Claude Lalanne

Claude Lalanne

Biography of Claude Lalanne ( 1925-2019 )

Born into a family of artists, with a musician mother and a sister who was a weaver, Claude Dupeux was naturally gifted in drawing.  As a teenager, she left high school for health reasons and decided to study at the School of Decorative Arts with the painter François Desnoyer, then joined Vivien's architecture classes at the National School of Fine Arts.  Claude also attended drawing classes at the “Académie Libre de la Grande-Chaumière”, and took courses in clay modelling and plaster mould making with the sculptor Robert Coutin. 

The young artist also spent a lot of time with her father, a mysterious and esoteric figure. He had set up a laboratory in the basement of the family home, where he devoted himself to the transmutation of metals in search of the philosopher's stone. At his side, Claude became familiar with the various metal alloys. 

The diversity of these teachings allowed Claude to develop an exceptional visual acuity and a sense of measure that made her a virtuoso sculptor.  Her fertile imagination is a major asset in the conception of her works for which she allowed herself the most unexpected assemblies.

With a particularly inquisitive personality, Claude embarked on her electroplating journey like a magician's apprentice. This process, which consists of using electroplating to cover an object with a thin layer of metal, allows her to transform everything she touches into copper.  The young woman developed her own technique for electroplating. Galvanised by her experiments, Claude moulded - not without risk - everything that inspired her: flowers, animals, body parts, a cabbage leaf. François Xavier Lalanne would later say that "the cabbage leaf is to Claude what the acanthus leaf was to Greek art!

Claude Lalanne has created and sculpted objects with a concern for natural aesthetics combined with practical design. Her floral and animal-inspired creations reveal a universe, a singular work drawing on her love of nature and a strong utilitarian desire.

Claude Lalanne was also known for her collaborations with her husband François-Xavier Lalanne, whom she met in a gallery in 1952, and with whom she became famous under the name "Les Lalanne". Claude was fascinated by plants, François-Xavier by animals. The tone was set with their first joint exhibition in 1964, entitled "Zoophites". François-Xavier presented the "Rhinocrétaire", the first brass rhinoceros-desk, and Claude "Choupattes", a sculpture that was half-cabbage and half-animal.

The cabbage: a vegetable that marked the sculptor's work and inspired other artists. One of these famous works made in 1968, "The Man with the cabbage head", inspired Serge

Gainsbourg for his 1976 concept album. A sculpture that the artist himself had acquired, and in which he projected himself, like a sort of "half vegetable-half man" avatar: "I came across The Man with the Cabbage Head in the window of a contemporary art gallery. Fifteen times I retraced my steps, then under hypnosis, I pushed open the door, paid cash and had it delivered to my home. At first he gave me the cold shoulder, then he thawed out and told me his story," said Serge Gainsbourg.

 Claude Lalanne worked with Pierre Bergé, Loulou de la Falaise and Yves Saint-Laurent.  For Yves Saint-Laurent's autumn-winter 1969 collection, the artist made casts of the breasts and stomach of the model Veruschka. This casting adorned two dresses in vaporous blue and black muslin. She also created numerous jewellery-sculptures in galvanic copper, such as finger jewellery, gilded copper sheaths moulded directly onto the hand. Yves Saint-Laurent was won over and the two designers worked together until the death of the couturier. "What touches me about her is that she was able to combine craftsmanship and poetry in the same way. Her beautiful sculptor's hands seem to push aside the mists of mystery to reach the shores of art," confided Yves Saint Laurent on the subject of his friend.

Claude and François-Xavier worked together in perfect harmony, so much so that throughout their careers their first names disappear in favour of their surnames. As artist-craftsmen, they completely abolished the hierarchy of the arts and played with styles.

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