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About the Artist:Although known primarily as a sculptor, Aristide Maillol began his career as a painter. In 1881, he left the family home in Banyuls for Paris and began auditing classes at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts the next year. Maillol left the Beaux-Arts in 1885, dissatisfied with his instruction there. Around 1900, he turned to sculpture. Maillol worked unnoticed until 1905 when he entered his plaster La Mediterranee in the Salon d'Automne. The smooth surfaces and ideal anatomy of Maillol's work appealed to the critics, who lauded his use of Ancient Greek models of femininity. Writer Andre Gide praised the work as "lovely; she doesn't signify a thing. She is a silent work of art. One has to go far back in time, I believe, to find such a complete indifference to any concern foreign to the simple presentation of beauty." Maillol worked nearly exclusively with the female form thereafter, maintaining a reserved formalism throughout his career.
Maillol sculpted a few portraits during his life, mostly of family and friends. In 1906, fellow artist Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) asked Maillol to model the painter's likeness in clay. Renoir is depicted in his favorite hat, his face expressionless. The success of the bust piqued Renoir's interest and he began sculpting shortly thereafter.