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Miro, Calder, Giacometti, Braque - Royal Academy

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

AN EXHIBITION of works selected from the collections of the Fondation Maeght in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France, Miro, Calder, Giacometti, Braque: Aime Maeght and his Artists, will be on display at the Royal Academy of Arts from October 4, 2008 to January 2, 2009.

The exhibition tells the story of the remarkable role played in the history of twentieth-century art by Aime Maeght, the outstanding art-dealer, exhibition-maker and publisher. With his wife Marguerite, Maeght founded the celebrated Galerie Maeght in Paris at the end of 1945.

The gallery, which embodied an adventurous new spirit in post war Paris, opened with a show of Matisse’s drawings, and in 1947 mounted the notorious Surrealisme en 1947 exhibition, organised by Andre Breton and Marcel Duchamp.

During the years that followed, the gallery hosted significant exhibitions of the work of many artists, focusing particularly on Miro, Calder, Giacometti and Braque, who were closely linked to the gallery and to the Maeght family.

The Royal Academy’s exhibition will contain more than 140 paintings, sculptures, ceramics, prints, and artists’ books by these four artists, as well as works by Bonnard and Matisse. Little-known film footage of the artists at work and relaxing with their patron and his family will be shown, revealing the remarkably close relationship that existed between Aime Maeght and his artists.

The exhibition will open with works by Matisse and Bonnard, who played a key role in helping Aime Maeght to establish his gallery in November 1945. Bonnard’s intimate sketches of the Maeght children will be displayed alongside his magnificent, large-scale canvas Summer (1909), which encapsulates the spirit of the south of France. Matisse will be represented by several drawings, including The Bush (1951) and his affectionate portrait of Marguerite Maeght.

An entire gallery will be devoted to the work of Miro and Calder, who were united not only by a close personal friendship but by a love of colour and an exuberant and playful approach to the making of art. This is expressed in Calder’s inventive mobiles and stabiles and in Miro’s bold pictorial compositions and highly original ceramics.

Another gallery will bring together works by the two great twentieth-century masters – Giacometti and Braque. Sculptures by Giacometti will range from his famous Surrealist piece, Spoon Woman (1926), to the great sculptures that he made in 1960, Standing Woman and Walking Man. The sombre mood of these solitary figures finds an echo in Braque’s moving and majestic late canvases.

Always proud of his early training as a lithographer and publisher, Aime Maeght encouraged his artists to make prints and artists’ books (livres d’artiste). The final gallery will display outstanding examples of collaborations between poets and artists in artists’ books, as well as original prints, which will range from large, vivid lithographs by Miro and Calder, to Braque’s subtle explorations of the medium and the introspective, spectral figures that Giacometti drew from the lithographer’s stone.

A spectacular collage of the covers of Derriere le Miroir, the periodical that served as a catalogue for each of the Galerie Maeght’s exhibitions, illustrated by the artists’ original lithographs, will close the exhibition.

Admission: £9 full price; £8 registered disabled and 60+ years; £7 NUS/ISIC cardholders; £4 – 12 to 18 years and Income Support; £3 – 8 to 11 years; free – 7 and under.

Times: Daily from 10am to 6pm (last admission 5:30pm); Fridays until 10pm (last admission 9:30pm).