NIKI DE SAINT PHALLE Biography - Other artists & entretainers


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Name: Niki de Saint Phalle                                                             
Born: 29 October 1930                                                                 
Died: 22 May 2002                                                                     
Niki de Saint Phalle, born Catherine-Marie-Agnas Fal de Saint Phalle (October 29,     
1930-May 22, 2002) was a French sculptor, painter, and film maker.                     
Niki de Saint Phalle was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine in Paris to Jeanne Jacqueline       
(nee Harper) and AndrĂ©-Marie Fal de Saint Phalle, a banker. After being wiped         
out financially during the Great Depression, the family moved from France to the       
United States in 1933. During her teens, she was a fashion model; at the age of       
sixteen she made the cover of Life magazine (September 26, 1949), and later the       
November 1952 cover of the French Vogue magazine. At eighteen, de Saint Phalle         
eloped with author Harry Mathews, whom she had known since the age of twelve,         
and moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts. While her husband studied music at             
Harvard University, de Saint Phalle began to paint, experimenting with different       
media and styles. Their first child, Laura, was born in 1951.                         
De Saint Phalle rejected the staid, conservative values of her family, which           
dictated domestic positions for wives and particular rules of conduct. However,       
after marrying young and giving birth to two children, she found herself living       
the same bourgeois lifestyle that she had attempted to reject; the internal           
conflict led to her to suffer a nervous breakdown. As a form of therapy, she was       
encouraged to start painting.                                                         
While in Paris, de Saint Phalle was introduced to the American painter Hugh           
Weiss who became both her friend and mentor, encouraging her to continue               
painting in her self-taught style. She subsequently moved to Deya, Majorca,           
Spain where her son Philip was born in May of 1955. While in Spain, de Saint           
Phalle read the works of Proust and visited Madrid and Barcelona where she             
discovered and was deeply affected by the work of Antonio Gaudi. Gaudi's               
influence opened many previously unimagined possibilities for de Saint Phalle         
regarding the use of diverse material and objet-trouves as structural elements         
in sculpture and architecture. De Saint Phalle was particularly struck by Gaudi's     
"Park Guell" which convinced her to one day create her own garden work that           
would combine both art and nature. Saint Phalle continued to paint, particularly       
after her family relocated to Paris in the mid-1950s. Her first art exhibition         
was held in 1956 in Switzerland where she displayed nave style oil paintings.         
She then moved onto collage work that often featured objects of violence, such         
as guns and knives.