b. 1921 — d. 1998
“I became myself the day I dared to do certain things that I thought were forbidden. To create, you have to have a great freshness, a great naivety. What we call the sacred fire. In the workshop, you forget yourself, and the material transforms you.”
César (César Baldaccini, 1921-1998) was born to Italian parents in the Belle de Mai quarter of Marseille, France. At the time, this area of the Mediterranean port city was chaotic and economically depressed, teeming with waves of immigrant populations and the detritus of their lives. The cross section of excess and deprivation that Marseille represented would serve as a significant source of César’s artistic endeavors.
First at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in his city of birth, and later at the school’s main outpost in Paris, César studied classical sculptural and drafting techniques until the late 1940s when he moved into a studio beneath the atelier of Alberto Giacometti. For economical reasons, César began collecting refuse metals and forging them into zoomorphic and anthropomorphic forms. Known as Fers (Irons), these objects acknowledge both the destruction of war and the subsequent reconstruction of Europe (both human and material). The works from this period demonstrate the artist’s fascination with salvaging life from waste and revealing the innumerable lives that lay hidden within material.
The New York Times Style Magazine