In the 19th century, the building was home to some famous figures, such as the poet Alfred de Musset, who lived there for many years with his mother. The painter Paul Jacques Aimé Baudry also had a vast workshop there, which was faithfully conserved during the renovation of the museum, and which now hosts the life-size sculptures of Maillol, on the second floor.
On the advice of Auguste Rodin, Octave Mirbeau and Maurice Denis, Count Harry Kessler, a rich art collector, met with Maillol in Marly. Kessler became his greatest admirer and his patron. Maillol said on many occasions that this meeting was one of the great fortunes of his life.
In 1882, at the age of 21, Maillol decided to follow his dream of going to Paris. He sat the entrance exam for the Ecole des Beaux-Arts several times, and was finally admitted on 17 March 1885, in the Painting and Sculpture department. His teachers were Jean-Paul Laurens, Gérôme and of course Cabanel. During this period he experienced great poverty. Malnourished, he became ill and was hospitalised several times.
Dina Vierny and Lucien Maillol donated Maillol's sculptures to the country. André Malraux, the Minister for Cultural Affairs, decided to put 18 of them in the Jardin du Carrousel, opposite the Louvre. It was a true "open-air Musée Maillol".
In 1951, the Prévert brothers opened a cabaret, the Fontaine des Quatre-Saisons, in the great exhibition hall with standing columns on the ground floor. It was here that Boris Vian, a regular visitor, created Le Déserteur (the Deserter); Francis Blanche presented his sketches; and the Jacques brothers and Yves Montand sang the poems of Prévert, put to music by Kosma. A plethora of young artists made their débuts here: Maurice Béjart, Guy Bedos, Pierre Perret, Jean Yanne, Philippe Clay, Jacques Dufilho, and many more.
After 15 years of renovation work, as Dina Vierny wanted, a museum dedicated to Maillol finally opened its doors on 20 January 1995. Inaugurated by the President of the Republic, François Mitterrand, it presented the largest ever collection of the artist's works, giving a complete picture of his oeuvre in terms of sculpture, painting, drawing, terracotta and tapestry. Dina Vierny entrusted the leadership of the museum and the management of temporary exhibitions to her sons Olivier and Bertrand Lorquin until 2009.
Aristide Bonaventure Jean Maillol was born on 8 December 1861 in Banyuls-sur-Mer (East Pyrenees region). He was the fourth of five children to Catherine Rougé and Raphael Maillol, a fabric seller and vineyard owner. From a very young age, he was looked after by his aunt Lucie. His taste for art could be seen from his earliest childhood, and when he was 14, he completed his first painting, a seascape. He subsequently took drawing lessons at the Museum of Perpignan and decided to become a painter.
In 1902, Ambroise Vollard organised the first solo exhibition of Maillol in his small gallery on Rue Laffitte. It was a composite collection of 33 works, whose goal was to surprise and appeal to art lovers. The art seller Ambroise Vollard purchased a few of his sculptures. Despite these sales, the artist's finances remained on a knife-edge. In 1904, Maillol exhibited in the Salon d'Automne for the first time. The art critic and historian Meier-Graefe devoted a chapter to him in his book on modern art.
In 1739, the nuns of the Récollets convent graciously endowed the city with land to build a monumental fountain in the heart of this district. Edme Bouchardon, the Royal Sculptor, created the majestic Fontaine des Quatre-Saisons, built between 1739 and 1745 for the glory of the City of Paris. It now forms a magnificent foreground to the façade of the museum. The whole fountain was classified as a historic monument in 1862.