Dalou: Le sculpteur de la République
Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris, Paris
April 18–July 13, 2013

And

Dalou: Regards sur le XVIIIe Siècle
Musée Cognacq-Jay, Paris
April 18–July 13, 2013

Catalogue :
Jules Dalou, Le sculpteur de la République. Catalogue des sculptures de Jules Dalou conservées au Petit Palais.
Amélie Simier, with the assistance of Marine Kisiel.
Paris: Paris-Musées, 2013.
472 pp.; 950 color and b&w illustrations (not numbered in the text); nine annexes; bibliography.
€ 69
ISBN: 978-2-7596-0189-9

No artist has been more eclipsed by the shadow of Auguste Rodin than Aimé-Jules Dalou (1838–1902). When studying the careers of these two artists in tandem and retrospect, this is surprising. While Rodin’s private pavilion, staged during the Exposition Universelle of 1900, gained him commissions, fame and wealth, Penelope Curtis reminded us in her catalogue essay for the show Oublier Rodin? La sculpture à Paris, 1905–1914, that by that time “very few of [Rodin’s] works were erected at the locations where they had been intended,” and that Rodin had not yet “marked Paris with his imprint," that is, with permanent works, as Dalou had done by this time.[1] Dalou had managed to make his mark on Paris even with eight years of exile separating him from the city; escaping to London, he went into voluntary exile with his family in 1871 after the fall of the Commune, which he had supported, and they did not return until amnesty was declared in 1879. But what a return it was: the greater part of Dalou’s public works were commissioned and installed in the city after 1882. Dalou had been awarded the Légion d’honneur in 1889, and by the time of his death he had, or was in the process of completing, nineteen significant monuments and architectural reliefs that were eventually placed in the streets, on the buildings, and in the parks of twelve of the twenty arrondissements of Paris. An additional seven sculptures were made for tombs in the cemetery of Père-Lachaise in the 20th arrondissement.[2] Most notable of these sculptures, and without doubt Dalou’s chef-d’œuvre, is his Triomphe de la République (Triumph of the Republic), installed at the Place de la Nation (12th arrondissement) in 1899. While Rodin worked tirelessly for years on commissions that were never fully realized as hoped (for example The Gates of Hell, Monument to Victor Hugo, and Monument to Balzac), Dalou was overseeing the installation of the bulk of his œuvre in nearly every corner of central Paris. In 1905, three years after Dalou’s death, the city of Paris acquired 368 examples of his artworks, which eventually became part of the collection of the Petit Palais. Not to be outdone, Rodin donated his entire collection of works to the French State in 1908. In any case, it seems impossible that Dalou, whose works absolutely permeated the city, could go unnoticed by future scholars, though that did happen for quite a long time.

All photographs are by the author. © Caterina Y. Pierre, 2013.

















































As an art historical canon developed in the twentieth century, many artists like Dalou fell victim to the tastes, whims, and storyline of those who produced the list of standards, particularly for the discussion of modernism. Much of the twentieth-century canon had to do with myth over matter. It did not make a difference how many works by Dalou were peppered across Paris, or how influential a teacher he was in England, or how many successes he had at public exhibitions, or how politically engaging his works were, or how many positive reviews he collected or awards he had won; his story was seen as less intriguing than that of Rodin, who was remembered as a tortured genius; a detached teacher and insatiable lover; a man who was a professional failure practically until he was fifty and who, quite suddenly, finally captured the public imagination when he was sixty with his freely-formed, fragmented, and larger than life figures.

In the final decades of the twentieth century through to today, the canon, at long last, has faced the wrecking ball. New generations of scholars have tired of the old canonical narrative, and from the dust has risen opportunities to discuss and revisit the works of many important and influential global artists who previously went unrecognized. It is in part due to this change within the discipline that two important exhibitions could be mounted this past spring in Paris to celebrate the ever-present but absent Dalou. The first exhibition, entitled Dalou: le sculpteur de la République, was curated by Cécilie Champy-Vinas and Amélie Simier, and held at the Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris; it focused primarily on that museum’s holdings of Dalou’s original plaster and terra-cotta sculptures, most obtained through the 1905 acquisition. The exhibition at the Petit Palais gave the museum an opportunity to publish Jules Dalou: Le sculpteur de la République. Catalogue des sculptures de Jules Dalou conservées au Petit Palais, a much needed catalogue raisonné of all of the works by Dalou conserved there; this text accompanied the exhibition and served as its official catalogue. The second show, also curated by Champy-Vinas with Benjamin Couilleaux, was titled Dalou: Regards sur le XVIIIe siècle, and was installed at the Musée Cognacq-Jay. While the shows shared a curator and ran concurrently, they were two completely different and separate studies of Dalou’s œuvre and should be treated as such.

Dalou: Le sculpteur de la République at the Petit Palais (fig. 1) was displayed in a long corridor space consisting of eight chronologically thematic sections. The walls were elegantly decorated with alternating violet and periwinkle paint, and with large stencils of some of the sculptures affixed to them (fig. 2). Most of the works were in plexiglas cases but some were not, and while there were too many roaming hands for my stomach to handle, the uncased works were much easier to study and could be viewed at a very close range. This exhibition began with an early figural marble and some quite wonderful ornamental plasters, which gave evidence of Dalou’s attention to fine detail and excellent, careful tooling skills, which remained with him throughout his career and became his hallmark. The first section, “Dalou célèbre et inconnu” (“Dalou celebrated and unknown”), contained portraits of Dalou and his family by other artists, engravings, and photographs to set the stage for his life and works. This was followed by the second section of the exhibition, divided into three parts: “Les débuts d’un sculpteur”; “Premiers succès”; and “La Commune.” The first success came when Dalou was twenty-six years old – he received a commission to make figural sculptures for the Hôtel de Païva on the Champs-Élysées. Ève (1866) shown close to the entrance, was presented as example of the type of works he created for the marquise de Païva, and exhibited the influence of Dalou’s early training with Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux (1827–75), with whom he first studied at the Petite Ecole (fig. 3).

Some examples of works from Dalou’s English period were presented in the third section, called “La parenthèse anglaise.” One of the highlights here included Dalou’s portrait bust of the French actress Céline Chaumont (1848–1926) whose features the artist sculpted in 1877 during his exile in South Kensington (fig. 4). According to the exhibition’s catalogue, terra-cotta portrait busts by Dalou in public collections are somewhat rare because they were often given or sold to the sitter and remained with their families thereafter. In this singular work, thick, creamy daubs of clay give Chaumont’s modestly open blouse a lively texture and create a contrast between her loosely molded clothes and her smooth, delicately sculpted face. In depicting that fresh and youthful face with a coy, sideways glance and sly, pursed smile, Dalou captured what the famous theatrical manager M. L. Mayer called Chaumont’s “esprit boulevardier.[3] Also shown here was a maquette for the Windsor Monument, also known as Monument aux Petits-enfants de la Reine Victoria morts en bas âge (Monument to the Grandchildren of Queen Victoria who Died at a Young Age, 1877) that clearly displays the influence of the Ponte Sant’ Angelo angels designed by Gianlorenzo Bernini (1598–1680), of which Dalou knew from a maquette at the Louvre (fig. 5).[4] Dalou’s borrowing from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries would continue upon his return to France, and would characterize a style found often in French sculpture of this period, known as neo-baroque; this tendency was explored with greater depth in the Musée Cognacq-Jay exhibition, which I will discuss presently. Section four followed around the bend, considering Dalou’s return to Paris with four bronze portrait busts of some of the leading intellectuals of the new Republic to which he returned. This section included busts of Albert Liouville (1835–93); Jean-Marie Charcot (1825–93); Auguste Vacquerie (1819–95) and Henri Rochefort (1830–1913).

The centerpiece of the Petit Palais exhibition, shown in section five, was the large maquette for the Triumph of the Republic (1879, fig. 6). The work was originally conceived for a competition, held in 1879, to create a monument to the new Republic for the Place de la République, a competition that Dalou lost. Nonetheless, his concept so charmed the competition jury that they decided to pay for and erect his work anyway at the Place de la Nation. Though it took twenty years to install Triumph of the Republic, Dalou kept himself busy on other commissions and projects, and it was during this time that he began working on his great unrealized masterpiece, the Monument aux ouvriers (Monument to Laborers), in 1889. Nowhere is Dalou’s eclectic style more in evidence than in Triumph of the Republic, in which one sees the merging of neo-baroque drama with the unlikely but successful marriage of political Realism with a capital “R” and allegorical symbolism allied with modern concepts of industry, instruction and labor. These themes became more deeply expressed in the Monument to Laborers, as the Petit Palais exhibition comes to show. An excellent overview of Triumph of the Republic by Marine Kisiel, complete with archival photographs and comparative works, is included in the catalogue.[5]

In case Dalou’s interest in earlier artistic styles and revolutionary historical periods had not yet captured the attention of the exhibition visitor, the curators borrowed a huge fragment of the relief entitled Mirabeau répondant au marquise de Dreux-Brézé (also known as États généraux. Séance du 23 juin 1789, 1880–84) (fig. 7). The version of this work at the Petit Palais, also shown in section five under the title “1883, Le Salon de Dalou,” was a patinated plaster cast molded in 1942 after the original bronze held at the Assemblée Nationale. It was cast for the Musée des Monuments français, which is now part of the museum known as the Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine.[6] When commoners were locked out of a meeting of the Estates General on 20 June 1789, they went to a nearby tennis court, called themselves the National Assembly, and took an oath not to disband until a constitution was established. Dalou chose to depict the highpoint of the story where Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, comte de Mirabeau (1749–91), defending the people three days after the oath at the tennis court, tells Henri Evrard, marquis de Dreux-Brézé (1792–1829) that the hall could not be cleared except by force.[7] The commission afforded Dalou the opportunity to explore large-scale relief production, eighteenth-century costume, history, and motifs, and political subject matter relatively soon after returning to Paris from his own political exile.

Section five also included Dalou’s projects to great men of the century, and included maquettes for the Monument to Delacroix (1885, fig. 8), Monument to Émile Levassor (1898–1902, fig. 9) and Victor Hugo sur son lit de mort (Victor Hugo on his Deathbed, 1885, fig. 10) among others. Dalou was officially commissioned for the Delacroix Monument in 1885 and it was installed in 1890 in the Jardin du Luxembourg, where he eventually had three completed sculptures installed. The highly finished maquette for the Monument to Delacroix (fig. 8) retains all of the dynamism of the finished bronze, with its wonderful depiction of male and female bodies, sweeping upwards in a dramatic arc to place a laurel wreath at the base of a bust of the painter. Equally dynamic is the Levassor Monument (fig. 9), represented here in a maquette that is rarely on public view. Commissioned by the Automobile Club of France in 1898, the finished monument (today at Porte Maillot in the 16th arrondissement) commemorates Emile Constant Levassor (1843–1897), who, with René Panhard, invented one of the first automobiles. They developed the System Panhard, in which the engine is placed vertically in front of the chassis rather than underneath or behind the driver, and had a clutch that allowed the driver to control the speed; this became the standard for all automobiles. To promote their cars, Levassor drove them in some of the very first automobile races; in Dalou’s sculpture, Levassor is shown winning the first true auto race, the Paris-Bordeaux-Paris, on June 13, 1895, driving a two cylinder, four horsepower Panhard et Levassor with a Daimler Phoenix steam engine. He drove 732 miles in just under 49 hours (with no co-driver) and was the fastest car in the race, at a full speed of fifteen miles per hour. The win was taken from Levassor when it was decided he was faster because his car was a two-seater instead of a four-seater. Dalou, however, depicts the inventor valiantly reaching Paris to cheering crowds who raise their hats and voices to his arrival. With the technicality that disqualified him forgotten, Levassor speeds head first into modern Paris. It is a fitting tribute to Levassor, who died in 1897 after a bad accident during the Paris-Marseille-Paris race, where he swerved off the road to avoid hitting a dog. Unfortunately, Dalou himself died in 1902, and while he had finished sketches for the Levassor monument, another artist, Camille Lefebvre, completed the definitive version. Dalou’s attempt to successfully produce and complete a monument to Victor Hugo was also considered in this part of the exhibition and is treated in the catalogue by Amélie Simier; the artist’s portrait of Hugo on his deathbed was prominently displayed at the Petit Palais (fig. 10). The Hugo Monument project is one of the great rivalry stories in art history, with both Dalou and Rodin competing for a commission. (Originally refused in 1889, Rodin’s monument to Hugo was installed twenty years later at the gardens of the Palais-Royal; Dalou’s monument was never realized.)

Decorative works, consisting of many mythological subjects, were the subject of section six. An emotive and serpentine maquette depicting Ariadne and Bacchus (ca. 1892) shown at the Petit Palais in a terra-cotta version, was later produced in a biscuit porcelain edition by the Sèvres factory, as well as in a bronze edition by the Hébrard Foundry after the artist’s death (fig. 11). Reproductions and editions were not Dalou’s style; he preferred the immediacy of plaster and terra-cotta, followed by large-scale, unique commissions for private portraits and public art. But late in his life he realized that if something were to happen to himself or his wife Irma (1848–1900), his ill daughter Georgette (1867–1915) would have no means to support herself. Understanding that editions of his work would provide Georgette with an income and protection until her death, Dalou agreed to the reproduction of his work for the popular art market, most of which was undertaken after his death. “Neo-rococo” sculptures were in demand, and gave Dalou the opportunity during his lifetime to produce sensual imagery without the complications that accompanied the overt, palpable sexuality found in Rodin’s Le Baiser (The Kiss) from 1882. A maquette for Triomphe de Silène (Triumph of Silenus, ca. 1884), originally shown at the Salon of 1885 and one of the few works Dalou produced without a specific commission or competition in mind, was exhibited here as well (fig. 12). Again, it shows Dalou’s admiration for baroque subject matter and flamboyance. As a special treat, the Petit Palais brought the finished bronze version of the work into the exhibition from the Jardin du Luxembourg, but presented it on a different floor than the maquette (fig. 13).

The exhibition at the Petit-Palais continued at the end of the corridor with section seven, focusing on the project for the Monument to Laborers, a massive project that consumed Dalou from 1889 until his death in 1902. The seeds of the project germinated within the Triumph of the Republic, which has incorporated within it a large allegorical figure representing Work. Dalou believed that monuments to work and workers, and to peasants and their daily toil, were the subject “of the époque and will be someday handled by others, though it will take time. The future is there, it is the cult called to replace past mythologies."[8] He was right, of course, and the subject was handled by many of Dalou’s contemporaries such as Rodin, Constanin Meunier (1831–1905) and countless other artists who traded idealism for naturalism at the fin-de-siècle. This section of the exhibition at the Petit Palais alone included 140 works made in conjunction with the unrealized project, incorporating numerous maquettes for figures of men engaged in all kinds of work such as divers, lumberjacks, masons, pavers, sowers, and wagoners, and life-sized busts and figures of men of many additional trades (figs. 14 and 15). The exhibition also included in this section the life-sized Grand Paysan (ca. 1899) as well as a series of bronze editions of the same figure on the lower level (fig. 16). Over one hundred pages are devoted to the Monument to Laborers in the catalogue, and there one finds reproductions of drawings from Dalou’s sketchbooks for the project, revealing his varied and detailed concepts for the monument.[9] The subject of work was key to Dalou’s artistic production after 1880, and from a political standpoint, he felt that labor was a guiding force for the Republic; this theme in Dalou’s oeuvre was elegantly discussed by Andrew Eschelbacher in this journal in 2009 (see below for a link to that essay).[10]

Like Rodin, who was consumed with the Gates of Hell for the last twenty-nine years of his life, Dalou produced hundreds of drawings, maquettes and conceptual ideas for the Monument to Laborers, a project that was never to be realized. Eventually, Rodin’s Gates of Hell was produced (however sketchily) after his death in bronze; by contrast, Dalou, whose work was heavily political, did not similarly benefit from posterity. But if we are to take a quote from the catalogue, in which Simier states that the goal of the work (for which Dalou knew he might not ever have a commission, as opposed to Rodin, who lost his commission for a work he had already started) was to explore the theme of labor, “gradually reach[ing] the essence of craft or bodily action, in a very personal approach to the real, ennobled by a monumental destination,” then the Monument to Laborers can be seen as nothing other than a personal success.[11]

The exhibition ended with section eight, entitled “Dalou après Dalou” (“Dalou after Dalou”), ending the exhibition on the ground level of the museum (fig. 16). Too heavy and cumbersome to move upstairs, the Triumph of Silenus was placed here, and it was surrounded by sixteen (mostly) posthumous, unrelated works in a variety of sizes and editions. All of the contracts for editions are catalogued in the exhibition text, which will be very useful for future scholars working on Dalou’s editions in bronze, ceramic and marble.

Although the exhibition at the Petit Palais was the “main event,” covering the full body of Dalou’s life and works, the wonderful simultaneous exhibition at the Musée Cognacq-Jay deserves mentioning here. While the Petit Palais exhibition and catalogue time and again made reference to Dalou’s interest in earlier artistic styles and alluded to his “neo-baroque” and “neo-rococo” tendencies, the exhibition at Cognacq-Jay made those stylistic connections to the past in his work intensely real. Here, approximately thirty of Dalou’s works were placed throughout the museum, within the permanent collection (which emphasizes eighteenth-century French art), so as to create a dialogue with actual sculptures from the eighteenth century by artists such as Claude Michel (called Clodion, 1738–1814), Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741–1828), Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne (1704–78), and their followers. The exhibition, which included a chronology and informational text placed on placards throughout, stood quite nicely on its own; there was no real need to see the Petit Palais exhibition before visiting the Cognacq-Jay, or to visit them in any particular order, although the two exhibitions together complemented each other greatly (fig. 17). Starting with the maquettes La Fayette (ca. 1881) and Le Marquis de Mirabeau, the exhibition sets the stage for Dalou’s treatment of eighteenth-century subjects early in his career (fig. 18). La Fayette was also produced in an edition by Sèvres, a ceramics manufacturing company itself established in 1738. Cabinets containing Dalou’s maquettes of mythological subjects were compared with rococo paintings (fig. 19), and a room devoted to images of children juxtaposed Bust of a Young Boy in the Vest of the Brandebourgs, attributed to Antoine Pajou, with Dalou’s Infant Carrying a Book (also called Le Génie de l’Instruction) (fig. 20).

My favorite pairing was between Dalou’s Woman with a Mirror shown within the same case as a sculpture entitled La Source by an unknown sculptor (fig. 21). If one did not know better, one would assume that the two sculptures were made as a set. The décor of the exhibition rooms of the Musée Cognacq-Jay greatly added to the visitor’s experience and understanding of the theme; the exhibition would have been much less successful had it been presented in the typical white museum cube. Dalou’s The Reader (ca. 1877–78) recalled the wonderful exhibition of Dalou’s sculptures of womanhood at the Yale Center for British Art from 2010 (see link below). Within the superb carved wood setting of one of the exhibition rooms at Cognacq-Jay, every tiny bit of The Reader influenced by the eighteenth-century comes fully alive, including her Louis XIV style chair, her chignon, and the tiny rosettes on her finely carved shoes (fig. 22).

The exhibition at the Musée Cognacq-Jay concluded on the topmost floor of the museum, and included decorative works and animalier sculptures by Dalou as well as a series of busts placed adjacent to works by Robert Le Lorraine (1666–1743), Philippe Laurent Roland (1746–1816), and Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne (fig. 23). Dalou’s Bust of a Young Boy (ca. 1877–78), made after an English model during his exile, and his Portrait of Mademoiselle Irène Gilardi, who was the model for the figure of Justice on the Triumph of the Republic rounded out the exhibition (figs. 24 and 25). While comparisons such as these can sometimes be a detriment to the later artist, who might be wrongly labeled as a copyist afterwards, this did not occur at the Cognacq-Jay because of the freshness of Dalou’s handling of his materials and because of the vitality of his figures, which stand out against the more cool and restrained eighteenth-century works. Overall, the Dalou exhibition at the Musée Cognacq-Jay was a complete delight, and I found myself going back through the rooms for a second look.

The two exhibitions on Dalou’s œuvre and influences and the new catalogue raisonné of his works at the Petit Palais have greatly contributed to the reinvestigation of this artist. Without doubt, the catalogue will continue to inform scholars, will no doubt inspire new research on him, and will finally allow us to forget Rodin, if only temporarily, to make some room for Dalou, the true sculptor of nineteenth-century Paris.

Caterina Y. Pierre, PhD.
City University of New York at Kingsborough Community College
caterinapierre[at]yahoo.com
caterina.pierre[at]kbcc.cuny.edu


Related Links

Official press release for both exhibitions, in English:
http://www.petitpalais.paris.fr/sites/default/files/cp_
dalou_anglais_0.pdfnew-win-icon


Official website for the exhibition at the Petit Palais:
http://www.petitpalais.paris.fr/en/expositions/dalou-1838-1902-0new-win-icon

Official website for the Musée Cognacq-Jay (with link to a fifteen-page press release):
http://www.paris.fr/pratique/musees-expos/musee-cognacq-jay/p6466new-win-icon

Images of Dalou’s works at Père-Lachaise Cemetery, Paris:
http://www.marcellosculpture.com/reviews/revdalou.htmlnew-win-icon

Discussion of Dalou’s Triomphe de la République by Andrew Eschelbacher in NCAW:
http://www.19thc-artworldwide.org/index.php/autumn09/environment-of-memorynew-win-icon

Pierre’s review of Dalou in England: Portraits of Womanhood, 1871-1879, Summer 2010 in NCAW:
http://www.19thc-artworldwide.org/index.php/spring10/dalou-in-englandnew-win-icon




[1] Penelope Curtis, “Être moderne: Une définition par la négative,” in Oublier Rodin, La Sculpture à Paris, 1905–1914, exh. cat. (Paris: Musée d’Orsay and Hazan, 2009), 81.

[2] Amélie Simier, Daniel Imbert, and Guénola Groud, Dalou à Paris (Paris: Paris Musées, Les Musées de la Ville de Paris, 2010), 43.

[3] M. L. Mayer, The Gayety French Plays, Season 1880: Short Biographies of the Actors and Actresses of the Comédie Française, Vaudeville, Palais-Royal and other Theatres (London: Letts, Son and Co., 1880), 21.

[4] Daniel Rosenfeld, ed., European Painting and Sculpture, ca. 1770–1937, in the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992), 139–40.

[5] Amélie Simier and Marine Kisiel, Jules Dalou, Le sculpteur de la République. Catalogue des sculptures de Jules Dalou conservées au Petit Palais, exh. cat., (Paris: Paris-Musées, Les Musées de la Ville de Paris, 2013), 60–75.

[6] This was confirmed by Amélie Simier in an email to me dated June 7, 2013.

[7] Paul R. Hanson, Historical Dictionary of the French Revolution (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2004), 217.

[8] Amélie Simier, “Les projets pour un Monument aux ouvriers, 1889–1902”" in Simier and Kisiel, Jules Dalou, Le Sculpteur de la République, 201. Originally quoted in Dreyfous, (Paris: 1903), 248–49.

[9] Simier, “Les projets pour un Monument aux ouvriers, 1889-1902,” in Simier and Kisiel, Jules Dalou, Le Sculpteur de la République, 201-308.

[10] Andrew Eschelbacher, “Environment of Memory: Paris and Post-Commune Angst,” in Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide 8:2 (Autumn 2009), http://www.19thc-artworldwide.org/index.php/autumn09/environment-of-memorynew-win-icon

[11] Simier, “Les projets pour un Monument aux ouvriers, 1889-1902,” in Simier and Kisiel, Jules Dalou, Le Sculpteur de la République, 202.

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