César Baldaccini (January 1, 1921 in Marseille - December 6, 1998 in Paris) was a noted sculptor. César was at the forefront of the New Realism movement with his radical compressions (compacted automobiles, discarded metal, or rubbish), expansions (polyurethane foam sculptures), and fantastic representations of animals and insects.
He was a French sculptor, born in 1921 of Italian parents in the working class neighbourhood of la Belle-de-Mai in Marseilles. His father was a cooper and bar owner. His full name was César Baldaccini, but is usually known as César. After studying at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Marseilles (1935-9) he went on to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris (1943-8). He began making sculptures by welding together pieces of scrap metal in 1952 and first made his reputation with solid welded sculptures of insects, various kinds of animals, nudes, etc.
His first one-man exhibition at the Galerie Lucien Durand, Paris, 1954.
His early work used soldered and welded metal as well as junk materials, and by 1960 César was considered one of France's leading sculptors. In that year on a visit to a scrap merchant in search of metal, he saw a hydraulic crushing machine in operation, and decided to experiment with it in his sculpture. He astonished his followers by showing three crushed cars at a Paris exhibition. It was for these 'Compressions' that César became renowned. César selected particular cars for crushing, mixing elements from differently coloured vehicles. In this way he could control the surface pattern and colour scheme of the piece.
Later the same year joined the Nouveaux Réalistes (New Realists) with Arman, Klein, Raysse, Tinguely, Pierre Restany and others who found their inspiration in urban life.
In 1965 he started to work with plastics, first with plastic moulds of human imprints, then from 1966 by pouring expanded polyurethane which was allowed to expand and solidify. He gave up making welded metal sculpture in 1966 and organised a series of Happenings from 1967-70 in which he produced expansions in the presence of an audience. His later works also include sculptures made out of molten crystal.
He is the creator of the César du cinéma trophy which awards the best in French cinema.
He married Rosine and had one daughter Anna. He died in Paris in December 1998. Following his death there was an extended dispute over his will between his widow and daughter on the one hand and Stéphanie Busuttil, his companion at the time of his death on the other.