Claude Lalanne, French sculptor with playful touch, dies at 93

The French artist Claude Lalanne, part of the Lalanne sculptor couple whose surreal but functional works are highly prized by collectors, died early Wednesday aged 93, her agent told AFP.

For decades Lalanne formed an artistic duo with her fellow sculptor and husband Francois-Xavier Lalanne, creating works whose fans included fashion giant Yves Saint Laurent and the iconoclastic French singer Serge Gainsbourg.

She had been taken to a hospital in Fontainebleau, south of Paris, after suffering a stroke.

“Claude Lalanne had the simplicity of artists who work with their hands to build their own poetic world, without worrying about anything else,” the gallery owner Jean-Gabriel Mitterrand, a nephew of former French president Francois Mitterrand, said.

The artist, who was still working in her studio in the village of Ury last week, studied architecture at Paris’s renowned Beaux Arts school before turning to art.

“Les Lalanne,” as the couple were known — she met her husband, who died in 2008, at a gallery in 1952 — created baroque works large and small, with whimsical imagery often fused with intensely realistic renditions of leaves,\ vegetables and animals.

They intended their works to be functional — last week she was working on a staircase for the American architect and designer Peter Marino.

In an interview in 2013, Claude remembered how “the critics completely ignored us” when she and her husband first showed their work.

“For them, making sculptures which had a use was a complete nonsense,” she was quoted by Christie’s auction house as saying on its website.

One of her best-known sculptures was “L’Homme a la Tete de Chou” (Man with\ the Cabbage Head), a 1968 work which Serge Gainsbourg chose for the cover of his 1976 concept album of the same name.

She designed objects for the home as well, including intricate candlesticks or benches — one had two crawling crocodiles as the backrest.

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