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Hood Museum of Art
Dartmouth College
Hanover, NH 03755

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Henri Laurens, French, 1885-1954

Standing Female Nude (Femme nue debout)
Unglazed buff terracotta
Purchased through the William B. Jaffe and Evelyn A. Jaffe Hall Fund; S.964.174

The Parisian-born Henri Laurens played a pivotal role in developing the vocabulary of cubism as a sculptural style during the second decade of the twentieth century. He was introduced to modern art through his friendship with Georges Braque, but he was also influenced by the three-dimensional constructions of Picasso. Laurens began in 1919 to experiment with cutouts and superimposed planes in bas-relief—initially in stone and terracotta—that was both uncolored and polychromed. Soon afterward he turned to the execution of freestanding sculptures, which became more clearly figurative but retained angular, faceted forms.

Standing Female Nude is a study of line and plane as formal compositional elements from which the figure is constructed rather than modeled. Yet, in spite of the innovative treatment of surfaces and volumes, Laurens consciously employs a conventional subject to highlight his relationship to a long-established figurative tradition. The diminutive scale of the sculpture is also associated with the history of statuettes dating back to antiquity. Ultimately, as Laurens himself noted, “Tradition is continuous beneath the appearances of the epochs."

Last Updated: 4/29/14