KNOW YOUR ARTISTS: ANTOINE LOUIS BARYE
Antoine Louis Barye was a sculptor of the romantic period, most famous for his dynamic animalier works which captured the vitality of nature so beautifully. Barye was born in Paris on September 24th 1796 to a modest family, it is noted he did not receive any formal education, but had a notable creative flair from a young age. In 1818 he was admitted to the École des Beaux Arts, he discovered his passion for drawing animals at the Jardin des Plantes as part of his studies, later transforming his visions into sculptures.
His animal sculptures are usually of a violent nature, his models are incredibly technically competent, based on the studies of wild animals, both living and dead, at the Jardin de Plantes. Barye’s talent for rendering dynamic tension and exact anatomical detail is especially evident in his most famous bronzes, those of wild animals struggling with or devouring their prey, as seen here in “Panthère Surprenant un Zibeth”.
Barye’s animal subjects, with their complex narratives and incredible stylistic realism, triggered an important debate on the threshold between fine and decorative art at the time. He first exhibited his bronzes at the Paris Salon of 1827, but withdrew from exhibiting in the Salon after his work was rejected as goldsmithery (not “high art”), a point that angered to a declare he would never return, but fortunately for us he did, to great acclaim in 1850.
He was a master of anatomical form, whether human or animal. His example and success enhanced the modest reputation of animal and small-scale sculpture as "fine art" during the nineteenth century.
He was appointed Professor of Drawings at the Museum of Natural History in 1854, a post he held until his death. It was during the later part of his life that Barye was given the many honors and awards. In 1867 at the age of 71, he was awarded the Grand Medal at the Exposition Universelle in Paris for his works. He was elevated to the rank of Officer in the Legion d'Honneur, was named the first president of the Central Union of Beaux Arts and was appointed a Member of the Institute of France.
Barye produced no new works after 1869. Following his death in 1875 most of his plasters and models were purchased by Ferdinand Barbedienne, the famous founder whose had earlier reproduced Barye’s works during his bankruptcy. Barbedienne continued casting bronzes from Barye's original master models until after the turn of the century. All of these later, posthumous, casts are marked F. Barbedienne Founder.
Today, most of Barye's plasters and models are the property of the Louvre. The sheer scale of notable works left by Barye entitles him to be regarded as one of the great Romantic sculptors of the time. He died in Paris in 1875, and after an elaborate funeral to signal his high artistic stature, Barye was buried at Père-Lachaise Cemetery.