Artwork of the month January

Germaine Richier, Juin 40, 1940, Hilti Art Foundation

Germaine Richier

* 1902 in Grans/Arles, France, † 1959 in Montpellier, France

Juin 40, 1940

89.9 × 38 × 28 cm
Hilti Art Foundation, Schaan


When the Second World War broke out in September 1939, while Germaine Richier was holidaying in Switzerland with her husband, the sculptor Otto Charles Bänninger from Zürich, the couple decided to settle in Zürich. In June the following year, Paris, Richier's original home town, was occupied by the German armed forces. Profoundly shaken, she made Juin 40, the figure of a nude boy in bronze.

Artistically, this sculpture echoes what the artist had learnt from Louis-Jacques Guiges in Montpellier and from Antoine Bourdelle in Paris between 1920 and 1929. Both sculptors were students of Auguste Rodin—so Richier was a "granddaughter" of this eminent French master of modern sculpture.

His Age of Bronze, a response to the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71, offers itself for direct comparison, although Rodin's young man is possessed of a wholly introspective pathos, whereas Richier's boy confronts the world with wide-open eyes and accusatory mouth. His nudity is a reference to vulnerability and helplessness, the posture of the arms and hands indicative of dismay and resignation. Support leg and free leg (contrapposto) do not create a stable body axis, in contrast to Rodin's young man. An allegorical figure, Juin 40 symbolises human suffering and represents an elementary indictment of this suffering engendered by war.

From the outset, the human, predominantly female body has been at the centre of Germaine Richier's sculptural work. From the mid-1940s onwards, increasing expressiveness and deformation of the figure finally led to those bizarre hybrids characteristic of the artist's late work. Half animal and half human, they raise existential questions about life between nature and civilisation, between fate and freedom, between barbarity and humanity.

Uwe Wieczorek

<b>Germaine Richier, Juin 40, 1940, Hilti Art Foundation</b>
Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein highlights a work from the permanent collection each month throughout the year. Works from the collection of the Hilti Art Foundation are also included in this series on a regular basis.