Christo Vladimirov Javacheff and Jeanne-Claude were a married couple who created environmental works of art. Christo and Jeanne-Claude were born on the same day, June 13, 1935; Christo in Gabrovo, Bulgaria, and Jeanne-Claude in Morocco. They first met in Paris in October 1958 when Christo painted a portrait of Jeanne-Claude's mother. They then fell in love through creating art work together.
Their works include the wrapping of the Reichstag in Berlin and the Pont-Neuf bridge in Paris, the 24-mile-long (39 km) artwork called Running Fence in Sonoma and Marin counties in California, and The Gates in New York City's Central Park.
Credit was given to "Christo" only, until 1994, when the outdoor works and large indoor installations were retroactively credited to "Christo and Jeanne-Claude". They flew in separate planes: in case one crashed, the other could continue their work.
Jeanne-Claude died, aged 74, on November 18, 2009, from complications of a brain aneurysm.
Although their work is visually impressive and often controversial as a result of its scale, the artists have repeatedly denied that their projects contain any deeper meaning than their immediate aesthetic impact. The purpose of their art, they contend, is simply to create works of art for joy and beauty and to create new ways of seeing familiar landscapes. Art critic David Bourdon has described Christo's wrappings as a "revelation through concealment". To his critics Christo replies, "I am an artist, and I have to have courage ... Do you know that I don't have any artworks that exist? They all go away when they're finished. Only the preparatory drawings, and collages are left, giving my works an almost legendary character. I think it takes much greater courage to create things to be gone than to create things that will remain."
Christo (Bulgarian: Христо Владимиров Явашев) was born in Gabrovo, Bulgaria. His father, Vladimir Javacheff, was a businessman and ran a fabric factory, and his mother, Tsveta Dimitrova, was the secretary at the Academy of Fine Arts in Sofia. Professors from the Academy who visited his family observed Christo's artistic talent while he was still very young.
Christo studied art at the Sofia Academy from 1953 to 1956 and went to Prague, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic), until 1957, when he left for the West by bribing a railway official and stowing away with several others on board a train transporting medicine and medical supplies to Austria.
Christo quickly settled in Vienna and enrolled at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. After only one semester there, he travelled to Geneva and moved to Paris in 1958. His life in Paris was characterized by financial hardship and social isolation, which was worsened by his difficulty learning the French language. He earned money by painting portraits, which he likened to prostitution and signed with his family name "Javachef" while his early works were signed "Christo." In 1973, after 17 stateless years, Christo became a United States citizen.
Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon came from an old French family. She was born in Casablanca, Morocco, where her father, an army officer, was stationed. Her mother, Précilda, was 17 when she married Jeanne-Claude's father, Major Léon Denat. Précilda and Léon Denat divorced shortly after Jeanne-Claude was born, and Précilda remarried three times. Jeanne-Claude earned a baccalauréat in Latin and philosophy in 1952 from the University of Tunis.
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