Maillol studied at the École des beaux-arts in Paris for eight years under the academic painters Cabanel and Gérôme. However, his painting soon distanced itself from that of his teachers. On the advice of Gauguin, in 1893 he joined the Post-Impressionist Nabis movement, and became a friend of Maurice Denis, a leader in the group.
From 1895, Maillol devoted himself to sculpture, as well as to tapestry; he set up a workshop for the latter in his hometown in 1897. About 1900, an eye disease led him to make small figurines in wood and clay, which became the basis for his monumental statues in bronze and stone.
With his massive, solidly built female nudes, the body was central to the sculptor’s work. Influenced by ancient civilizations—Greece, India, and Egypt—the artist endeavoured to express in form a feminine ideal that had certain similarities with Gauguin’s figures and Renoir’s late nudes.
Maillol created a relief in terracotta preliminary to Victory. This bronze, classical in its style, comes from an edition of six the artist made using the lost-wax casting technique at the Claude Valsuani foundry in Paris. The figure’s meditative pose, reminiscent of Maillol’s Douleur war memorial in the town of Céret, is characteristic of his artistic investigations. In contrast with Rodin’s art, the work reflects a return to classicism in sculpture. The drapery and crown of laurels (a symbol of victory) are a direct reference to classical Greek art, which the piece’s rectangular format emphasizes, calling to mind as it does the metopes topping the architraves of ancient temples.
© Estate of Aristide Maillol / SOCAN (2021)