Press - Maeght, the foundation of a work

On July 28, 1964, there was excitement on the hills of Saint-Paul-de-Vence. Aimé Maeght, originally from Hazebrouck, inaugurates with his wife, Marguerite, their modern art foundation. A project born from the mourning of their youngest son. A life's work, seen by 200,000 people each year.

Maeght, the foundation of a work
Malraux (right), in 1964: here, “you have tried to make something which is in no way a palace, in no way a place of decoration and in no way a museum”. ARCHIVED PHOTO AND “THE VOICE”

maeght press foundation

The evening was attended to down to the smallest detail, like every Maeght inauguration. For the occasion, Ella Fitzgerald and Yves Montand, neighbors from Saint-Paul de-Vence, are invited to sing. All the artist friends are there: Miró, Chagall, Giacometti, Calder… Malraux, Minister of Culture. The only thing missing is Braque and Léger, who disappeared too soon, despite having initiated the place.

1953, Aimé and Marguerite Maeght lost their youngest son, 11 years old, Bernard, to leukemia . “Perhaps the biggest pain I have had in my life. The only one perhaps,” confides, with modesty, Aimé Maeght, in the show “L’homme en question”.

Aimé and Marguerite took refuge in Saint-Paul-de-Vence where they bought land a few years earlier. Welcoming lands of friends. “Braque and Léger spend a month with me trying to console me. One day, Braque, faced with my silence, said to me: “You have to do something that is beyond you. You have a magnificent place here, why don’t you make a place where we can exhibit our paintings and sculptures?” » And Léger bounced back: “That’s an idea. I'm coming with my face, my friend, I don't care about anything. » The idea for the foundation was born. And is built around the discovery of the ruins of a 12th century chapel… The Saint-Bernard chapel.

The Maeghts' most faithful friends work there: sculptures by Miró in the countryside, stained glass windows by Braque and Ubac, around the architecture of Josep Lluís Sert. Artists and artisans, Maeght is one of them. The art dealer started out as a designer-lithographer. Aimé was 8 years old when the First World War broke out. His father, a railway engineer, disappeared in the explosion at Hazebrouck station. The Red Cross evacuates the family near Nîmes. “As a ward of the nation, I was required to learn a trade, so I chose a trade related to what I loved: lithography. My grandfather taught me to draw at 6 years old, I have always drawn. » A good student, he earned the right to enroll at the Beaux-Arts in Nîmes. The lithographer tries out materials, processes, volumes. Loving independence, he explains, he created his first business in 1932, in Cannes, with Marguerite, whom he met in a choir. She was 17 years old. “It’s to impress him that grandpa will embark on ambitious projects,” recalls Yoyo Maeght, one of their granddaughters. (1) “Without Marguerite Maeght, I might not be (…) It was she who questioned me every day. »

Daughter of merchants, it was she who guided him towards the profession of art dealer: “Like any artist, I was even a bit of the enemy of the commercialization of the work of art. » His first painting sold was a Bonnard. The first of the decisive meetings. Before Matisse, during the Second World War. The painter found refuge, in the hinterland of Nice, with the Maeght family. Aimé, still a northerner on his papers, took advantage of a pass to bring back from Paris works that he is hiding for the owners. And printed Resistance leaflets.

Matisse painted Marguerite, became friends with the couple and gave them the idea of ​​opening their gallery in Paris. Matisse inaugurated it in December 1945. The Maeght saga was only just beginning. Around two ideas: “All my life, I have searched in art for work that could correspond to the art of our time” ; also seeking, with lithography , “the democratization of works”. Maeght did the math: after the war, 12 million walls need to be rebuilt: “We won't be able to continue to hang up the post schedule! »

“My grandfather was a smuggler,” summarizes Yoyo Maeght. In July 1964, she was 5 and a half years old. She is there in her neat dress.

  1. “The Maeght saga”, R.-Laffont, €21.50 signed by Yoyo Maeght.

April 27, 1906. Birth of Aimé Maeght in Hazebrouck. He is the eldest of four children.
1916. The family settles in Nîmes. Undertakes studies as a designer-lithographer.
1920. Courses at the Museum of Fine Arts and the conservatory.
1926. Moves to Cannes. There he meets Marguerite. They will have two sons: Adrien and Bernard.
1930. First engraving workshop.
1936. Meeting Pierre Bonnard.
1945. Opening of the first Maeght gallery in Paris.
1953. Death of Bernard.
1964. Opening of the foundation.
1970 and 1975 . Gallery openings in Zurich and Barcelona.
September 5, 1981. Death of Aimé, four years after his wife.

“What interests me is the adventure of tomorrow, this adventure of creation” Aimé Maeght