Bronze figurines have a significant history in France, up to and including the famous dancers and horses by Edgar Degas, which, strangely, were only cast in bronze after his death. The French artist Robert Rigot follows that noble tradition.
Robert Rigot was born into a family of stone cutters and sculptors in 1929. A natural talent led him to the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris where in 1954 he won first prize in the Grand Prix de Rome for a sculpture in the round called “Decorative figure for a pleasure garden”.
Rigot went on to study for two years at the Villa Medici, the Academy of France in Rome, where he became interested in other materials, developing his own techniques for working with bronze to create unique pieces.
He collaborated with several architects to create occasional monumental works, such as the homage to Gustave Eiffel, who was born in the city of Dijon in 1832. Eiffel’s birthplace is no longer there, but the city decided to erect a memorial pointing to where it used to stand.
Rigot designed and built the monument out of iron fashioned in the shape of a bird and it was inaugurated in 1981. Titled Le Rêve ailé (The dream takes wing), its dedication reads, “To Gustave Eiffel, Dijon 1832 – Paris 1923: His first view as a child looked out over this port.”
From 1966 to 1996 Rigot was Artistic Advisor to the Baccarat crystal glass company for which he created numerous pieces, including one known as “Naked tenderness” depicting a mother and child. That same figurine was also rendered in bronze. In 1990 Rigot was awarded the Council of Europe’s Grand Prix for one of his works in crystal.
Rigot’s “traditional” bronzes are made in a foundry in small batches. He also produces handmade lithographs in limited editions of 12 prints and occasionally items cast in glass for the Daum studio. Glass casting is a process by which objects are made by pouring molten glass into a mould where it solidifies. The technique was known to the Ancient Egyptians.
Like Alphonse Daudet before him, Rigot lives in a converted windmill near Buxy, a commune in the Saône-et-Loire department in eastern France. It was Daudet who wrote, “Poets are people who can still see the world through the eyes of children.” The same may well be true of sculptors.