Henri Laugier

Mane, France, 1888–Antibes, France, 1973

Henri Laugier was a physiologist, humanist, and patron of modern French art who amassed an important collection of Cubism with his partner, Marie Cuttoli. A large portion of their collection is now held in the Musée National d’art Moderne, Centre Pompidou in Paris.

Laugier moved to Paris at the age of eighteen to pursue an education in medicine and later founded a physiology center where he began a career as a professor at the Sorbonne University. In 1923 he met Cuttoli, with whom he shared an interest in art; indeed, in their focus on Cubism, their personal art collections were complementary. Laugier, in particular, was an avid fan of Fernand Léger’s Cubist and Purist work; and later, he would even go on to meet and befriend Léger through their joint participation in sociocultural events organized concomitantly with the rise of the Popular Front government during the mid-1930s. Laugier briefly served as Minister of Education under Popular Front President Léon Blum and participated in the creation of the Palais de la Découverte, an institution established in 1937 to render the sciences more accessible to the French public. The Palais de la Découverte also served as an exhibition space during the 1937 Exposition Universelle in Paris, where Laugier commissioned Raoul Dufy to paint the mural The Discovery of Electricity (1937; Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris). Laugier served on the Exposition’s board, granting important public art commissions to underrepresented modern painters, including Léger.

Although they were never married, Laugier and Cuttoli shared an apartment on the rue de Babylone, which also housed their collections. During World War II, Laugier and Cuttoli temporarily lived in the United States, where Laugier worked with the Rockefeller Foundation to expatriate French scientists from Nazi-occupied countries in Europe. While in the U.S., Laugier founded the Centre nationale de la recherche scientifique (National Center of Scientific Research), a state-funded French organization, and served as its first director. In 1943 General de Gaulle summoned Laugier to Algiers, where he became dean of Algiers University. Laugier later served as Assistant Secretary General for the United Nations Department of Social Affairs and became a contributing author to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Following the war, Laugier and Cuttoli moved to Antibes in the south of France, often hosting their friends Picasso and his mistress, the painter Françoise Gilot, in their seaside villa. Laugier and Cuttoli donated an important group of paintings and works on paper by Picasso to the Musée National d’Art Moderne in 1963, including his papier collés, Bottle, Glass and Newspaper (1912) and Violin (1914).

For more information, see:

Collection Marie Cuttoli-Henri Laugier. Basel: Galerie Beyeler, 1970.

Leymarie, Jean. Les Picasso de la donation Cuttoli-Laugier au Musée National d’Art Moderne. Paris: Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 1969.

How to cite this entry:
Boate, Rachel, "Henri Laugier", The Modern Art Index Project (August 2017), Leonard A. Lauder Research Center for Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. https://doi.org/10.57011/QKHV9871