Aimé Maeght - Biographical references

1906 - 1945
Aimé Maeght was born on April 27, 1906 in Hazebrouck in the Nord department. His father, Ernest Maeght, an engineer for the Chemins de fer du Nord, was requisitioned at the beginning of the First World War. He did not return. His wife and his four children were removed from the combat zone and taken by the Red Cross to Holland.
For a year, Aimé, his brother, his sisters and their mother suffered the horrors of war, experienced famine and were forced to flee again. After an exhausting journey of several weeks through Holland and Switzerland, they were directed to Nîmes and finally to a village in the Cévennes: Lassalle in the Gard. There, a farmer, Milou Berbiguier, a young widower, agreed to take them in.

Recognized by his teachers as a student with a lively and intelligent mind, Aimé was directed at the age of 12 and a half to a technical college in Nîmes. There he learns industrial drawing and obtains a diploma of lithographer. Aimé is funny, attentive, passionate about music and art, he takes care of his appearance and his taste for meeting people. In 1926, he found a job as a typographer at the Robaudy printing house in Cannes. Very quickly, he made his place and he was entrusted with delicate work. In 1927, Aimé Maeght met Marguerite Devaye, who was born on August 25, 1909 in Cannes and who was to become his wife and alter ego. Aimé and Marguerite married on July 31, 1928. In 1930, their son Adrien is born.

In the Cannes of the interwar period, Aimé opens a business of radios and "modern" furniture under the sign Arte. 
ARTE, The first "Maeght Gallery", in Cannes.

In the back room, Aimé sets up a printing shop. He made a decisive encounter, Pierre Bonnard. In 1939, while Aimé Maeght was mobilized in Toulon, Marguerite ran the store alone and took initiatives by hanging paintings and pictures for sale. In the middle of the war, in 1942, the couple Aimé and Marguerite Maeght had a second son, Bernard. The supply of radio equipment becoming disorganized, the store soon presents only paintings which sell rather well. Cannes being in the free zone. Aimé, by his sympathy and enthusiasm attracts young talents who entrust him with their works: André Marchand, Geer van Velde, Jean-Gabriel Domergue, Dany Lartigue (the son of the photographer), Kees Van Dongen ... Already, with a prescience, he plays the discoverers. Aimé Maeght enters into close relationship with Jean Moulin, with whom he opens, February 6, 1943, a gallery in Nice. The Maeghts frequent, meet, cross most of the painters recluse on the Cote d'Azur. In 1943, the Maeghts are forced to leave Cannes because Aimé was printing identity cards and supply tickets for a group of resistance fighters from Grenoble and Jean Moulin was arrested. They retreated to Vence in the hinterland of Nice, above the property of Henri Matisse.

Jacques Prévert, Pierre Bonnard and Aimé Maeght in 1945.

Around the Maeght settled in Vence was formed a small community that frequented and helped each other daily: Matisse, Bonnard (who lives in Le Cannet), Rouault (who lives in Grasse), the Dutch Geer van Velde and the Russian Jean Pougny (in Cannes) and Picasso (in Vallauris), Tristan Bernard, Thadée Natanson of the Revue Blanche, the poet Pierre Reverdy, the musician Reynaldo Hahn. There, in 1944, Aimé Maeght, with the help of the young poet Jacques Kober, founded the literary group Pierre à Feu. At the Liberation, Pierre Bonnard and Aimé went to Paris and decided to open a gallery. Encouraged by Henri Matisse, who offered to open the exhibition.
Thus, under the protective eye of Bonnard and Matisse, on December 6, 1945, the Maeght Gallery was inaugurated with an exhibition of recent drawings by Matisse.

1946 - 1963
After the chaos of the war, Paris is rebuilt, the Maeght Gallery, inaugurated on December 6, 1945 with an exhibition of drawings by Matisse, creates the event, it is the meeting place of artists, poets, writers. Aimé and Marguerite Maeght have the talent to gather around them those who invent the era to come. The great masters, Bonnard, Matisse and Braque show their support for Aimé's audacious projects. 
The Maeght Gallery, in Paris, in 1947

The second exhibition is entitled "Black is a Color". It includes works by Matisse, Bonnard, Braque, Rouault, Manessier, Geer van Velde, Atlan, Chastel. The first issue of the magazine Derrière Le Miroir, illustrated with six lithographs by Geer van Velde, accompanied by a text by the poet Jacques Kober, is published on this occasion.
As soon as the war is over, Aimé embarks for New York to meet Marcel Duchamp, to whom he proposes to organize an exhibition on Surrealism. Under the aegis of André Breton, Aimé succeeds in bringing together at the Maeght Gallery, for the last time, all the main actors of the major artistic movement. The gallery becomes the theater of the most extravagant installations. The scandal caused by a naked woman and a hijacked crucifix triggers the wrath of the press but ensures a repercussion far beyond the borders. Six exhibitions took place in 1947, including "Sur 4 murs", which showed paintings by Braque, Léger, Bonnard, Matisse, Rouault, but also Picasso and Gris. 
 Exhibition Le Surréalisme in 1947, exhibition at the Maeght Gallery

As much to affirm and share his choices and his artistic and aesthetic requirements as to initiate the public, Aimé Maeght does not hesitate to organize, in his gallery, exhibitions worthy of the best museums: The first masters of abstract art or six exhibitions of Russian masterpieces ... The collective exhibitions allow the revelation and entry to the Gallery of new artists. Among them, Joan Miró, Alberto Giacometti, Ellsworth Kelly, Roger de La Fresnaye, Marc Chagall, Hans Arp, Pierre Tal-Coat, Pablo Palazuelo, Saül Steinberg, Jean Bazaine, Alexander Calder... Each exhibition is the occasion for the publication of an issue of Derrière Le Miroir, with prestigious signatures: René Char, Paul Eluard, Samuel Beckett, Francis Ponge, George Limbour, Raymond Queneau, Louis Aragon, André Frénaud, Jacques Prévert, Michel Leiris, James Sweeney, Pierre Reverdy, Gaston Bachelard, Marcel Arland, André du Bouchet, Jean-Paul Sartre... 

Aimé never forgot his first profession, printer. If the Maeght Gallery has become both a gallery of great modern masters and young talents, it is also an important publishing house whose publications are made in the workshop that Aimé opened in Levallois: bibliophile works, catalogs, posters, lithographs and original engravings ...
In 1953, a tragedy disrupted this success. Bernard, the youngest son of Marguerite and Aimé, died of leukemia at the age of twelve. The couple retired to Saint-Paul-de-Vence where the affection and presence of the artists, their second family, helped them overcome their grief.
Georges Braque and Fernand Léger, supported by André Malraux, suggested to Marguerite and Aimé Maeght to launch a new enterprise. A madness: the creation, ex-nihilo, of a place of a completely new type. Marguerite and Aimé Maeght undertake a trip to the United States. The idea of Braque and Malraux to create a public place makes its way.

In 1955, they visit the American foundations: Barnes, Phillips, Guggenheim. Little by little, the desire to create a place where they could gather their collection and where their artist friends could work and exchange ideas became clear. Aimé wanted to rediscover the light that illuminated the works of Picasso, Miró and Calder in the Spanish pavilion at the 1937 World's Fair in Paris, designed by Josep Lluis Sert. He went to Harvard to meet with the Catalan architect who was developing the theories of a new Mediterranean architecture. Together, they draw the broad lines of an "ideal gallery", they dismiss the idea of a museum confined, the course imposed.
Aimé Maeght appealed to the artists, he wanted to know their needs, their desires. Work began on September 5, 1960. The artists regularly visit the site. The buildings come out of the ground, they marry the declivity of the ground thus avoiding any monotony. Aimé's greatest desire is fulfilled by creating a site that is at the same time a museum, a center for creation and meetings, where all forms of art can be found. Aimé Maeght offers artists the best tools for creation and dissemination of their art. He puts at their disposal his galleries, his printing house, his publishing house, his magazines and journals and finally his Foundation. 

Without any support from the State, the Maeght family finances their project in full. It is the first building, in France, designed and built to accommodate contemporary art. Previously, museums and art centers invested in old unused buildings, as is the case for the Jeu de Paume, the Orangerie, the Grand Palais or the Museum of Modern Art in Paris. Four years are necessary for the construction of the whole constituting what will become the Foundation Marguerite and Aimé Maeght.

1964 - 198
On the evening of July 28, 1964, André Malraux, then Secretary of State for Culture receives from the hands of the granddaughters of Marguerite and Aimé Maeght, the keys to the Foundation which has just been recognized as public utility. His speech delivers a perfect vision of this new site that revolutionizes the French artistic landscape. 

Aimé Maeght, Florence, Yoyo and Marguerite Maeght and André Malraux, 1964.

"(...) Madam Sir, I would like to try to specify beyond all the services that you have rendered to the country by your whole life - because all this is the end of a life, not a kind of accident - I would like to try to specify in what this seems to me quite other than a foundation and, if you allow it, in what this evening has perhaps a historical character (...) You have just tried here, by the fact that you have tried to summarize probably the continuation of the loves of a life, by the fact that the painters who are there are all, to some degree, or other, the painters who are here. ) You have just tried here, by the fact that you have tried to summarize probably the continuation of the loves of a life, by the fact that the painters who are here are all, to some degree, either poets or men who express powerfully the poetry of our time, you have tried to make something that is in no way a palace, in no way a place of decoration and, let us say it right away, because the misunderstanding will grow and embellish, in no way a museum. This is not a museum.
When we looked at the piece of garden where the Mirós are, the same thing happened as when we looked at the room where the Chagalls were. These little horns that Miró reinvents with their incredible dreamlike power are creating in your garden with nature in the sense of trees, a relationship that has never been created.
When we talk about foundations, the most famous American one, that is Barnes, if it were here, it would have no relationship with what you have done, it would be fifty years behind, because admirable as it is, it is a museum. But here, something is attempted, with a result that we do not have to judge and that belongs to posterity, something is attempted that has never been attempted: to create the universe, to create instinctively and by love the universe in which modern art could find both its place and that back world that was once called the supernatural.
This is hardly over and we are on the silence that follows the last hammer blow. I think of Shakespeare: "It's a night like this, Jessica..." Good. It was on a night like this that we listened to the silence that followed the last hammer that built the Parthenon, it was on a night like this that Michelangelo listened to the last hammers that built St. Peter's.
Madam, Sir, I raise my glass to the one who, later, when in the place that was Paris the murmuring and bending people will bow, having written "here the painting grew between the cobblestones" will come here and will say "this relationship that is now our relationship with life and that was born from painting, it was perhaps obscurely born this night." And when this no longer exists, then the man to whom I raise my glass will make a small inscription "perhaps something of the spirit happened here."
Aimé responds by thanking his wife, Marguerite: "She has always been the companion of good and bad days. The relationships she has had with the artists have helped me a lot, she has always assisted me. I find it logical that the Foundation bears her name as much as mine."
The inauguration continues with a dinner in the central courtyard populated by Giacometti sculptures. All the Maeght artists are present among the poets, filmmakers, actors, politicians and workers of the site ... The TV and radio capture the impressions of some and others. Chagall confides: I am very moved and I feel that something fantastic is happening tonight. It is not a museum, it is something else and only Maeght could do that. I am happy that my paintings are here.

Yves Montand at the Maeght Foundation on July 28, 1964.

The evening, under the stars, ends with a singing tour where Yves Montand interprets a song by Prévert, "Dans ma maison". Ella Fitzgerald, in her muslin dress, charms and seduces the audience. Already, Aimé Maeght mixes all artistic expressions. That night, the Foundation Marguerite and Aimé Maeght becomes the first place devoted to the living art. 

Duke Ellington and Aimé Maeght at the Maeght Foundation in 1966.

Since 1965, Aimé Maeght organizes the "Nuits de la Fondation Maeght", a great meeting of contemporary music and dance. Aimé finally has his ideal tool to present contemporary creation in all its forms.
With Marguerite, they endow the Maeght Foundation with an exceptional collection of several thousand works. They will not cease to enrich this fund. Aimé wanted the public to discover new trends in living art without forgetting the foundations of modern art.
From 1964 to 1981, each year at the Foundation Maeght succeeded three to five exhibitions, accompanied by a catalog, which in the 1960s is unusual. In 1972, following the exhibition A la rencontre de Pierre Reverdy is created the Committee Pierre Reverdy, responsible for promoting the work and memory of the poet. For the first time, a president of the French Republic made an official visit to the Foundation. Georges Pompidou admires the Nicolas de Staël exhibition. The Maeghts and the Pompidous discuss the project of a major art center in Paris ... the Centre Georges Pompidou will be born in Paris in 1977, thirteen years after the opening of the Foundation Marguerite and Aimé Maeght. It is directly inspired by the model of the Maeght Foundation, which brings together in a contemporary building designed specifically, permanent collections of modern art and contemporary art, temporary exhibitions, library, music with the IRCAM, residences and artists' studios. 

Francis Bacon who exhibited at the Maeght Gallery, visiting Saint Paul de Vence in front of Alberto Giacometti's Walking Man, in the courtyard of the Maeght Foundation.

In 1964, a few months before the opening of the Maeght Foundation, opens the ARTE (Art and Graphic Techniques) printing house in Paris. From then on, all Maeght documents will come out of the ARTE presses (Catalogues, Behind the Mirror, books, magazines and journals, engravings, prints, posters, postcards and reproductions). For the first time, a workshop brings together all the techniques, from the most traditional to the most sophisticated and avant-garde. In this "printing-laboratory", according to Aimé's expression, all the processes and the hundred technical workers, are at the service of the living art. The artists of Aimé Maeght's team stay there regularly: Joan Miró has a dedicated workshop, Bran van Velde criss-crosses the paths of transparency of lithographic inks. Calder spent long hours there; to find the freedom of his mobiles, he cut out metal forms which were welded to the printing plates in order to be inked and pressed. Chillida continued to produce series year after year, engraving and re-engraving the drawing with his sculptor's hand. Rebeyrolle, Riopelle, Ubac, Tal Coat, Tàpies, Kelly, Bury... all created original lithographs and engravings. From 1936 to 1981 about 12,000 titles of engravings, lithographs and other original prints are published, totaling 600,000 works. Aimé Maeght is the most prolific publisher of original works in the world.
Maeght becomes the most important publisher of books of bibliophile bringing together original creations of artists and texts or unpublished poems of writers. In the various works published, the word is confronted with the line of the artist, sometimes reveals it, or is revealed by it. It is not simply a question of illustrations which accompany a text but well of a common experiment.
From 1969, Aimé Maeght also produces films devoted to "Maeght artists". He asked filmmakers to discover and reveal part of the mystery of the artist at work, in the intimacy of the studio. Under the camera lens of Clovis Prevost, Miró executes an original lithograph; the photographer Catala Roca accompanies the Spanish master to Osaka to record the birth of a ceramic mural; Ernst Scheidegger, Alberto Giacometti's youthful companion and a great reporter at Magnum, leads the sculptor to reveal the arcane of his art. Chagall, Calder, Tàpies, Adami, Bury, Artigas, Chillida and even the discreet Ubac are enthusiastic about this new means of disseminating not only their work, but also their will and their thoughts. 
Aimé Maeght with his German shepherd and The Dog, bronze by Alberto Giacometti.

In 1973, the Maeght Gallery is among the top 500 French exporters. Each year, in addition to the exhibitions held in its premises, it organizes more than 50 exhibitions abroad. Thus, as soon as a new artist exhibits at Maeght, his work is presented through traveling exhibitions, financed by Maeght in the production of the catalog.
In 1974, the Foundation is a success for ten years. Aimé Maeght, 68 years old, could have retired, it is not in his temperament, he launches new projects. Barcelona is chosen to host a satellite gallery in 1974, The Maeght Gallery of Barcelona, installed in a palace in the Gothic Quarter plays a role of initiator. Like the Chillida retrospective that the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, the Guggenheim in New York and the Palacio de Cristal in Madrid will host after the Gallery. Like the Swiss Maeght Gallery in Zurich, it also has its own program and shows new artists: Saura, Taulé, Richard Hamilton...
Nothing resisted the hard worker that was Aimé Maeght, he knew and loved to build and for that, always surrounded himself with enthusiastic and competent collaborators. And he was never discouraged. 

Aimé and Marguerite Maeght, in the entrance garden of the Maeght Foundation, in front of a monumental Calder.

Marguerite Maeght died on July 31, 1977, a few days before her 68th birthday. She is buried next to her son Bernard for whom Alberto Giacometti had designed the burial in the small cemetery of Saint-Paul. And it is under the same cypress tree that Aimé Maeght rests, who died four years later, on September 5, 1981 at only 75 years old.

The La Saga Maeght by Yoyo Maeght, with dedication. Link here