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"Fundamentally speaking, I am absolutely self-taught", stated the sculptor César. He was born in 1921 in a working class neighbourhood in Marseille, where his father ran a bar. Contrary to his statement, he attended classes in many prestigious institutions, including the School of Fine Arts of Marseille starting in 1935, then, in 1943, the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts in Paris.

His first plaster and metal works are zoomorphic and antropomorphic, dating from 1947. Then, in 1949, César was trained in bow soldering in an industrial woodwork shop in Trans-en-Provence, where he used chased lead leaf and soldered wires as materials. "Carrera marble was too expensive, but old crap iron was everywhere. I became a sculptor because I was poor !" Unable to afford marble, César started collecting materials for his first sculptures in iron scrapyards : tubes, bolts, screws, etc. Naturally curious about shapes, he now had the means to make them : strength and materials. When he created his first scrap iron insects, César showed his love for the debris of a consumer society in ongoing metamorphosis. César's determination to agglomerate, melt and solder such unappealing metals became his vital necessity. His studio in Villataneuse was characterised by high spirits and artistic rigour as he worked with his men. It was there that he conceived and created his famous "Vénus". By the 1970's, César was no longer "the little guy from Marseille" who added life to Paris society parties. With his "Compressions", the sculptor gained recognition as a keen observer of society. At the Salon of May, 1960, three cars were compressed using his process, which was shown for the first time. It made a sensation and César made his mark. He did not hesitate to approach dadaïsm, and his compression works settled into their rightful context when he joined the New Realism Mouvement in 1961. He was a major artist who was acclaimed late in life. A César retrospective was organised at the Frend National "Jeu de Paume" Gallery in 1997. His retrospective follows its itinerary around the world : it was presented in 1998 at the Konsthall de Malmo in Sweden, at the Palazzo Reale in Milano, Italy, and the Museo Rufino Tamayo in Mexico City. In 1999 it was shown at the Museum Brasileiro da Escuktura de Sao Paolo and at the Museo Nacional de Artes Visuales de Montevideo.

César is also famous for the "César" Award in cinema, which he invented in 1975. This "compression" is awarded to prizewinners for the French cinematographic year on the "Night of the Césars".

Influences

New realism
Picasso 
Pop art 

Major works

  • Boite cachetée

Exhibitions

  • 2008
    Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, Paris, France
  • 1999
    Brazilian Museum for Culture, Sao Paulo, Brazil
  • 1999
    National museum for Visual Arts, Montevideo, Uruguay
  • 1998
    Konsthall, Malmö, Sweden
  • 1998
    Rufino Tamayo Museum, Mexico City, Mexico
  • 1998
    Mudima Foundation, Milan, Italy
  • 1984
    Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, Paris, France
  • 1982
    Seibu Foundation and Ottara Museum, Japan
  • 1966
    Wilhem Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg, Germany
  • 1966
    Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • 1965
    Museum for Decorative Arts, Paris, France
  • 1960
    European Art Today : exhibition organized by the Minneapolis Institute of Art, USA
  • 1960
    Museum for Arts and Industry, Saint-Etienne, France
  • 1960
    Cantini Museum, Marseille, France
  • 1959
    Documenta II, Kassel, Germany
  • 1959
    Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA
  • 1955
    May exhibition, Paris, France
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