César Baldaccini (known as César) was a French sculptor, born in 1921 in Marseille. From 1935 to 1939 César studied at the Academy of Marseille. On 1943 he moved to Paris to study at the Academy of Paris from 1943 to 1947 where he met other artists as Picasso or Germaine Richier and lived in the same place as Alberto Giacometti. The Galerie Lucien Durand held his first solo art show in 1954.
His early work used soldered and welded metal as well as junk materials. To do this, César used a hydraulic press to form many of his compressions, and occasionally used a welding torch or sledgehammer. He astonished his followers by showing three crushed cars at a Paris exhibition. It was for these "Compressions" that César became renowned. To control the surface pattern and the colour of the pieces he selected particular cars to crush, mixing their elements to create one solid figure. By 1960 César was considered one of France's leading sculptors.
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, 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 1967-1970 in which he produced expansions in the presence of an audience. His later works also include sculptures made out of molten crystal.
One of his more widely available works, reproduced in many sizes for commercial sale, was a representation of his thumb; Le Pouce, a 12-metre (40-foot) version, was erected in the Parisian quarter of La Défense. César's most massive work was a 520-ton barrier of compressed automobiles erected at the Venice Biennale in 1995.
In 1995, he was asked to paint a Mclaren F1 GTR that participated at the famous 24 hour Le Mans. The car Chassis GTR5 is still in the livery created by Cesar and represents the only "Art Car" on the iconic Mclaren.
He was made Chevalier (Knight) of the Légion d'honneur on 22 January 1978 and promoted Officier (Officer) in 1993.
César Baldaccini died in Paris in December 1998.