In the Paris Salon of 1831 when Antoine Louis Barye exhibited his first animal sculpture, one zealous French art critic dubbed him an Animalier: maker of animals, the species deprived of human nobility. This was intended as a criticism and not a flattering title. This perception changed in the 1830’s when the new monarch, King Louis-Philippe gave several public commissions to Barye. The King’s son, the Duc d’Orleans, also became Barye’s patron and by the middle of the 19th Century, any artist was proud to be known as an Animalier.
Although many earlier examples can be found, animalier sculpture became more popular, and reputable, in early 19th century Paris with the works of Antoine-Louis Barye (1795–1875) for whom the term was coined and who became the ‘Father of the Animaliers School’ and Pierre Jules Mêne considered the finest realist sculptor of the era. By the mid-century, a taste for animal subjects was very widespread among all sections of society.