Chiparus Demetre


Demetre Chiparus was a Romanian Art Deco era sculptor who lived and worked in Paris. Demetre was born in Romania, moved to Italy in 1909. He entered school of the famous Italian sculptor Raffaello Romanelli, who taught him the secrets of art bronze casting. Chiparus left for Paris in 1912, where he attended Paris Academy of Fine Arts (École des Beaux-Arts), took lessons under Antonin Mercié and Jean Boucher.

The first sculptures of Chiparus were realistic. They were the figurines of children figurines and were exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1914. Though they did not win admiration of the public, Chiparus profiled himself. A touch of a distinctive and mature master, with his own style and perception, was felt in his works. While creating those sculptures, Chiparus sought to achieve the supreme expressiveness and invented technique that was caught up by many sculptors and jewelers. Chiparus started experimenting with material – he used bronze and ivory. The combination of “warm ivory” and docile bronze (chryselephantine) became his signature mar.

Chiparus mature style that was characterized by decorative value and impressiveness was formed by the 1920s. From that time, the subject matter of the master’s creative work was predominantly dealing with dealing with portraying ballet-dancers and gorgeous women, his contemporaries.

After the tomb of Tutankhamun was discovered in 1922, the art of ancient Egypt and the East came to French fashion and was reflected in the creative activity of Chiparus as well. Several sculptures by Chiparus represent queen Cleopatra and Egyptian dancers. The sculptures of Chiparus reflect his time and the 1920-1930s sentiment of “folle”. Coming from the oldest French tradition of high quality and extra-artistic decorative arts, the sculptures of Chiparus combine elegance and luxury, embodying the spirit of the Art Deco epoch.

The Ballets Russe by Sergei Diaghilev were another source of inspiration for Chiparus. Chiparus was astounded with the performance on the stage. It was radically new ballet - bright, alert, avant-garde, strikingly effect on stage dresses and theatrical scenery (the sketches were create by Alexander Benois, Leon Bakst, Nicholas Roerich, and Mstislav Dobuzhinsky). The stage lighting and with choreography were uncommon, and over and above - the magnificent talent of the dancers.

The real dancers of the Parisian scene frequently posed as models for Chiparus figurines. For instance, “Dancer with hoola hoop” (Danseuse au cerceau), created in 1928, was inspired by the magnificent dancer Zoula de Boncza. The figures of the sculptural group “Persian Dance” share similarities with the famous dancers of the Russian troupe directed by Vaslav Nijinsky and Ida Rubinstein. However, Almeria, the model for which was the ballet dancer and choreographer Bronislava Nijinska, became one of his most illustrious and refined works. Her figure perfectly embodied the plasticity and dramatic tension of the avant-garde dance.

Apart from bronze and ivory, Chiparus used the spelter, a kind of zinc alloy. The faces and other exposed parts of the body were made of ivoryine, the natural ivory substitute. The sculptures were finished with patina that made them almost indistinguishable from the bronze ones. A great number of Chiparus ideas and techniques were non-demanded by luxury stores, since he preferred to create items from less costly material. Many figures by Chiparus were never casted in bronze, they were made of spelter. Creation of a model in both materials was a rarity.

One of the reasons that this or that model fell into the “spelter group” was the assessment of a model by the foundry firm as futureless. Taking into consideration of bronze casting and processing and patination high cost, ivory carving and making the base of decorative stones, the selling price of a finished piece was rather high.

Little known fact that Chiparus, being a successful sculptor, draw pictures. Not for sale, but for his personal enjoyment. Demetre was an amateur artist, he preferred to make sketches of his wife, Julien Lüller, he rarely created landscapes and still-life paintings. Chiparus met Julien, who was 16 years younger, in 1924, the couple officially married in 1939. They had no children.

From the mid-1920s to the early 30s, the public enthusiastically recognized Chiparus. It was the zenith of his creative career. Together with Julien, they moved from a tiny studio on the Barau street to the elite Parisian suburb of Neuilly on the Seine in 1928. They renovated the house in the extravagant style and built a large studio for the artist in the garden. The couple kept a splendid establishment; hence, the house and expensive furniture were sold to pay off the debts in 1936. Chiparus with Julien moved into the small apartment in Rue Décamps, a prestigious but less expensive quarter.

The late, final period of the master’s creative work fell on the years of the Second World War and the time of Paris occupation of Paris by the fascist Germany. The extant rare terra-cotta sculptures by Chiparus were created in 1942-1943 and were exhibited at the Paris Salon. These models were not casted in bronze, like the most of his animalistic works.

Demétre Chiparus died in Paris in on January 1947, suffering a stroke on returning from studying animals at the zoo in Vincennes. He was buried in Bagneux Cemetery.

Exhibits in the Museum Collection