1906 - 1945
Aimé Maeght was born on April 27, 1906 in Hazebrouck in the Nord department. His father, Ernest Maeght, an engineer with the Chemins de Fer du Nord was requisitioned at the start of the First World War. He won't come back. His wife and 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 endured the horrors of war, experienced famine and then were forced to flee again. After a grueling journey of several weeks which takes them through Holland and Switzerland, they are directed to Nîmes and then, finally, to a village in the Cévennes: Lassalle in the Gard. There, a peasant, Milou Berbiguier, a young widower, agrees to welcome them.
Recognized by his teachers as a lively and intelligent student, Aimé was directed at the age of 12 and a half to a technical college in Nîmes. There he learned industrial design and obtained a diploma as a lithographer engraver. 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 press in Cannes. Very quickly, he made his place and was entrusted with the delicate work. In 1927, Aimé Maeght met the one who would become his wife and his alter ego, Marguerite Devaye, born August 25, 1909 in Cannes. Aimé and Marguerite married on July 31, 1928. In 1930, their son Adrien was born.
In Cannes between the two wars, Aimé opened a trade in radio equipment and “modern” furniture under the name Arte .
ARTE , The first "Galerie Maeght", in Cannes.
In the back room, Aimé sets up a printing press. He makes a decisive encounter, Pierre Bonnard. In 1939, when Aimé Maeght was mobilized in Toulon, Marguerite ran the store alone and took initiatives by hanging paintings and paintings there to sell. In the middle of the war, in 1942, the couple Aimé and Marguerite Maeght had a second son, Bernard. The supply of radio equipment is disorganized, soon the shop only presents paintings which are selling rather well. Cannes being in the free zone. Aimé, with his sympathy and enthusiasm, attracts young talents who entrust their works to him: André Marchand, Geer van Velde, Jean-Gabriel Domergue, Dany Lartigue (the photographer's son), Kees Van Dongen... Already, with prescience, he play the discoverers. Aimé Maeght entered into a close relationship with Jean Moulin, with whom he opened a gallery in Nice on February 6, 1943. The Maeghts frequent, meet and cross paths with most reclusive painters on the Côte d'Azur. In 1943, the Maeghts were forced to leave Cannes because Aimé was printing identity cards and supply tickets for a resistance group in Grenoble and Jean Moulin was arrested. They fall back to Vence in the hinterland of Nice, above the property of Henri Matisse.
Jacques Prévert, Pierre Bonnard and Aimé Maeght in 1945.
Around the Maeghts living in Vence, a small community has formed which meets and helps each other on a daily basis: Matisse, Bonnard (who lives in Le Cannet), Rouault (who lives in Grasse), the Dutchman Geer van Velde and the Russian Jean Pougny (in Cannes) then 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 there. Encouraged by Henri Matisse who offers himself for the opening exhibition.
Thus, under the protective eye of Bonnard and Matisse, on December 6, 1945, the inauguration of the Galerie Maeght took place with an exhibition of recent drawings by Matisse.
1946 - 1963
After the chaos of the war, Paris is rebuilt, the Galerie Maeght, inaugurated on December 6, 1945 with an exhibition of drawings by Matisse, creates the event, it is the meeting place for artists, poets and writers. Aimé and Marguerite Maeght have the talent to unite around them those who are inventing the era to come. The great masters, Bonnard, Matisse and Braque show their support for the audacious projects of Aimé.
The Galerie Maeght, in Paris, in 1947
The second exhibition is entitled “Black is a color”. There are 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 was over, Aimé embarked for New York to meet Marcel Duchamp, whom he proposed to organize an exhibition on Surrealism. Under the aegis of André Breton, Aimé succeeded in bringing together at the Galerie Maeght, for the last time, all the main players in the major artistic movement. The gallery becomes the scene of the most extravagant installations. The scandal caused by a naked woman and a diverted crucifix triggers the wrath of the press but ensures an impact well beyond the borders. Six exhibitions took place in 1947, including "Sur 4 Murs", which showed canvases by Braque, Léger, Bonnard, Matisse, Rouault, as well as Picasso and Gris.
Exhibition Surrealism in 1947, exhibition at the Galerie Maeght
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… Collective exhibitions allow new artists to be revealed and admitted to the Gallery. Among these, 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 an opportunity to edition 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 job, 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 all publications are produced in the studio that Aimé opened in Levallois: works by bibliophiles, catalogues, posters, lithographs and original engravings…
In 1953, a tragedy disturbed this success. Bernard, the youngest son of Marguerite and Aimé, died of leukemia at the age of twelve. The couple then retired to Saint-Paul-de-Vence where the affection and presence of the artists, their second family, helped them to overcome their grief.
Georges Braque and Fernand Léger, supported by André Malraux, suggest to Marguerite and Aimé Maeght to start a new business. A madness: the creation, ex-nihilo, of a completely new type of place. Marguerite and Aimé Maeght undertake 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. Gradually, the desire to create a place where they could gather their collection and where their artist friends could work and exchange ideas became clearer. 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 then went to Harvard to meet the Catalan architect who developed the theories of a new Mediterranean architecture. Together, they trace the main lines of an "ideal gallery", they rule out the idea of a confined museum, with an imposed route.
Aimé Maeght appeals to artists, he wants to know their needs, their desires. Work began on September 5, 1960. Artists regularly visited the site. The buildings come out of the ground, they marry the slope of the ground thus avoiding any monotony. Aimé's greatest desire is fulfilled by creating a site all at once, a museum, a center for creation and encounters, where all forms of art can be found there. Aimé Maeght offers artists the best tools for creating and disseminating their art. It provides them with its galleries, its printing works, its publishing house, its magazines and journals and finally its Foundation.
Without any support from the State, the Maeghts fully finance their project. This is the first building in France designed and built to house 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 of the city of Paris. Four years are necessary for the construction of the whole constituting what will become the Marguerite and Aimé Maeght Foundation.
1964 - 1981
On the evening of July 28, 1964, André Malraux, then Secretary of State for Culture, received from the hands of the granddaughters of Marguerite and Aimé Maeght, the keys to the Foundation which had just been recognized as being of public utility. His speech delivers a perfect vision of this new site which is revolutionizing the French artistic landscape.
Aimé Maeght, Florence, Yoyo and Marguerite Maeght and André Malraux, 1964.
"(…) Madam Sir, I would like to try to make it clear beyond all the services you have rendered to the country with your whole life - because all this is the end of a life, not some kind of accident - I would like to try to specify in what way this seems to me to be something quite different from a foundation and, if you allow it, in what way this evening may have a historic character (…) You have just tried here, by the fact that you have attempted to sum up probably the sequence of the loves of a life, by the fact that the painters who are there all happen to be, to some degree, either poets or men who powerfully express the poetry of our time, you have attempted to do something that is in no way a palace, in no way a place of scenery and, let us say it right away, because the misunderstanding will grow and embellish, in no way a museum. not a museum.
When we looked earlier 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 foundation, the most famous American, that is Barnes, if she was here, she would have no relation to what you did, she would be back fifty years, because admirable as she is is, she is a museum. But here is attempted, with a result that we do not have to judge and which belongs to posterity, something that has never been attempted is attempted: to create the universe, to create instinctively and through love. the universe in which modern art could find both its place and this underworld which was once called the supernatural.
This is barely over and we are on the silence that follows the last blow of the hammer. I think of Shakespeare: “It's such a night, Jessica…” Good. It was on such a night that we listened to the silence that followed the last hammer that had made the Parthenon, it was on such a night that Michelangelo listened to the last hammers that built Saint-Pierre.
Madam, Sir, I raise my glass to the one who, later, when in the place that was Paris the people will bow, murmuring and leaning, having written "here the paint pushed between the cobblestones" will come here and say "this report which is now our relationship with life and which was born of painting, it was perhaps born obscurely this night. And when that's gone, then the man I'm raising my glass to will make a little inscription, "Something of the mind may have 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 artists have helped me a lot, she has always supported me. I find it logical that the Foundation bears his name as much as mine."
The inauguration continues with a dinner in the central courtyard populated by sculptures by Giacometti. All the Maeght artists are present among poets, filmmakers, actors, politicians and site workers... TV and radio capture the impressions of each other. Chagall confides: I am very moved and I feel that something fantastic is happening tonight. It's not a museum, it's something else and only Maeght could do that. I am glad 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 performs 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 Marguerite and Aimé Maeght Foundation becomes the first place dedicated to Living Art.
Duke Ellington and Aimé Maeght at the Maeght Foundation in 1966.
As early as 1965, Aimé Maeght organized the "Nuits de la Fondation Maeght", a major event for contemporary music and dance. Aimé finally has his ideal tool to present contemporary creation in all its forms.
With Marguerite, they endowed the Maeght Foundation with an exceptional collection of several thousand works. They will continue to enrich this fund. Aimé wants the public to discover new trends in living art without forgetting the foundations of modern art.
From 1964 to 1981, each year at the Maeght Foundation there were three to five exhibitions, accompanied by a catalogue, which in the 1960s was unusual.
In 1972, following the exhibition Meeting Pierre Reverdy , the Pierre Reverdy Committee was created, responsible for promoting the poet's work and memory. For the first time, a President of the French Republic is making an official visit to the Foundation. Georges Pompidou admires the Nicolas de Staël exhibition there. The Maeghts and the Pompidou evoke the project of a large art center in Paris… the Center Georges Pompidou will see the light of day in Paris in 1977, that is to say thirteen years after the opening of the Marguerite and Aimé Maeght Foundation. It is directly inspired by the model of the Maeght Foundation which brings together in a contemporary building specifically designed, permanent collections of modern and contemporary art, temporary exhibitions, library, music with IRCAM, artists' residences and studios.
Francis Bacon who exhibited at the Maeght Gallery, visiting Saint Paul de Vence in front of L'Homme qui marche by Alberto Giacometti, in the courtyard of the Maeght Foundation.
In 1964, a few months before the opening of the Maeght Foundation, the Imprimerie ARTE (Art and Graphic Techniques) opened in Paris. From then on, all Maeght documents would come out of the ARTE presses (Catalogues, Derrière Le Miroir, 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”, to use Aimé's expression, all the processes and the hundred technical workers are at the service of living art. Artists from Aimé Maeght's team stay there regularly: Joan Miró has a dedicated studio there, Bran van Velde travels the paths of transparency of lithographic inks. Calder spends long hours there; to find the freedom of his mobiles , he cuts out metal shapes which are welded to the printing plates in order to be inked and pressed. Chillida pursues series from year to year, engraving and re-engraving the design with her sculptor's hand. Rebeyrolle, Riopelle, Ubac, Tal Coat, Tàpies, Kelly, Bury… all create original lithographs and engravings there. From 1936 to 1981 around 12,000 titles of etchings, lithographs and other original prints were published, totaling 600,000 works. Aimé Maeght is thus the most prolific publisher of original works in the world.
Aimé Maeght between Louis Aragon and Marc Chagall, whom he brought together in 1975 in a magnificent bibliophile book with a few dozen copies printed. Then in 1977 at the Maeght Foundation, in the exhibition " Marc Chagall, books, original engravings for Aragon and Malraux".
Maeght becomes the most important publisher of books for bibliophiles bringing together original creations by artists and unpublished texts or poems by writers. In the various published works, the verb is confronted with the line of the artist, sometimes reveals it, or is revealed by it. These are not simply illustrations that accompany a text, but a common experience.
From 1969, Aimé Maeght also produced films dedicated to the “Maeght artists”. He asks filmmakers to discover and reveal part of the mystery of the artist at work, in the intimacy of the studio. Under the lens of Clovis Prévost's camera, Miró executes an original lithograph; the photographer Catala Roca accompanies the Spanish master to Osaka to capture the birth of a ceramic mural; Ernst Scheidegger, Alberto Giacometti's childhood companion and great reporter for Magnum, leads the sculptor to reveal the mysteries of his art. Chagall, Calder, Tàpies, Adami, Bury, Artigas, Chillida and even the discreet Ubac are enthusiastic about this new means of dissemination, not only of their work, but also of their will and their thoughts.
Aimé Maeght with his German Shepherd and The Dog , bronze by Alberto Giacometti.
In 1973, Galerie Maeght was one of the top 500 French exporters. Each year, apart from the exhibitions taking place on its premises, it organizes more than 50 abroad. Thus, no sooner does a new artist exhibit at Maeght than his work is presented through traveling exhibitions, financed by Maeght right up to the production of the catalogue.
In 1974, the Foundation has been a success for ten years. Aimé Maeght, aged 68, could have retired, it is not in his temperament, he is launching new projects. Barcelona was chosen to host a satellite gallery in 1974, The Maeght Gallery in Barcelona, housed in a palace in the Gothic quarter, played the role of initiator. Following the example of the Chillida retrospective that the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, the Guggenheim in New York and the Palacio de Cristal in Madrid will host following the Gallery. Like the Swiss Maeght Gallery in Zurich, it also has its own program and shows new artists: Saura, Taulé, Richard Hamilton...
Nothing could resist the hard worker that was Aimé Maeght, he knew and liked to build and for that, he 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 near her son Bernard, for whom Alberto Giacometti had designed the burial place in the small cemetery of Saint-Paul. And it is under the same cypress that Aimé Maeght rests, who dies four years later, on September 5, 1981 at only 75 years old.
The book La Saga Maeght by Yoyo Maeght, with dedication. Link here