Gaston Lachaise was born in Paris March 19, 1882, the son of a cabinetmaker who designed Gustave Eiffel’s apartment in the Eiffel Tower. Lachaise began studying sculpture at the age of 13 at the Ecole Bernard Palissey and was accepted four years later at the Academie Nationale des Beaux-Arts where he received formal classical training under Gabriel Jules Thomas.
Lachaise exhibited annually at the Salon and was twice runner-up for the prestigious Prix de Rome award. Around 1902-1903 he met and fell in love with an American woman of French-Canadian descent named Isabel Dutaud Nagle, who was in Paris overseeing the education of her son. Lachaise described Isabel, ten years his senior, as "majestic" and, later, as "the primary inspiration that awakened my vision and the leading influence that has directed my forces. Throughout my career as an artist, I refer to this person by the word 'Woman'." Over his lifetime, Lachaise wrote Isabel 567 letters declaring his love for her and communicating the details of his commissions and work.
Lachaise vowed to leave the Academy and follow Isabel back to America. To pay for his ticket, he apprenticed himself to the decorative artist René Lalique, an experience that imbued his work with an organic, art nouveau line. In December 1905 at the age of 23, Lachaise set sail for Boston never to return to his native land. In 1917, Lachaise became an American citizen.
Lachaise proceeded to devote his life to Isabel, writing to her, "You are the Goddess I am seeking to express in all things." Lachaise’s oeuvre is dominated by Isabel, his most compelling works sculpted elegies to her body. The two were married in 1917 in New York, their wedding supper hosted by sculptor, Paul Manship.
Called by ARTnews the "greatest American sculptor of his time," Lachaise created remarkable portraits of the literary, social and artistic figures of his time, beautified several New York buildings (including executing reliefs for the RCA (now GE) building and International Building, both in Rockefeller Center), and was honored with the first retrospective given to a living artist at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1935. Most importantly, he played a critical role in the birth of American Modernism, pushing the boundaries of nude figuration with his innovative portrayals of the female body.
Lachaise took part in the 1913 The Armory Show and was included in an exhibition at Alfred Steiglitz’s The Intimate Gallery, New York, NY in 1927. Lachaise has been given many solo shows both in his lifetime and posthumously by institutions including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; Herbert F Johnson Museum, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY; The Frederick S. Wight Art Galleries, University of California, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; The National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C; Veletrzní Palác, Narodni Galerie (National Gallery), Prague, Czech Republic; Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, UK; New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA; Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, TX.