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Thérèse’s Back

Aristide Maillol (1861-1944)

Charcoal on paper in the filigreed form

Why is this work so important?

The emotion conveyed by this drawing only exists because Maillol did not attempt to produce an objective representation of his model. He drew Thérèse on many occasions and explored the various aspects of the female body in order to further refine the masses.

Last drawings

When Maillol executed this drawing, Thérèse had been his model for several years. The young Catalan woman was the family’s maid. The reason why he drew her was to perfect his sculpture, because he was certain that, as he wrote: “More than anything, a sculptor has to draw. You need to make a lot of drawings, and the day when you understand something, you make a statue of it”. Thérèse was to pose for Maillol over a period of four years for one of his masterpieces: Venus. The sculpture created a sensation when it was shown at the Salon d’Automne in 1928. It was an allegory of love and desire, the embodiment of the type of woman that Maillol admired.

In detail

Observe how harmonious the lines are: they outline Thérèse’s back, already suggesting the volumes of the sculpture. In this work Maillol attempted to capture Thérèse’s divine beauty and the long slender lines of her body.

Did you know?

Thérèse was Maillol’s model for several years. Thérèse also posed for the Homage to Debussy monument. Maillol admired her until the end of his life and had fond memories of her.