In 1950, while the Galerie Maeght, opened in Paris in 1945, was prospering, everything seemed without shade. Yet the Maeght family lives a tragedy. Bernard, the young son of Aimé and Marguerite Maeght, has leukemia. The illness led the Maeghts to move to Varengeville and then to return to the Côte d'Azur where the air would be beneficial to the little one. They buy a property on a hill facing Saint Paul. After months of struggle, Bernard died in 1953. It was only thanks to the support and presence of the artists that the Maeght family succeeded in overcoming the ordeal of the child's disappearance.
It was the friend Braque, supported by André Malraux, who suggested to Marguerite and Aimé Maeght to start a new business. A madness: the creation, ex-nihilo, of a place of an entirely new type: When Braque came to join me in Saint-Paul, a month after the death of my little boy, I was at the bottom of the despair. He said to me: Since you so much want to do something that would not have a speculative goal, which would allow us artists to exhibit sculpture and painting in the best possible conditions of light and 'space. Do it, I'll help you. Thus, the foundations of the Maeght Foundation were born.
Following Bernard's death, Marguerite and Aimé Maeght, deeply affected, undertake, on the advice of Fernand Léger, a trip to the United States. The idea of Braque and Malraux to create a public place is gaining ground. In 1955, they visited 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 clearer.
In France, at the end of the war, only one place counts and concentrates art and artists: Paris. Choosing Saint-Paul is a challenge. It is for Aimé Maeght the opportunity to do creative work. He feels cramped in his Parisian gallery, which had 1,500 to 2,000 paintings and where he can only show forty or fifty at a time. “I needed air and space. I didn't want to do a super-gallery as a foundation, but something else that would belong to the community and at the same time be an independent company in order to be able to act. »
In the museums visited, both in France and abroad, Aimé Maeght did not find the light that illuminated the works of Picasso, Miró and Calder seen in the Spanish pavilion of the 1937 Universal Exhibition in Paris. While visiting Miró's new workshop in Palma de Mallorca, Aimé was impressed by the beauty of the place and the functional aspect of the building, but it was above all the management of natural light that amazed Aimé. Obviously, the same architect for both constructions: Josep Lluis Sert.
Immediately, Aimé Maeght went to Harvard to meet the Catalan architect who was developing the theories of a new Mediterranean architecture. Together, they draw the main lines of an "ideal gallery" in a unique site on the Côte d'Azur, between the Mediterranean and the snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps.
From the outset, both ruled out the idea of a closed museum, with an imposed route. Josep Lluis Sert advocates climate architecture designed for intense sunshine, a limpid atmosphere and a welcoming landscape.
"Yes my dear Joan, we will produce a work unique in the world which will remain in time and in the minds as the testimony of our civilization which, through wars, social and scientific upheavals, will have left humanity one of the most pure spiritual and artistic messages of all times, it is these testimonies that I would like to make perceptible to the generations that will follow us and show our grandchildren, that in our materialistic era the spirit has remained present and very effective thanks to men like you."
Letter from Aimé Maeght to Joan Miró from 1959, during the construction of the Foundation. Congratulations Grandpa, you succeeded, the Foundation remains unique!
The book La Saga Maeght by Yoyo Maeght, with dedication. Link here