In the third quarter of the 20th century Agnès Baillon was born in La Ferté Milon, a small town in Picardy, where in 1400 and something a certain Prince of Orléans wished to build the biggest château in the world. It has yet to be finished.

The daughter of artists fallen on hard times, her father a master glazier and her mother a textile artist, little Agnès went to the same school where long ago – and apparently it paid off – Racine had learned to read and write.

In this world adrift there is sometimes justice: the Baillons eventually managed to make a fair amount of money, and bought a fabulous hunting lodge in the Larzac, which looked rather like a medieval castle.

This land of endless bickering between individualists of all stripes forged Agnès, a little girl with golden hair and green, sea-blue eyes, into a character both gentle and firm, and she learned to take things as they came.

As she didn’t really have the choice, Agnès made her own dolls. She hasn’t stopped since.

A chip off the old block, Agnès naturally wanted to be an artist. “Great”, said her parents in unison. “But” – for they knew what lay in store – “it’s either Paris or bust”!

Thus, Agnès packed her bags and headed to the capital, where she did what is right and proper for any aspiring artist: she attended the Ecole des Beaux Arts.

A few years later a bunch of older gentlemen, not very well dressed and even on the shabby side, solemnly handed over a piece of paper.

Now armed with the official authorisation to paint, Agnès immediately began to sculpt: dolls, dolls of course, candy-coloured pink ones that we want to suck, to chew so that they will quickly go away and stop staring at us like that, stop bothering us.

The world is not exactly perfect, which every one knows, and traumatising memories of a little handicapped neighbour, looked upon with despair by his parents and considered a freak all who crossed his path, to this day haunt Agnès’ spirit, whose distress we can but witness, powerless.

These characters so full of life, with such troubled expressions, muted screams, bring the matter to life, Agnès’ resin:  first in candy-coloured pink, later in translucent, alabaster white.

Some of them have been cast in bronze.

The founder applies a smoky-white patina to the bronze sculptures, which are then painted in oil by Agnès herself – much to the despair of purists more in tune to the matter than to the spirit.

The spirit! Now there is the real meaning behind Agnès’ “dolls”, created as if from fleeting mist, disembodied beings, memories of one child’s rebellion against cruelty, homage to innocence forever wounded.

Antonio Saint Silvestre

Translated by David Jester.

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