François Stahly was a German-French sculptor born on March 8, 1911, in Konstanz, Germany. Stahly was exposed to art and creative thought at a young age while growing up in Switzerland. His Italian father and grandfather were both painters and hoped for Stahly to follow in their footsteps. Their encouragement persuaded Stahly to attend art school in Zurich during 1926, although he did not gravitate towards the same discipline as his relatives. Instead, he preferred to work with mostly bronze and wood to create three-dimensional geometric abstractions. While Stahly busied himself with artistic training, the Bauhaus movement collected national attention and recruited young artistic talent. Stahly did not identify with this radical school of thought. He was more interested in exploring fluid concepts such as balance and synergy. In 1931, he traveled to Paris to attend the Academie Ranson and found himself amongst fellow artists in a group called the Temoignange. This young collective included names like Manessier, Bertholle, and Le Moal. Unfortunately, wartime circumstances made it impossible to recover Stahly’s work from this period.
In 1940, Stahly volunteered his services by joining the French National Army and obtaining his citizenship. At the war’s end, Stahly remained in France and resumed his artistic career. He traveled to work on architectural projects in Switzerland and edited the art review, Werk, and involved himself with other periodicals as well. He continued to work on sculptures that were organic in form and fascinated himself with the complexities one can find in nature. It wasn’t long before he joined with like-minded artists to cofound “Art Informel.” The movement advocated for an embrace of abstract expressionism in its most basic and pure form. The group announced themselves with an exhibition in 1948 at Galerie Colette Allendy. The exhibition, “HWPSMTB,” featured artists Hartung, Wolsm Picabia, Stahly, Mathieu, Tapié, and Bryen. Stahly’s work attracted notable figures such as Darthea Speyer, a prominent American art dealer, and H.P.Roche, a collector, whose purchases helped provide Stahly with the means to set up a studio in Meudon.
Stahly had reached his breakthrough with the foundation of Art Informel. In the early 1950s, he began to cultivate an international reputation with pieces showing in Brussels, Vienna, Berlin, Connecticut, and Tokyo. He was commissioned to do numerous public work installations in addition to many private ones completed for individuals such as Nelson Rockefeller. He also won accolades at venues such as the Milan Triennial (1953) and the Sao Paolo Biennale (1957). During the early 1960s, Stahly devoted his efforts to commissions while simultaneously lecturing at universities Berkeley, Harvard, and Stanford. Exhibitions featuring his work continued abroad with showings at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam in 1961, the Tate Gallery, London in 1964, and the Musée d’ Art Moderne, Paris in 1965.
Stahly preferred to work according to his own volition and partnered with many galleries, not just one in particular. This desire enabled him to spread the breadth of his production - from a Trappist monastery in Briquebrac to the Rockefeller Plaza in New York. Years after his death on July 2, 2006, in Meudon, Stahly’s work continues to surface in exhibitions across the world. Within the past five years, he was the subject of the exhibition “François Stahly” at the Musée Rodin from May 21, 2016- November 20, 2016. He was also featured in “Dessins de Sculpeurs” at Jeanne Bucher Jaeger, St. Germain Space from March 23,2018-May 19, 2018. Most recently, Stahly appeared in “François Stahly - Selected Works” at Friche de L’Escalette Parc de Sculpture et D’Architecture in Marseille from July 1-August 30, 2020.