Letter: Welcome revival of a discrete influence

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The Independent Online
Sir: Iain Gale's typically thoughtful article on the great and unfairly neglected French sculptor Germaine Richier ('Inside the bronze menagerie', 8 June) is a welcome attempt to revive a sagging reputation on the occasion of her showing in the big Paris Post-war exhibition at the Tate. Yet her influence has long been an important, if discrete, one on Britain's lively modern sculpture school. In 1980 I remember the sculptor John Wragg, having recently returned to figurative portrait modelling after an abstract period, enthusing to me about his favourite sculptor.

Indeed, Richier's menagerie of metamorphic creatures, part human and part animal or insect, inspired our own early post-war sculptors. Meadows, Butler, Frink and Chadwick shared a similar restlessness and found in their metaphors of decay, vulnerability and metamorphosis apt metaphors for the anxieties of the post-war age. Equally, her use of 'found' branches or surrogate armatures around which were built her clay legs and arms, was later echoed in the pebble breasts of Caro's waking figures.

Despite such chance effects, her art was based on life, on perceptions of real form, rather than on imagination, and in this she matched the approach of late Giacometti, the sculptor under whose shadow she has been eclipsed. Her play on transformation was underpinned by a classical French training under Bourdelle, and so expressive licence was based on broad technical ability.

Gale's emphasis on Richier's religiosity and love of life obscures her torments; several times she underwent treatment in mental hospitals.


London, W12