Dina Vierny and Maillol in 1944. Photo credit:Louis Carré/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Look at every artist and you will find a muse.
Dina Vierny entered Maillol’s life when she was 15 years old and he was 73 and according to what we are told suffering from artists block. Dina was the spark that started Maillol working again. She and her artist worked for ten years together creating some of his most spectacular pieces.
As the story goes Maillol was told by one of his acquaintances that there was a girl who looked exactly like one of his sculptures. “She is one of yours and could be a Renoir too” the artist was told by his friend.
Vierny describes her artist Maillol as a “very, very pure man” who never asked her to undress, he hadn’t the courage she said. So one day she asked and the rest is history. Most people outside the art world assume that because she posed nude they became lovers. Theirs was a very close relationship, a deep friendship, and life long companionship.
Aristide Maillol. Dina sur la rivière. 1938 Pastel, charcoal and chalk on paper.
Greatly inspired by Dina the artist embarked on a new career in his seventies producing paintings, drawings, and sculptures of his muse. Some of Maillol’s sculptures of her have her head bent looking down. This is easily explained. According to Dina because she was still in school she had homework to do, so often while posing for the sculptor she would be reading. The artist even constructed a stand for this purpose so she could study while he worked.
The work she did with Maillol is well documented. There are many photographs of her at work with the artist. We also can find many paintings and drawings of her that can also be linked to Maillols sculptural works like the previous pastel I’ve shown you and the sculpture La Rivière (1938)
La Rivière (1938), statue d’Aristide Maillol installée dans le jardin du Carrousel à Paris.
Vierny also posed for Matisse during the Second World War. Because she was active with the Resistance during the war, Maillol had sent her to him to keep her safe from the Nazis who had arrested her for helping other people escape to safer countries. Her friendship with Matisse lasted until his death as well.
Matisse at one point suggested that she start collecting art and open a gallery. Because of having worked closely with several prominent artists, Madame Vierny could give a great deal of insight on the artists themselves. She also made it her life’s work to open a museum dedicated to Maillol which she succeeded in doing in 1995. This museum stands as a testimony of the lasting power of a muse and her love for an artist and his work! Without her love of the arts and the love for her artist, this may never have happened.
Dina Vierny passed away in January of 2009 at the age of 89.
Henri Matisse. Dina au bracelet, 1941 Dessin à l’encre sur papier. Collection Dina Vierny