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The Story of César's 
     Arrachages Works on paper 1959-1962


From 1959 to 1962, César made a series of works on paper he termed Arrachages (Tear-Offs). During a short hospital stay in the late 1950s, confined to his bed, he drew to occupy his time. He experimented with the materials at hand—in this case, adhesive bandages, which he would apply to sheets of paper covered in ink and then tear off. The tape partially lifted away the inked paper, leaving a characteristic elongated, mottled “touch.”

In their technique, the Arrachages remain within sculpture’s universe. César was not, strictly speaking, drawing, but instead modeling the shallow space of the paper’s surface. Their investigation of the two-dimensional relates to an earlier series of sculptures, the Plaques (1959- 60), which consist of elongated pieces of sheet metal that have been welded into a vertical plane. Where the Plaques seek flatness through the apparently three-dimensional, the Arrachages find depth in the apparently flat. These are not sketches or works made in preparation for sculpture, but truly original attempts at the pictorial through the methods of sculpture.

Like all of César’s artistic practice, the Arrachages are about experimentation with techniques and materials. Whether expanding, compressing, tearing, or welding… César was developing his own practice, his own techniques, and always managed to create something new.

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Known universally as simply César, the artist César Baldaccini (1921 - 1998) was an internationally celebrated French artist who achieved acclaim for his truly radical approach to sculpture in the years following World War II. Less known for his imaginative and expressive furniture designs, César nevertheless applied the same passion for new materials and forms to his furniture and objects. Indeed, the artist considered his functional objects and jewelry to be sculptures – extensions of his art practice.

Selected Works

César drawing in his workshop, Paris, 1960s. Photo: Claude Azoulay

César drawing in his workshop, Paris, 1960s. Photo: André Lefèbvre

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