His Most Famous Sculpture (L’Amphion) – Henri Laurens

A humble family of Paris gave birth to a very famous sculptor and illustrator Henri Laurens (February 18, 1885 – May 5, 1954). In his initial years of upbringing, Henri was deprived of the basic academic and artistic training. That however, did not stop him from climbing the stairs of fame and he rose to become the most outstanding sculptor of his times. The creator of the iconic L’Amphion, Laurens started his career as a stonemason, prior to picking up sculpturing as his mainline pursuit. Later, Laurens joined the studio of building ornaments, practicing direct carving on building sites. He was an expert of ‘Decorative Arts.’

Henri Laurens was heavily influenced by Auguste Rodin’s style, initially. His earlier works have a clear impact of Rodin’s style. Through their wives, Henri Laurence and Georges Braque became friends. Later Braque introduced him to Pablo Picasso. The three became friends for the lifetime. As an effect of Picasso’s company, Henri Laurens thought of ‘Cubism,’ a by-product of sculpting and painting. By 1912, Henri started exploring the sculptural potentials of ‘Cubism.’ The Polychromed reliefs of 1919 to 1920 are arguably considered his best of ‘Cubist’ sculptures. Less Cubist in style, L’Amphion no doubt however, remains Laurens’ most famous lifetime sculpture.

Like all the great artists, Henri Laurens also evolved his style. He chose to abandon the sharp geometry of ‘Cubism’ and go for a less intangible and more sensitive ‘Curvilinear’ style to give a decorative effect to his works. This introduced an increasing preference for the female form in his sculptures, often described by critics as uninhibited and innovative. His date with flowing curvilinear sculptures led to the production of the very tremendous, L’Amphion. Henri’s works spanned from ‘Collage Making,’ to ‘Poster Painting,’ to ‘Engraving,’ and ‘Theater Designing.’ Henri Laurens did some fantastic illustration work for various books. His most prominent works are Paul Eluard’s ‘The Last Night’ (1942) and Tristan Tsara’s ‘Entre Temps’ (1946). In 1947, he prepared prints for book illustrations. In 1948, in Venice Biennale he displayed his work. In that very year at the Galerie d’Art Moderne in Basel, Switzerland, he also exhibited his works.

Architect Carlos Raul Villanueva requested Henri Laurens to build something remarkable for the Central University of Venezuela, Caracas. In the year 1952, Laurens created his most famous sculpture ‘L’Amphion,’ which continues to grace the University until date. L’Amphion is a bronze structure, beyond 4 meters in height. The statue in grayish-black shade depicts a feminine structure, with curvilinear contours. In fact, the gliding structure gives a mermaid like appearance to the whole structure. Standing on a stone block, L’Amphion has its two hands raised and joined to form a circular shape, resembling a dancing gesture. Solid in its consistency, L’Amphion has its front marked as parallel vertical stripes.

A couple of years after creating L’Amphion, Henri Laurens died in 1954, almost in the fashion in which he spent whole of his life, quietly. Posthumously, he was honored on many platforms and shows as an artist who rewrote the rules of sculpting and showed a new way of creative thinking.