Google Doodle honours French sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle

29 Oct 2014

Niki de Saint Phalle, sculptor, painter and filmmaker

Google has created a colourful new doodle to honour French sculptor, painter and filmmaker Niki de Saint Phalle, whose 84th birthday would have been today.

Today’s Google Doodle emulates Saint Phalle’s colourful style of public sculptures and use of papier-mâché, yarn and cloth to express and explore women’s roles in society.

Saint Phalle is best known for her large public sculptures such as L’Ange protecteur in the hall of the Zürich Hauptbahnhof, the Golem in Israel, the Miles Davis statue outside of the Hotel Negresco in Nice and the Stravinsky Fountain (or Fontaine des automates) near the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

Born in 1906, she was a fashion model during her teenage years, appearing on the cover of Life in September 1949 and on the November 1952 cover of French Vogue.

She eloped at the age of 18 and took up painting while her husband Harry Matthews studied music at Harvard University.

Defining impact on 20th-century art

The Google Doodle in honour of sculptor, painter and filmmaker Niki de Saint Phalle

It was on a modelling assignment in Paris that she met American painter Hugh Weiss, who became her mentor and encouraged her to paint in her self-taught style.

She moved to Spain in 1955 and became deeply inspired by the work of Antoni Gaudi.

In the early 1960s, Saint Phalle created ‘Shooting Paintings’, which were polythene bags of paints in human forms covered in white plaster which she shot at to create the image.

Saint Phalle explored the various roles of women in society and used her art to express the everywoman.

Nicknamed ‘Nanas’ these were freely posed forms made of papier-mâché, yarn and cloth. Her exhibitions were accompanied by a high output of graphic work, including posters and books.

Her foray into public sculpture began in 1966 on “hon-en-katedral” (she-a-cathedral) for Moderna Museet Stockholm, Sweden.

Influenced by Gaudi’s Parck Parc Güell in Barcelona, Saint Phalle decided the world needed a monumental sculpture park that was created by a woman.

Located 100 kilometres north-west of Rome in Garavicchio in Tuscany, the garden, called Giardino dei Tarocchi or The Tarot Garden, contains sculptures of the symbols found on Tarot cards. It opened in 1998 after 20 years of work.

Saint Phalle died of emphysema in California on 21 May 2002.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years