Femme à la draperie, 1932
Zeus et Hermès, 1950
b. 1885, Paris, France
d. 1954, Paris, France
Henri Laurens was a French sculptor and illustrator, and is considered one of the pioneers of Cubist sculpture. Growing up, Laurens apprenticed with an ornamental sculptor, where he learned direct stone carving. While an apprentice, he also took evening drawing classes from the popular Parisian instructor “Père Perrin.” In 1911, he first met Georges Braque who, along with introducing Laurens to Cubism, also became a life-long friend. Laurens began his career creating wood and polychrome plaster sculptures, drawing on the tenets of Cubism and adopting Cubist subjects such as deconstructed human figures, guitars, and still lifes. In 1913, Laurens exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants and, two years later, met Juan Gris, Amedeo Modigliani, and Pablo Picasso. Picasso later introduced him to Léonce Rosenberg, who gave him a solo show at his Galerie de l’Effort Moderne in 1917.
As his career progressed, Laurens shifted toward subtle low-relief terracottas, eventually forsaking his fragmented geometric style in favor of a more natural, curvilinear one. After World War II, Laurens began to work more figuratively. Many of his works from this period were re-interpretations of Greco-Roman mythology. He became known for his highly abstract, rhythmic female nudes, often reclining or bathing, made from stone or bronze. Laurens was also prolific in collage, printmaking, and illustration, which is why his female nude motif is also iterated in drawings and low-sculpture reliefs. By the end of his career, Laurens’s oeuvre had reached international acclaim. He exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1948 and 1950, and received the Prize of the IV Centenary at the Bienal de São Paulo in 1953.