Artwork Detail

Monument à Debussy (Monument to Debussy)
c. 1930
French, 1861–1944
Cast bronze
35 x 20 x 37 "
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Morton D. May, 1969
WU 4413
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Homage à Debussy by the French artist Aristide Maillol presents a quiet and self-contained female nude devoid of descriptive detail or emotion. The essence of Maillol’s crouching sculpture resides not in a naturalistic representation of a person or a dramatic depiction of movement, but in its smooth lines and simplified form. The surface of the bronze sculpture is even and non-expressive, and the shape is composed of a series of soft curving lines. Instead of trying to emulate the dynamism of twentieth-century life, as did so many artists of his time, Maillol sought an art of serenity and stillness, of classical elegance and simplicity. "For my taste,” the artist declared in 1937, “there should be as little movement as possible in sculpture." As the title of this work suggests, the sculpture was created in homage to Claude Debussy, the experimental French composer associated with Symbolism, a movement that championed the idea of art for art’s sake, rejecting external or objective reality in favor of subjective, intuitive ideals. The sobriety and perfection of Maillol’s nude reflects both the artist’s desire to reinvigorate the classical tradition of Greek and Roman sculpture and his commitment to a relatively conservative artistic approach bolstered by principles of formal beauty and constancy.[Cell phone tour, 2019]