Thursday, January 16, 2014


"Youpi!" by Anne Itzykson

The small commune of Le Mée-sur-Seine, south of Paris, is known as a place where the well-heeled like to live. Designer Karl Lagerfeld owned a spacious home there, and members of one royal family are said to have property around the area.

"La Source" by Itzykson
But for art lovers, a trip to Le Mée-sur-Seine is worthwhile for the striking sculpture by French artist Anne Itzykson that graces the roundabout at the junction of several of the commune’s main roads.

Titled “La Source”, the tall nude woman in bronze forms part of a 3-meter high fountain, and was inaugurated in 2008, after three years of work.  It is one of the few public installations that Itzykson has done, and viewing it certainly beats gawking at mere mansions.

Working from her atelier in the 20th district of Paris, Itzykson is among the unusual breed of artists who currently devote themselves to bronze and marble, carrying on the tradition of sculptors such as Auguste Rodin, whom she cites as an inspiration.

When she does group exhibitions, Itzykson’s work stands out both for the artistry and the materials she uses.  At a recent show at Paris’ famed Jardin du Luxembourg, for instance, her sculptures attracted a good deal of attention, offering something different from the customary oils and pastels.

“I love everything about bronze and marble,” she told Tasshon in an interview. “I like the feel, and the look, even when the results can be so completely different.”

Itzykson focuses mostly on the female form but she also does sculptures of children, individually or in groups. She often employs her son and daughter as the models, while the male figures she has created tend to be portrayals of her husband.

 Itzykson in her Paris studio.  McKenzie)
She said that her “passion” for art began when she was 16 years old and saw the poster for an exhibition by Jean-Jacques Pradier - a 19th-century Swiss-born French sculptor who was influenced by classical art.

“The poster showed a close-up of the back of a woman sitting on a velvet cushion, her hair woven in braids,” Itzykson recalled.  “I remember asking my grandmother to take me to see this show although at the time I was not yet interested in sculpture. The softness, femininity and versatility of this marble cushion really struck me.”

As a teenager, Itzykson did not think that art was a career option, so she chose to study marketing, doing a master’s in the United States. While there, she took a pottery course and realized that she had a talent for forming human figures. 

“What truly inspires me the most is the ‘human being’ which I observe everywhere and continuously,” she told Tasshon. “Its expressions intrigue me, not just the faces, but each part of the body: hands, feet. Everything speaks.”

Sculptures by Itzykson
Itzykson worked in marketing for several years before turning fully to art.  It wasn’t an easy path because using bronze and marble is quite a labour-intensive process. 

For bronze, the first step is to create the figure in clay, then to make a mold, which sometimes needs to be in several parts.  Following this, the artist makes a wax replica, completes several other procedures, and finally pours the molten metal. 

The final stages include welding separate pieces of the sculpture together, sanding the object, and colouring the bronze. Having access to a foundry is a must, so one can understand why bronze sculptures often carry a high price tag. And Itzykson’s works are no exception.

Despite the “technical” aspects of producing such sculptures, the artist said that it’s all still an “instinctive" process.  “It’s as if my hands are detached from my mind and searching in the clay for a language to express an idea, a thought,” she explained. “When my pieces are finished, I become the viewer trying to understand and decipher what I meant.”

The limited-edition "Youpi!" series, by Itzykson
She sometimes adds a different material to the bronze, such as crystal. One of her most recent works, “Youpi!”, shows a child with tangled locks sitting on a crystal ball in a pose of joyfulness, arms outstretched. The blend of materials and rich colours are instantly eye-catching, but the process was rather difficult, Itzykson said. And she still has doubts about the finished objects.

“Are my works successful? Who can say? Certainly not me,” she told Tasshon. “It is others who will judge.”

Any visitor to Mée-sur-Seine who drives around her bronze fountain would be quick to reassure her. - L. McKenzie