“Henri Laurens’ drawings are not sketches or studies for his sculptures, they have their end in themselves […] and are a set of complex curves of amazing line flexibility.” The poet René Char had perceived the free, flexible line of a sculptor’s drawings filled with a formal search for volume
Born in Paris in 1885, Henri Laurens is a sculptor, painter and draftsman. He began his career as an apprentice sculptor with an interior architect and then learned stone carving and modelling. In 1899, he studies the design and influence of Rodin is manifested through the processing of its volumes. But undeniably, it is the group of cubists and the attendance of Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris and above all Georges Braque with whom he forged a long and sincere friendship, which left its mark.
Laurens draws as he sculpts. He turned to a real modernity, freed himself from a past academicism and experimented with rhythm, space, curves and form. Using many techniques – watercolour, graphite, glued paper – paper becomes the receptacle of a line that is sometimes undulating and sometimes straight. The cut-out papers make it possible to compose with superimposed geometric shapes that give birth to a face, a body, a model. Flat tints model the compositions to the operational and relevant construction. Some preparatory drawings condense the general movement of the figure, prefiguring the sculpture to come. The rather massive flat areas conceal its formal sense of aesthetics. Other drawings give free rein to a bold line, which runs through the space and defines the volumes with curves, commas and loops.
Starting from the 1940s and until the end of his life in 1954, his drawing is equipped with Hellenistic essences. The rereading of the great original and mythological accounts of Ancient Greece nourishes his relationship with drawing. For The Idylls of Theocritusillustrated in 1945he realizes 38 woodcutsThe white line of the paper delimits each classic shape. For Homer’s Odyssey, he simply uses the black and white opposition to work on a simple and pure drawing, whose graphic style undeniably recalls that of Jean Cocteau. He illustrated many other works such as The Pelican raymond Radiguet or Dialogues (Tériade 1951) of Lucien de Samosate.
The drawings ofHenri Laurens are a little-known facet of his work. It is difficult to guess that underneath the massiveness of the bronzes lies a joyful and undulating line and colourful flat areas carrying a vital life.