César Baldaccini, commonly referred to as César, was a French sculptor born in 1921 in Marseille. From 1935 to 1939 he studied drawing at the école supérieure des beaux-arts de Marseille. In 1937 he received three awards in drawing, architecture and etching before being accepted at the école nationale supérieure de beaux-arts in 1943 with Albert Féraud, Daniel David, and Michel Guino.

The body is a key theme of César’s that he examines regularly through various new artistic techniques. He was inspired by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti, Germaine Richier, Pablo Gargallo and Julio Gonzales. The elevated price of stone led the artist to turn to plaster and iron in 1947. He collected found objects such as tubes, birch, nails and incorporated them in his works under the form of insects or in the curvatures of the Vénus de Villetaneuse (1962). His most renowned works are called “compressions,” made after his discovery of a hydraulic press in Gennevilliers. Inspired by the “ready made” of Duchamp, he utilised objects of everyday life and of consumerism.

He settled down in a studio in Paris in 1957 and married Rosine Groult-Baldaccini with who he had a daughter Anna. In 1958 he signed a contact with a Parisian gallery Claude Bernard then exhibited his compressed cars at the Salon de Mai. From 1967 he proposed “expansions” in polyurethane. His works Le Pouce, Le Centaure (an hommage to Picasso), as well as the creation of trophies for the César of cinema are remarquable pieces of the artist. César joined the “nouveau réaliste” group in 1961, founded by the art critic Pierre Restany, comprising notably of Gérard Deschamps, Niki de Saint Phalle, Arman, Raymond Hains and Yves Klein.

His monumental 3.40 meters long work L’Esturgeon in forged iron was acquired by the National Museum of Modern Art in 1955 and enabled him to win the “Prix des Trois Arts” from the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. In 2018, a big retrospective was dedicated to him at the Pompidou Center by Bernard Blistène. The works of César are conserved internationally at the National Museum of Modern Art in Paris, The Tate Gallery (London), the Museum of Modern Art (New York) amongst others.
Photo Credit : © Giancarlo Botti