72 x 54 x 7 cm
Acrylic, plastic, gesso, lead balls, wire mesh, wood, metal
Collection Museum Haus Konstruktiv
Donated by Sammlung Rolf und Friedel Gutmann
Shooting Painting (Tir)
When we hear the name Niki de Saint Phalle (born 1930 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, died 2002 in San Diego, USA), her “Nanas” almost always come to mind. These large, stylized women figures have voluptuous, brightly colored bodies and seem to be brimming with a joy of life. What is less known is that these socio-politically charged sculptures are the mature work of a multifaceted artist who was self-taught and who came to art by working through her own personal suffering. Saint Phalle was the daughter of a French banker and an American woman and had a troubled childhood. She married the American writer Harry Matthews in 1949, and as a young mother of two children, she suffered many bouts of depression, which resulted in a hospital stay in 1953.
During this difficult phase and after moving to Europe in 1952, Niki de Saint Phalle, whose full name was Catherine Marie-Agnès Fal de Saint Phalle, began to use painting as a catalyst. Already in her early paintings, women were the central motif. Saint Phalle, who gained an understanding of art by visiting galleries and museums in Paris, soon began to glue different objects onto her pictures, and she gradually developed into an assemblage artist. In the mid-1950s, her works addressed female ideals and the roles women are forced to perform and revolved around witches, whores, women giving birth, and brides. At this time, Saint Phalle and Matthews had divorced and she was together with Jean Tinguely, who was also an important artistic partner in several major joint art projects. In 1961, she joined the artists’ group Nouveau Réalistes, to which Tinguely also belonged and which promoted a kind of art that was close to reality.
In the same year, Saint Phalle caused a stir with her “Tirs,” which were art events where she would fire a gun at a plaster relief with bags of paint integrated. Her work in the collection of the Museum Haus Konstruktiv is an example of this period of her artistic career during which the artist commented on the gestural painting of the 1950s that was denominated by men.
The “Nanas”, which Saint Phalle began making in 1965, ultimately celebrate emancipated femininity. She occasionally also made these sculptures as public artworks and accessible constructions. In 1978, she created the famous “Tarot Garden” in Tuscany, which is a garden inhabited by fantastical figures inspired by tarot cards. It is not only these original sculptural creations, but also her innovative approach to art in general that makes Saint Phalle one of the most important women artists of the 20th century.