Our Artists

Niki de Saint Phalle

Niki de Saint Phalle never had any artistic teaching, yet she has become one of the leading French artists.  A visual artist, painter, sculptor and film director, her career has included many successes.  As a result of her style and her way of thinking, she became a member of the “New Realist” group. 



Niki de Saint Phalle was born in France in 1930, of a French father and American mother.  Her father lost his fortune after the financial crisis of the 1930s, and Niki de Saint Phalle went to live with her family in the United States. 

Niki de Saint Phalle began her career as a model for Vogue, Life and ElleAt 18, she ran away with Harry Mathews and they married in 1949.

Influenced by the works of Hugh Weiss, she began painting with oils and gouache.  She became famous with her very first project, Les Tirs (Shooting pictures). Visitors were invited to fire a rifle at containers of colour in order to spatter plaster sculptures with paint. 

Following this, she became a member of the "New Realists" and she created her Nanas (Girls), illustrating the role of women.  These ‘dolls’ became a turning point in her career. 
In 1952, she left for Paris to study the theatre.  She visited the South of France, Spain and Italy. 

After a period in hospital for depression in 1953, Niki found refuge in her work and was encouraged by many artists to continue developing her style. 

Niki de Saint Phalle’s artistic career was influenced by artists such as Antonio Gaudí, Paul Klee, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Henri Rousseau.

Onher return to Paris, she met Jean Tinguely and began a partnership with him. Between June and September 1966, they created, Hon/Elle, a 28-metre-high sculpture representing a reclining woman with her legs crossed.  The work was exhibited at the  Moderna Musset in Stockholm and visitors were able to explore the rooms inside. 

Following a commission by the French government for the expo’67 exhibition, Niki de Saint Phalle and Tinguely created the Paradis fantastique (Fantastic Paradise).

She separated from Harry Mathews and married Jean Tinguely, who had recently divorced, in 1971. Their artistic partnership led to a variety of projects: Le Cyclop at Milly-la-Forêt, the Fontaine Stravinsky in Paris, the Fontaine du Château-Chinon and The Tarot Garden in Italy.

In 1996, Niki de Saint Phalle began Gila, which was a house of games for children, built in San Diego.

Following this, the Swiss Railway company asked Niki de Saint Phalle to create a sculpture for Zurich station, L’ange protecteur, (The protecting angel) in 1997. The Tarot Garden was officially opened the following year.  

For Expo 2000, Niki began the restoration of a grotto in Hanover and completely transformed it into a work of art in its own right.  Construction began in 2001 and ended in 2003.

She died in San Diego on 21 May 2003, following a respiratory illness linked to the materials she used in her work. 


In 1961, Niki de Saint Phalle took part in the collective exhibition Comparaisons (Comparisons) at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris, with Portrait of my lover.

Then, in June, she held her first personal exhibition at the ‘Galerie J’ in Paris, which attracted a large number of "New Realists".

In the autumn, Niki showed her works during the The Art of Assemblage exhibition, organised at the MOMA in New York.

Following this, Niki had her first exhibition at the Alexander Iolas Gallery, in the United States in 1962.

She had her first exhibition in Japan at the Watari Gallery in Tokyo in 1979. Then, in 1980, the
Georges Pompidou Centre organised a retrospective in her honour.

Finally, in 1987, Niki took part in the American retrospective Fantastic Visions: Works by Niki de Saint Phalle, in Long Island.
A Niki de Saint Phalle exhibition took place in 2002, at the MAMAC in Nice.


Hon, 1966, in partnership with Jean Tinguely and Per Olof Uldvedt at the ‘Moderna museet’, Stockholm.

Le Paradis Fantastique, (The Fantastic Paradise)1967.

Golem, 1972, in Jerusalem.

Dragon de Knokke, 1973, in Belgium.

Nanas in Hanover, (Girls) 1973.

Tarot Garden, 1978 - 1998.

La Fontaine Stravinsky, 1983, in Paris,  in partnership with Jean Tinguely.

La Fontaine de Château-Chinon, 1988, in partnership with Jean Tinguely

Noah's Ark, 1999, Jerusalem, in partnership with Mario Botta.

Restoration of the grotto in the Grand Jardin Herrenhäuser, Hanover, 2001-2003.

Queen Califia's Magical Circle, Escondido, California, 2000-2003.

Useful links

The Niki de Saint Phalle official website

Niki de Saint Phalle Foundation website.

The Cyclop by Niki de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely.

Niki Museum in Japan website.

Niki de Saint Phalle and Hanover.

Niki de Saint Phalle 's products at Nouvelles Images

> Prints and posters

Prints and posters Half Woman, Half Angel Prints and posters Nana Power

Nationality(ies) : French
Born on : 29/10/1930
Profile : Architect, Painter, Sculptor
Artistic current(s) : Pop Art, New Realism
Theme(s) covered : Architecture, Fine Art