Friday, April 15, 2011

Maillol's girl friend

One of the perks
of being a famous old man
is the company
of beautiful young women.

And so in 1930
the 69 year old
Aristide Maillol (1861-1944)
fell in love with his model,
Lucile Passavant (1910 - ?),
who posed for the above figure.

Maillol didn't do portraits,
but Lucile was the model for this head.

And Lucile was the model for the middle figure
of these Three Graces.

But Lucile was more than just a model,
as one may surmise from these excerpts
from the journal of his patron,
Count Harry Kessler:

"Mme Maillol accompanied me to the studio where, as she phrased it, ‘il a modele’. Maillol introduced me to his ‘model’, Lucile Passavant, who was just dressing again. I did not find her very beautiful. She is somewhat plump and rather crudely rouged. But she is intelligent. Maillot showed me some ceramic figures which he promptly followed and expostulated, ‘Voyez-vous comme ma femmë est insupportable; elle ne veut pas que je vous parle seul. Je n’en peux plus. Elle me fait des scenes perpétuelles,’ and so on.. I had already said to Mme Maillol in the garden that it would do her husband, who is still in poor health, good to have a change of air. She agreed. I now again proposed to him that he should come with me to Weimar. He accepted with visible pleasure and relief, disappointed only to the extent that we shall not be able to leave until next week. He appeared to assume as a matter of course that Mlle Passavant would accompany us and that his wife would not be aware of the fact.

It amounts to a thoroughgoing flight from the married state, and in the case of a sixty-seven-year-old man there is something tragic about that. I have however no scruples about assisting him. For the past thirty years his wife has, with her insane jealousy, stood in his way and prevented him from ever having an acceptable model. He has had to make do with all sorts of of random photographs and magazines devoted to nudes.

I invited Maillot to come to lunch tomorrow. If he liked, he could bring along Mlle Passavant and we could mise au point the execution of his woodcuts by her. He was delighted. When we returned to the garden, ‘Clotilde’, as Mailiol calls his wife, could not hide her ill-humour at my offering to take Mlle Passavant with me in the car to Paris. On the way shç told me that her mother, a painter, had at the age of nearly forty married a man of twenty. She herself was sixteen at the time. Life at home became intolerable for her. She left and managed somehow to survive until she began to model for Maillol. I find her quite appealing, but she belongs to that type of lower-middle-class, plumpish, made-up Parisiennes whom, as far as their outward appearance goes, I do not care for.

At noon Maillol and Mile Passavant arrived for lunch. He was beaming. We discussed details of the trip to Weimar. I told him that it would be pleasanter for me if he and I travelled alone. He can get Mlle Passavant to follow; I could raise no objection to that. But if she came with us, apart from it not being agreeable to me, it might be awkward for him if his wife should insist on seeing him off at the station. He appreciated the point. After the meal we drove to Zay to buy tools and then I dropped the two, radiant as freshly weds, at a cinema where they proposed to watch the film The Night Is Ours.

But happily,
in addition to having the kind
of young, firm, heavy body
that Maillol loved,
Lucile was indeed a bright girl,
with a talent for sculpture.

Above is one of her pieces,
which, I think, compares
quite favorably with what
Maillol was doing
at that time.

Her young mind was like a sponge,
soaking up the master's sense
of form and design.

She also picked up
his sense of graphic design.

She carved these woodcuts
to illustrate classical poetry
just like Aristide had done
years earlier.

She was a natural.

But she was a bit
too free spirited
to do Maillol knock-offs forever.

She ventured out
to explore her own sense of
human form

and I think that's where
she began to get into trouble

The farther away she went,
the worse she got.

At least in my opinion.

Maillol must have never
talked to her
about making reliefs.

A lot of her pieces
show up on internet auctions

And so far,
only her birth date
has been listed.

So, perhaps
this centinarian
is still alive!


Update: as it turns out, Lucille Passavant died one year later - and she has been commemorated in
this article in French Wikipedia

Happily, that  article  quotes my critique from this blog concerning that young woman's talent and how "Her work compares quite favorably with what Maillol was doing at that time" 

Mistakenly, however, it attributes my text to Harry Kessler