César is first of all an atypical character, who has always cultivated his accent and his outspoken frankness from the south of France.
"I'm basically an absolute self-taught man"
He enrolled in the preparatory courses of the Ecole des beaux-arts de Marseille in 1935, and joined the School in 1938. In 1943, he left the Ecole des beaux-arts de Marseille for the Ecole nationale supérieur des beaux-arts de Paris. He remained there until 1954.
"I hung out at school for several years. Where do you want to go? School is a place where we have so-called material possibilities: you meet friends, you have university restaurants, you have a social service... let's say it's a bit like a family. There was also the 39-45 period, which automatically made retarded students," he would later say.
He worked there, among other things, in plaster and iron, until he learned arc welding in 1949, a practice that would make him definitely turn to metal waste.
"The Carrara marble was too expensive, the old scrap metal was lying around. I became a sculptor because I was poor!"
First of all, he produced figurative and rather classical works by welding together various recovered metal pieces, and from 1960 onwards he turned to Compressions. He joined the group of new realists in 1961. Later, he also experimented with Human Expansions and Footprints (enlargement of casts of body parts).
Caesar was and still is a popular artist. But his self-derision of his own work and the doubts he expressed probably played against him: he was not really taken seriously. But since his death, his image has been rehabilitated thanks to exhibitions and in particular a retrospective, organized at the Cartier Foundation by his friend Jean Nouvel in 2008 and called César Anthologie by the architect.