfect geometric composition not involving any conceptual content. As André Gide noted, “It is beautiful, it means nothing, it is a silent work.” This “silence” can be understood as a concept itself, which makes works of Maillol close to classic Japanese art, namely, to geometrically perfect compositions of Hokusai. The female body was the main subject of Maillol’s mature oeuvres.

The Mediterranean by Maillot

Fig. 6. The Mediterranean, 1905 (Wikipedia.org)

The River by Aristide Maillot

Fig. 7. The River, 1938-1943 (Wikipedia.org)

the air aristide maillot

Fig. 8. The Air, 1938 (Wikipedia.org)

the desire by Aristide Maillol

Fig. 9. The Desire (Wikipedia.org)

the bather by Aristide Maillol

Fig. 10. The Bather (Wikipedia.org)

Two Women On Grass maillot

Fig. 11. Two Women On Grass (artprice.com)

Woodcuts

In the 1920s and the 1930s, the artist also produced woodcuts for The Eclogues, then The Georgics by Virgil, The Art of Love by Ovid, and Daphnis and Chloe by Longus. The female body is the prevailing motif of these simple yet expressive images. Bathing or dancing naked girls, amorous couples, satyrs, and nymphs surrounded by the Latin poems (one of which, written by Horace, you can read below) make the editions very appealing to look through. The woodcuts contain the same perfect spirit of Apollonian quiescence that distinguishes Maillol’s sculpture works.

Cupid drawing his bow, Maillot

Fig. 12. Cupid drawing his bow, illustration to Virgil’s ‘Eclogae & Georgica, 1926 (britishmuseum.org)

Sitting figure with his elbow on the knee as in The Mediterranean

Fig. 13. Sitting figure with his elbow on the knee as in The Mediterranean, illustration to Virgil’s ‘Eclogae & Georgica, 1926 (britishmuseum.org)

aristide maillol artist

Fig. 14. The Satyr and The Nymph Bathing In a River, illustration to Virgil’s ‘Eclogae & Georgica, 1926 (britishmuseum.org)

Two Nymph In a River by Aristide Maillol

Fig. 15. Two Nymphs In a River, illustration to Virgil’s ‘Eclogae & Georgica, 1926 (britishmuseum.org)

Virgil Old bearded man Maillol

Fig. 16. Old bearded man, illustration to Virgil’s ‘Eclogae & Georgica, 1926 (britishmuseum.org)

aristide maillol Young man playing the panpipes

Fig. 17. Young man playing the panpipes, illustration to Virgil’s ‘Eclogae & Georgica, 1926 (britishmuseum.org)

Young man playing the panpipes by Maillol

Fig. 18. Reclining girl on the riverbank, illustration to Virgil’s ‘Eclogae & Georgica, 1926 (britishmuseum.org)

Reclining girl on the riverbank by Aristide Maillol

Fig. 19. Two musicians playing panpipes, illustration to Virgil’s ‘Eclogae & Georgica, 1926 (britishmuseum.org)

aristide maillol art

Fig. 20. Leda and the swan embracing, illustration to Virgil’s ‘Eclogae & Georgica, 1926 (britishmuseum.org)

Reclining nude Aristide Maillol

Fig. 21. Reclining nude, c. 1938 (britishmuseum.org)

Young couple making love Aristide Maillol

Fig. 22. Young couple making love, illustration, printed in sanguine ink, to Longus’ ‘Daphnis and Chloë’ (London: A. Zwemmer, 1937, britishmuseum.org)

Young couple making love on couch Aristide Maillol

Fig. 23. Young couple making love on couch, illustration, printed in sanguine ink, to Longus’ ‘Daphnis and Chloë’ (London: A. Zwemmer, 1937, britishmuseum.org)

Couple embracing in grass

Fig. 24. Couple embracing in grass, illustration, printed in sanguine ink, to Longus’ ‘Daphnis and Chloë’ (London: A. Zwemmer, 1937, britishmuseum.org)

Couple embracing in grass

Fig. 25. Man fondling woman’s breast, illustration, printed in sanguine ink, to Longus’ ‘Daphnis and Chloë’ (London: A. Zwemmer, 1937, britishmuseum.org)

Nude couple making love beside the tree

Fig. 26. Nude couple making love beside the tree, illustration, printed in sanguine ink, to Longus’ ‘Daphnis and Chloë’ (London: A. Zwemmer, 1937, britishmuseum.org)

Young man approaching the reclining girl

Fig. 27. Young man approaching the reclining girl, illustration, printed in sanguine ink, to Longus’ ‘Daphnis and Chloë’ (London: A. Zwemmer, 1937, britishmuseum.org)

aristide maillol Young couple on grass

Fig. 28. Young couple on grass, illustration, printed in sanguine ink, to Longus’ ‘Daphnis and Chloë’ (London: A. Zwemmer, 1937, britishmuseum.org)

Young woman being carried by a bearded man

Fig. 29. Young woman being carried by a bearded man, illustration, printed in sanguine ink, to Longus’ ‘Daphnis and Chloë’ (London: A. Zwemmer, 1937, britishmuseum.org)

Young man and woman kissing

Fig. 30. Young man and woman kissing, illustration, printed in sanguine ink, to Longus’ ‘Daphnis and Chloë’ (London: A. Zwemmer, 1937, britishmuseum.org)

aristide maillol Nude young couple;

Fig. 31. Nude young couple; woman embraces man’s chest, illustration, printed in sanguine ink, to Longus’ ‘Daphnis and Chloë’ (London: A. Zwemmer, 1937, britishmuseum.org)

Nude young woman diving into water

Fig. 32. Nude young woman diving into water, illustration, printed in sanguine ink, to Longus’ ‘Daphnis and Chloë’ (London: A. Zwemmer, 1937, britishmuseum.org)

Young couple standing in water Maillol

Fig. 33. Young couple standing in water, illustration, printed in sanguine ink, to Longus’ ‘Daphnis and Chloë’ (London: A. Zwemmer, 1937, britishmuseum.org)

Young man and woman embracing Maillol

Fig. 34. Young man and woman embracing, illustration, printed in sanguine ink, to Longus’ ‘Daphnis and Chloë’ (London: A. Zwemmer, 1937, britishmuseum.org)

aristide maillol Young man and woman embracing Maillol

Fig. 35. Young man embracing woman, illustration, printed in sanguine ink, to Longus’ ‘Daphnis and Chloë’ (London: A. Zwemmer, 1937, britishmuseum.org)

Pregnant woman putting a man’s hand on her belly Maillol

Fig. 36. Pregnant woman putting a man’s hand on her belly, illustration, printed in sanguine ink, to Longus’ ‘Daphnis and Chloë’ (London: A. Zwemmer, 1937, britishmuseum.org)

Cautious woman and man making love amongst vines

Fig. 37. Cautious woman and man making love amongst vines, illustration, printed in sanguine ink, to Longus’ ‘Daphnis and Chloë’ (London: A. Zwemmer, 1937, britishmuseum.org)

Young couple making love on grass Maillol

Fig. 38. Young couple making love on grass, illustration, printed in sanguine ink, to Longus’ ‘Daphnis and Chloë’ (London: A. Zwemmer, 1937, britishmuseum.org)

Young couple preparing for love-making

Fig. 39. Young couple preparing for love-making, illustration, printed in sanguine ink, to Longus’ ‘Daphnis and Chloë’ (London: A. Zwemmer, 1937, britishmuseum.org)

Reclining woman Aristide Maillol Art

Fig. 40. Reclining woman, title page of the second book of Horace’s Odes, 1939 (hermitagemuseum.org)

Venus, be Merciful (Book IV, I)
(translated by A. S. Kline)

Venus, now you’ve returned again
to battles long neglected. Please, oh please, spare me.
I’m not prey to the power of kind
Cinara, as once I was. After fifty years,
cruel mother of sweet Cupids,
leave one now who’s hardened to your soft commands:
take yourself there, where seductive
prayers, from the young men, invite you to return.
It would be better still for you,
lifted by wings of gleaming swans, to adventure
to Paulus Maximus’s house,
if you want a worthy heart to set on fire.
Since he’s noble and he’s handsome,
and he’s not un-eloquent, for anxious clients:
he’s a lad of a hundred skills,
and he’ll carry your army’s standard far and wide:
and he’ll laugh when he’s successful
despite his rival’s expensive gifts, and he’ll raise,
just for you, by the Alban Lake,
a statue in marble, under a wooden roof.
You’ll smell rich incense, and you’ll take
delight in the notes of the lyre, when they’re mingled
with the Berecyntian flute’s,
and the sound of the reed pipes won’t be absent, there:
while sweet, virgin girls celebrate
your power, there, twice every day, see the young boys
beat the ground with their snow-white feet,
in a triple measure, like Salian dancers.
Women and boys can’t please me now,
nor those innocent hopes of mutual feeling,
nor wine-drinking competitions,
nor foreheads circled by freshly-gathered flowers.
But why, ah Ligurinus, why
should tears gather here on my cheeks, from time to time?
Why does my tongue, once eloquent,
fall indecorously silent while I’m speaking?
In dreams, at night, hard-hearted one,
I hold you prisoner, or follow you in flight,
over the grassy Fields of Mars,
or wing with you above the inconstant waters.

Bathing women Horace Maillol

Fig. 41. Bathing women, illustration to Horace’s Odes, 1939 (hermitagemuseum.org)

Satyr and two bathing nymphs Maillol

Fig. 42. Satyr and two bathing nymphs, illustration to Horace’s Odes, 1939 (hermitagemuseum.org)

Two bathing women Maillol

Fig. 43. Two bathing women, illustration to Horace’s Odes, 1939 (hermitagemuseum.org)

Two nudes in water Aristide Maillol

Fig. 44. Two nudes in water, illustration to Horace’s Odes, 1939 (hermitagemuseum.org)

Two bathing women Maillol

Fig. 45. Two bathing women, illustration to Horace’s Odes, 1939 (hermitagemuseum.org)

aristide maillol Embracing nude couple

Fig. 46. Embracing nude couple, illustration to Horace’s Odes, 1939 (hermitagemuseum.org)

Two nude women standing in water

Fig. 47. Two nude women standing in water, illustration to Horace’s Odes, 1939 (hermitagemuseum.org)

Nude woman with grass Maillol

Fig. 48. Nude woman with grass, illustration to Horace’s Odes, 1939 (hermitagemuseum.org)

Maillol Two naked women

Fig. 49. Two naked women, illustration to Horace’s Odes, 1939 (hermitagemuseum.org)

Two women reclining in the garden

Fig. 50. Two women reclining in the garden, illustration to Horace’s Odes, 1939 (hermitagemuseum.org)

Couple making love Aristide Maillol

Fig. 51. Couple making love, illustration to Horace’s Odes, 1939 (hermitagemuseum.org)

Couple making love on the bed Maillol

Fig. 52. Couple making love on the bed, illustration to Horace’s Odes, 1939 (hermitagemuseum.org)

Two women lying on grass

Fig. 53. Two women lying on grass, illustration to Horace’s Odes, 1939 (hermitagemuseum.org)

aristide maillol Two reclining women

Fig. 54. Two reclining women, illustration to Horace’s Odes, 1939 (hermitagemuseum.org)

Sources: Wikipedia.org; britishmuseum.org; hermitagemuseum.org; poetryintranslation.com

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About the author
Darya is a philologist who lives and works in Saint-Petersburg, Russia. She is specialized in Russian literature.
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