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 Francois-Xavier Lalanne  (1927 - 2008)

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Lived/Active: France      Known for: Anthropomorphic, surreal animal sculpture

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

A sculptor of anthropomorphic animals stylistically combining Surrealism and Realism such as monkies sitting in jeans and leather jackets, François-Xavier Lalanne worked with his sculptor wife, Claude Dupeux Lalanne, from a studio on an old dairy farm outside of Paris.  On their property where they have lived for more than 40 years, they have a large assortment of their "beasts", most of them cast in bronze, such as owls, sheep, and apes.  "Some pieces, like a head of cabbage on rooster legs, are laugh-out-loud funny." (Lovine, 50)

The couple have been described as "prized darlings of an exclusive set for decades but until recently below the radar of a wider public."  Among their collectors are "the chicest people in the world---many from fashion, like Yves Saint Laurent." (Lovine, 49) 

In the 1960s, the Lalannes 'cronied around' with avant-garde sculptors in Paris including Constantine Brancusi, Max Ernst and Jean Tinguely.  Lalanne sculpture was much sought after by leading-edge interior designers, especially in New York City.   Indicating renewed interest in the couple's work is the collecting of Lalanne sculpture by Reed Krakoff, CEO of Coach who lives in Southhampton, New York and who is respected as a reliable source of future trends.

Francois Lalanne died in Ury, France at the age of 81 in Ury.  As a young man, he had Jesuit education, and at age 18 enrolled in the Academie Julian where he studied painting and sculpture but put more emphasis on painting.  However, this focus changed when, after serving in the military, he occupied a studio in Montparnasse next to Constantin Brancusi, whose influenced centered Lalanne on scultpure.  Although most of Lalanne's work expressed his unique, whimsical approach, he did some pieces of smooth texture and abstract, semi-realistic style of Brancusi such as six tropical dinosaurs that are installed at the Thrid Street Promenade in Santa Monica, California.

With his sculpture, Lalanne then created his own brand of Surrealism.   In "1964, he unveiled "Rhinocretaire", a life-size Annam rhinoceros, whose side folded out into a writing desk." (Grimes)  From that point, he was prolific in generating animal figures including a giant brass steel, brass and porcelain fly, which also served as a toilet; and a herd of 24 sheep with genuine sheepskin that also served as foot stools; and a human head of brick, intended to be a vacation home.  He said that his goal was to demystify art and treat the process as fun-house like rather than with reverence as though he was working in a cathedral.

William Grimes, "Francois-Xavier Lalanne", The New York Times, 12/21/2008, p. 34
Julie V. Lovine, "Animal Instincts", Art & Auction, December, 2006, pp. 49-50

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