Alicia Penalba (1913-1982)

Argentine sculptress Alicia Penalba was born in 1913 in San Pedro, in the province of Buenos Aires. In 1930, she left her parental home to study in Buenos Aires at the School of Fine Arts where she graduated as a professor of drawing and painting.

Available Alicia Penalba works:

Alicia Penalba - Petit Dialogue - 1961/1963 - Bronze

Petit dialogue - 1961/1963


Alicia Penalba - Passion de la jungle- 1952 - Bronze sculpture

Passion de la jungle- 1952


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Early years in Paris

After her study in Buenos Aires Alicia Penalba left for Paris where she arrived in 1949. In Paris she attended the Grande Chaumière Academy where she received some lessons from the Russian sculptor Ossip Zadkine (1888-1967). After a radical change of style in 1952, she destroyed all her previous work, her career was launched with a series of sculptures titled ‘Passion de la Jungle’. After some group shows she had her first solo exhibition in 1957 at the Galerie du Dragon.


Biomorphic abstract sculpture

In Paris she soon became friends with her contemporaries, the sculptors Étienne Hajdú, Marta Colvin and François Stahly, with whom she had several group exhibitions. Her inspiration in Paris came from artists such as Amadeo Modigliani, Constantin Brâncuși and Hans Arp. The images Penalba made during this time are strongly inspired by nature, naturally occurring forms as Penalba saw them in her youth in the rugged landscapes of Argentina.

Her vertical sculptures from the 1950s with titles such as 'Totems' and 'Liturgie Vegetale' have a strong natural appearance.
At the end of the 1950s she also seeks a connection with architecture in her work and creates sculptures that can be integrated with buildings.

In 1961, Alicia Penalba gained more recognition after she won the sculpture prize at the 5th São Paulo Biennale. In the 1960s her work became looser and more poetic and she received more and more commissions for large and monumental sculptures for public spaces. In addition to sculptures of which she made about 205, Penalba has also designed jewellery, made collages on paper and carpets.


Tragic accident or not?

Alicia Penalba, along with her partner Michel Chilo, died in November 1982 in an accident on a railroad crossing in France.
The Penalba Research Center has obtained information that the accident that happened in 1982 may not have been an accident. Further research should show whether this is the truth, for now it is only rumours.


Alicia Penalba sculpture in museums

Today Penalba's work is much appreciated and her sculptures can be found in many museums worldwide such as the Center Pompidou in Paris, the Paul-Klee Center in Bern and many museums in the United States, The Netherlands, Germany and Italy.


For more information about the artist please visit the Penalba Research Center