Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Niki de Saint Phalle

Queen, by Niki de Saint Phalle located in Kit Carson Park, Escondido, California

I have always admired the work of Niki de Saint Phalle, especially her large, colorful sculptures of fanciful women which she called Nanas.

Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002)
Niki de Saint Phalle was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, Hauts-de-Seine, near Paris, to Count AndrĂ©-Marie Fal de Saint Phalle, a French banker, and his American wife, the former Jeanne Jacqueline Harper.  After being wiped out financially during the Great Depression, the family moved from France to the United States in 1933, where her father worked as manager of the American branch of the Saint Phalle family's bank.

Saint Phalle enrolled at the prestigious Brearley School in New York City, but she was dismissed for painting fig leaves red on the school's statuary. She went on to attend Oldfields School in Glencoe, Maryland where she graduated in 1947. During her teenaged years, Saint Phalle was a fashion model; at the age of eighteen, she appeared on the cover of Life (September 26, 1949), and, three years later, on the November 1952 cover of French Vogue. 

At eighteen, she eloped with author Harry Mathews, whom she had known since the age of twelve, and moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts. While her husband studied music at Harvard University, Saint Phalle began to paint, experimenting with different media and styles.

Niki with her work

Niki and her husband divorced in the 1960s. She met the American artist Tinguely while working on a joint project in Paris. The two artists married in 1971. Her only American sculpture garden is located at the Kit Carson Park in Escondito, California.

Later in life she moved to California. She was awarded Honorary Citizen of Hanover, Germany after she donated over 300 sculptures to the art museum located there.

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