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Henri Laurens was born on February 18, 1885, in Paris, where he attended drawing classes in 1899. The sculpture he produced during the early years of the twentieth century reflects the influence of Auguste Rodin. In 1911 the sculptor entered into a lifelong friendship with Georges Braque, who introduced him to Cubism. The artist would work within this movement until 1925, making polychrome bas-relieves that are plastic translations of the Cubist research in painting. Laurens participated for the first time in the Salon des Indépendants in Paris in 1913, and two years later met Juan Gris, Amedeo Modigliani, and Pablo Picasso. From 1916 Laurens executed Cubist collages and constructions. He became a friend of Pierre Reverdy in 1915 and illustrated the writer’s Poèmes en prose that same year.
The artist was given a solo show at Léonce Rosenberg’s Galerie l’Effort Moderne in Paris in 1917, and signed a contract there the following year. During the 1920s he executed designs for various architectural projects and stage decors. From 1932 to 1933 he divided his time between Paris and nearby Etang-la-Ville, where his neighbors were Aristide Maillol and Ker-Xavier Roussel. Laurens contributed substantially to the World’s Fair in Paris in 1937. In 1938 he shared an exhibition with Braque and Picasso that traveled from Oslo to Stockholm and Copenhagen.
His work was shown in 1945 at the Galerie Louis Carré in Paris and in 1947 at the Buchholz Gallery in New York. About this time Laurens made prints for book illustrations. He was represented at the Venice Biennale in 1948 and 1950. An important exhibition of his work was organized by the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels in 1949, and a major Laurens retrospective took place at the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris in 1951. The following year he received a commission for a monumental sculpture for the University of Caracas. He exhibited extensively in Europe and the United States during the early 1950s, and received the Prize of the IV Centenary of São Paulo at the São Paulo Bienal in 1953. Laurens died in Paris on May 5, 1954.