Modern Sculpture In France
( Originally Published 1896 )
REVOLUTIONARY CHANGES. In France the Revolution at the close of the eighteenth century signified the substitution of democratic for aristocratic ideas and methods. This resulted in the destruction of many fine statues, but not of the sculptor's art. At first classical methods, especially those of republican Rome, prevailed. But already in the first half of the nineteenth century a romantic and naturalistic reaction made itself felt. The classical movement expressed itself in the works of Chaudet, Bosio, and Pradier; the romantic, in those of Preault and others of lesser note; the naturalistic, in the monuments of David d'Angers, Rude, and Barye.
THE CLASSICAL SCHOOL. Antoine Denis Chaudet (1763—1810) studied in Rome and was a classicist of the severe type. He made the colossal statue of Napoleon which occupied the summit of the Colonne Vendome until 1814. His best works were, however, of an ideal character, such as his Paul and Virginia, his OEdipus called to Life by Phorbas, and his Amor in the Museum in the Louvre. Francois Joseph Bosio (1769—1845), a pupil of Pajou, was eminently a sculptor of graceful subjects, such as the Reclining Hyacinth and the Nymph Salmacis in the Louvre. As sculptor to the court of Napoleon, he was highly esteemed for his portraits. In the works of James Pradier (1792–1862) we find, with the classic spirit and great technical perfection, a grace of manner leaning toward sensuous treatment. His Victories on the tomb of Napoleon and on the Arc de Triomphe were graceful examples of monumental decoration, but his semi-sensuous Atalanta in the Louvre, the Odalisque Accroupie at Lyons, and the Three Graces at Versailles give some weight to the remark of Preault, that Pradier departed every morning for Athens and returned every evening to the Rue Breda.
Of the many pupils of Pradier the most distinguished were Antoine Etex, who was successful as a rival of Rude in the decoration of the Arc de Triomphe, and Jean Baptiste Eugene Guillaume, author of the Tomb of the Gracchi at the Luxembourg, and of many pleasing busts. This French classic school sometimes manifested a realistic sense and an emotionalism which promised soon to burst the bonds of classical convention. Of such a character was Cartellier (1757–1833), the master of Rude, and Lemot (1781–1827) of Lyons, the sculptor of the life-like equestrian statue of Louis XIV. at Lyons, and Francois Gregoire Giraud (1783-1836), an independent and original sculptor, and Francois Joseph Duret (18o5-1865), whose Neapolitan Dancer and Improvisatore are inspired as much by the model as by the classic sense of form.
TILE ROMANTIC SCHOOL. As the century advanced, classic restraint gave way to the growth of national pride, which expressed itself in romanticism on the one hand and natural-ism on the other. The latter school was by far the stronger. The romanticists reverted to mediaeval France for their inspiration. To this class belonged Preault, the sculptor of the statue of Jacques Coeur at Bourges, of Marceau at Chartres, and of the Gothic Knight on the Pont d'Iena in Paris. Of a similar character was the Francesca da Rimini by Mlle. Felicie de Fauveau, the Jeanne d'Arc of Princess Marie d'Orleans, the works of Baron Triqueti, Du Seigneur, and Antonin Koine. The statues of saints around the Madeleine, by Desboeufs, Chalouette, Fouchere, and Danton, are not so far removed from the style of the classicists.
THE EARLY NATURALISTS. The appeal to nature struck a deeper chord in the heart of modern France. David d'Angers (1789—1856) was the pupil of the painter David and of the sculptor Rolland. He also frequented the ateliers of Canova and Thorwaldsen. His works were not always free from the classic style, as, for example, in his General Foy, clad in Roman costume, and in his Philopoemen. Even in his gable sculptures for the Pantheon, classic conventions struggled with more modern modes of expression. But his General Gobert was represented as a man of his time, and his many busts and medallions were characteristic portraits.
Francois Rude (1784—1855) was a native of Dijon, where he imbibed the Flemish realism which characterized the Burgundian school. But in Paris his early prizes (1809 and 1812) were won by treating classic themes such as Marius on the Ruins of Carthage and Aristmus deploring the Loss of his Bees. The relief which he made for the Chateau de Tervueren at Brussels treated of the Hunt of Meleager and the History of Achilles. As late as 1827 his Mercury was still conventional sculpture. It was not until 1831 that in his Young Fisher Boy playing with a Turtle he made what Charles Lenormant called a " protest against the icy dreams of the ideal." By 1836 he completed his masterpiece, the Departure of the Volunteers of 1792, which decorates one of the piers of the Arc de Triomphe. This was still classic, in the sense that the Giant Frieze of Pergamon was classic, but, at the same time, national enough to be called the Marseillaise. It was the extreme expression of patriotic enthusism.
From this time forward the naturalistic and historic spirit became evident in Rude's works. In his statue of the Marechal de Saxe he reverts to the eighteenth-century conventions; in that of Louis XIII. to those of the seventeenth century. His Jeanne d'Arc listening to the Voices (1845) was mediaeval French. Thoroughly modern was his Gaspard Monge at Beaune, his Marechal Ney in Paris, and his Napoleon waking to Immortality at Fixin. In his Hebe and his Love dominating the World, works of his old age, he went back to the classic spirit of his youth.
Antoine Louis Barye (1795–1875) widened the range of French sculpture by his devotion to the representation of animals, by his varied and skilful manipulation of bronze, and by the emphasis he laid upon massive modelling as opposed to precise outlines and delicately curved surfaces. These were unexpected results from a pupil of Bosio and Gros, and of the Ecole des Beaux Arts. His real inspiration came from the writings of Buffon, Lamarck, Cuvier, and from the fine collection of animals in the Jardin des Plantes. His subjects were frequently contests ; e.g., a Tiger devouring a Gavial, a Lion crushing a Serpent or a Tiger, a Lapith fighting a Centaur, a Jaguar devouring a Hare—contests illustrative of the force and strength of the nobler animals. His works as a whole were a protest against the classic restriction to the nude human form. As an historical series, they illustrated the development from a minute and detailed to a broad and massive style.
CONTEMPORARY SCULPTURE. During the second half of the present century the classical school has been largely replaced by a half-classic, half-naturalistic school, in which the naturalists have been gaining ground. Classic influences were still strong in the works of Henri Chapu (1833-1891), the pupil of Pradier and Duret, as maybe seen in his Mercury inventing the Caduceus, and in his graceful figure of Youth placing an Olive Branch on the Tomb of Henri Regnault, but they were somewhat less strong in his kneeling figure of Jeanne d'Arc in the Louvre. Severely classic also are Augustin Alexandre Dumont in his Genius of Liberty on the Colonne de la Bastille, and in his portrait statues; Francois Jouffroy (1806—1882) in his Young Girl telling her Secret to Venus; Perraud in his Les Adieux, which is inspired by Athenian sepulchral reliefs.
THE ACADEMIC SCHOOL. The organized teaching of France, as represented by the Institute and the Ecole des Beaux Arts, no longer upholds the severely classic style. The romantic and naturalistic reaction has gained ground so far that even in conservative quarters the French Renaissance, or, if you please, the Italian Renaissance, is now of more immediate influence than Greece and Rome. The work of this school is eminently characterized by elegance, technical perfection, and the absence of inharmonious detail. The school contains a long list of able sculptors.
Paul Dubois (b. 1829) is a leader, as well as one of the most inspired representatives of the school. In his youthful St. John, his Florentine Singer, and his Narcissus he may be compared to Donatello; and in his figures of Faith, Charity, Military Courage, and Meditation, on the tomb of General Lamoriciere at Nantes, he has all the style, and more than the charm, of Civitali.
Jean Alexandre Falguiere (b. 1831), a pupil of Jouffroy, broke away from his master's severe style, and infused life and motion into sculpture in his Running Victor in the Cock Fight. Original and charming is his conception in the Young Martyr Tarcisius, in the Luxembourg. More monumental are his Saint Vincent de Paul and his Progress overcoming Error, at the Pantheon. Puech, another pupil of Jouffroy, has also surpassed his master in his charming Muse of Andre Chenier and his Siren, at the Luxembourg. Falguiere's pupil, Antonin Mercie (b. 1845), is an artist of great grace and refinement. His David loses nothing when compared with Verrocchio's, and his Gloria Victis is one of the masterpieces of modern sculpture. Justly popular, too, is his Quand Meme, in the garden of the Tuileries, and full of delicate sentiment his Souvenir for the Tomb of Mme Charles Ferry. For rhythm, movement, and delicacy of sentiment, Mercie enjoys well-earned distinction. Less elevated in his conceptions, but equally perfect in style, is Rene de Saint Marceaux. He is somewhat fantastic and Michelangelesque in his Genius Guarding the Secret of the Tomb, in the Luxembourg; but more subtile and French in his Harlequin, in the museum at Rheims. Nearly the equal of Paul Dubois is Louis Ernest Barrias (b. 1841), best known by his statue of the Youthful Mozart with the Violin, and his First Funeral, in which Adam and Eve are grieving over the dead Abel. Moreau Vauthier (d. 1893) was almost a Florentine, if we may judge by the exquisitely modelled bust of Mr. Lucas in the Metropolitan Museum, New York. Chaplain and Roty have brought the production of medals and plaques to a higher degree of technical perfection than was reached by the great medallists of the Italian and French Renaissance or by David d'Angers.
THE LATER NATURALISTS. As followers in the line of Rude and Barye we may mention, first, Jean Baptiste Carpeaux (1827-1875), a pupil of Rude, and a sculptor of considerable emotional and dramatic power. His portrait busts, such as those of Gerome (1872) and Alexandre Dumas (1875), are full of life. His relationship to Rude is more evident in the stirring relief of the Dance, in the facade of the New Opera House. Somewhat in the spirit of Clodion, but more sensuous and Rubens-like, is his Triumph of Flora; and full of abandon, his Four Quarters of the Earth supporting the World in the Luxembourg Gardens.
Emmanuel Fremiet (b. 1824), like his uncle, Rude, in historical bent, and like Barye in his devotion to animals, excels in monumental works such as Louis d'Orleans and Jeanne d'Arc, and also in such genre subjects as a Wounded Dog, and a Gorilla carrying off a Woman. Auguste Cain, more exclusively a follower of Barye, has de-voted himself to animal sculpture. His Rhinoceros attacked by Lions and Tigers is in the Garden of the Tuileries, and his Tigress with her Cubs, in the Central Park, New York. Jules Dalou (b. 1838), in his reliefs of Silenus and the Nymphs, in the South Kensington Museum, and in his Sevres Vase, in t he Luxembourg, shows himself a more refined Carpeaux. His masterpiece is in the Chamber of Deputies, and represents the Etats Generaux of 1789, with Mirabeau delivering his famous address before the Marquis de Dreux Breze. It is a dramatic composition full of historic realism.
Auguste Rodin (b. 184o) is still further removed from the academic school. He draws his inspiration from nature, aiming at true expression without regard to elegance of form. His John the Baptist, in the Luxembourg—a replica of the head is in the Metropolitan Museum, New York—is a naturalistic presentation of an ill-fed prophet. But Rodin's naturalism does not yet observe historic conditions. His John the Baptist is a Frenchman. This limitation of range makes his Bourgeois de Calais, and his busts of Victor Hugo and of Dalou, more satisfactory works of art. In his modelling, Rodin continues the broad style of Barye.
Of the younger sculptors, great talent has been shown by Bartholome, especially in funerary sculpture. His project for the entrance of a tomb, exhibited in 1892, and again in greater completeness in 1895, is remarkable not only for its originality, but also for its significance and naturalistic character.
The democratic spirit of modern times has so widened the area of sculpture that much that is frivolous and insignificant and meretricious is produced in the name of art ; but significant, beautiful, and truthful expression is to-day in France carried further than in the sculpture of any country of the world. In fact, the sculpture of France surpasses both her architecture and her painting.
EXTANT MONUMENTS. The museums of the Luxembourg and of the Louvre, in Paris, contain collections of modern French sculpture. A special collection for David d'Angers is in the museum at Angers, and of Barye bronzes in the Corcoran Art Gallery at Washington. The most important sculptures are usually first exhibited in model, or finished, at the annual Salons, at special exhibitions, or at World's Fairs.