Antoine Louis Barye

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Antoine Louis Barye – (French, 1796 ~ 1875)

Barye was a French sculptor most famous for his work as an animalier, a sculptor of animals. Antoine-Louis Barye, is the father and the Master of Alfred Barye “Le Fils” (1839-1882), who became himself a renowned sculptor, sometimes working in tandem with the French sculptor Émile-Coriolan Guillemin, known for the work “The Arab warrior on horseback”.

Born in Paris, Barye began his career as a goldsmith, like many sculptors of the Romantic Period. He first worked under his father, Pierre, but around 1810 worked under the sculptor Guillaume-Mertin Biennais, who was a goldsmith to Napoleon. After studying under sculptor Francois-Joseph Bosio in 1816 and painter Baron Antoine-Jean Gros, he was (in 1818) admitted to the École des Beaux Arts. But it was not until 1823, while working for Fauconnier, the goldsmith, that he discovered his true predilection from watching the animals in the Jardin des Plantes, making vigorous studies of them in pencil drawings comparable to those of Delacroix, then modelling them in sculpture on a large or small scale.

Barye didn’t only want to be known as a sculptor of small bronzes, he wanted to be known as a sculpteur statuaire (a sculptor of large statues). In 1831 he exhibited much larger statues, Tiger Devouring a Gavial Crocodile which was a plaster sculpture 41 cm high and 103 cm long, and Lion Crushing a Serpent, 138 cm high and 178 cm long, made in bronze. In 1832 Barye mastered a style of his own in the Lion and Snake. Thenceforth Barye exhibited studies of animals year after year — admirable groups which reveal him as inspired by a spirit of true romance, representing animals in their most familiar attitudes; in consequence his works are now very highly valued.

From then on Barye exhibited year after year studies of animals—admirable groups which reveal him as inspired by a spirit of true romance, as in his Roger and Angelica on the Hippogriff (1840), drawn from an episode in Orlando furioso, and a feeling for the beauty of the antique, as in Theseus and the Minotaur (1847), “Lapitha and Centaur” (1848), and numerous minor works now very highly valued.

Barye was no less successful in sculpture on a small scale, and excelled in representing animals in their most familiar attitudes. Examples of his larger work include the Lion of the Column of July, of which the plaster model was cast in 1839, various lions and tigers in the gardens of the Tuileries, and the four groups–War, Peace, Strength, and Order (1854).

Barye – Later Life

Fame came late in the sculptor’s life. He was made Professor of Drawings at the Museum of Natural History in 1854, and was elected to the Académie des beaux-arts in 1868. While Barye excelled at sculpture he often faced financial burdens due to his lack of business knowledge. In 1848 he was forced to declare bankruptcy and all of his work and moulds were sold to other foundries including the most prestigious French foundry F Barbedienne ~ Paris. In 1876 what remained of Barye’s inventory, 125 models, were sold to the Barbedienne foundry. The 1877 Barbedienne catalogue offered all of the models in bronze in variable sizes. The Barbedienne castings were of superb quality.The mass of admirable work left by Barye entitles him to be regarded as one of the great animal life artists of the French school, indeed Barye is often referred to as ‘The Father of The Animaliers