Many thanks to Bruce, Bill, and Fred, and two anonymous blog readers, for sending me the New York Times obituary of Dina Vierny, the great muse of sculptor Aristide Maillol. She passed away on January 20th at the age of 89.
Like Bruce expressed in his email to me, the relationship between Maillol and Vierny is touching on many levels. I was particularly moved by how the introduction of the then 15 year old Vierny revived the stagnating artistic career of the aging 73 year old Maillol. Never underestimate the power of inspiration, or the galvanizing effect of when the perfect muse walks into an artist’s life. It is a catalyst in the truest sense of the word.
In her adulthood, Vierny became deeply involved in the French resistance during World War II. Jewish herself, Vierny took on the dangerous work of secretly transporting fleeing refugees of Nazism into Spain. Whenever she was arrested by the French police, Maillol protected his beloved muse, and used all his connections to release her from jail and pay for her lawyer.
I recommend everyone check out the whole New York Times article. It is a wonderful read. Of course my favorite passage is this one about Vierny encouraging the elderly Maillol to tackle nude work, describes the delightful affinity they felt for each other, and explains Vierny’s eventual acceptance of modeling:
“Ms. Vierny, who was intent on studying physics and chemistry, took to the role of artist’s muse reluctantly at first, posing during school vacations and glancing sideways at her schoolbooks on a nearby stand. The generous modeling fees and Maillol’s sense of fun won her over.
For the first two years, though, she kept her clothes on, not out of modesty — she and her friends belonged to a nudist club — but because of Maillol’s timidity. She herself later proposed that he try some nude studies. “Since he never asked, I figured he would never have the courage,” she told National Public Radio last year.”
This is the voluptuous Dina in Maillol’s The River, 1943. Really intense figurative sculpture:
Dina went on to become one of the most prolific art collectors of the 20th century, approaching it with the same passion with which she did modeling, politics, and human rights. In the 1970s, as a profound tribute to her friend and mentor, she founded the Maillol Museum.
I am saddened that another great muse has left us, but what a legacy she leaves behind. Goodbye Dina . . .