Show explores art dealer's friendship with greats

Tue Sep 30, 2008 10:51am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - French art dealer Aime Maeght was not only a friend to some of the 20th century's greatest artists.

He was also fixer, adviser, patron and publisher to the likes of Miro, Braque and Giacometti. When his Paris gallery, opened in 1945, it symbolized a new spirit in art following the dark days of World War Two and the German occupation.

A new show on Maeght and his family, at London's Royal Academy, combines major works with personal artifacts to explore his journey from owner of a small shop selling radios in Cannes to an influential gallerist, collector and dealer.

The journey began in 1941 when painter Pierre Bonnard met Maeght and his wife Marguerite at the Arte store, also home to a print shop and advertising agency, and asked them to print a poster.

Marguerite persuaded Bonnard to let her have some paintings to sell, prompting the artist to encourage the couple to open a gallery in Paris shortly after the end of World War Two.

Henri Matisse spent time with the Maeght family during the war in the relative calm of southern France, and produced works for the opening show at the Galerie Maeght in 1945.

While Bonnard and Matisse were seen by Maeght as mentors, he also had a close friendship with Spanish Catalan artist Joan Miro, American Alexander Calder, Cubism co-founder Georges Braque and Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti.

"We decided to really concentrate on four of the great artists of the 20th century who are at the heart of the Maeght family story," said curator Ann Dumas, flanked by Aime's son and three grandchildren.   Continued...