The Goncourts, Gustave Planche, and Antoine-Louis Barye's Un Jaguar devorant un lievre.
Of the sculpture on display in 1852, it was the work of Antoine-Louis Barye, best know as a sculpteur animalier, that enjoyed the Goncourts' unqualified praise. In addition to penning a virtuoso description of the single sculpture exhibited by Barye in 1852, Un Jaguar devorant un lievre, listed as number 1295 in the Salon livret, the Goncourts made claims for Barye's art that ran against the grain of the judgments of many art critics, who questioned the place of animal sculpture in the annual exhibitions (Fig. 1). One of the most notorious of these critics was Gustave Planche, who published an important article in 1851 that downplayed the importance of animal themes in Barye's art, positioning him as a sculptor of human rather than animal subject matter. As I will suggest here, the Goncourts' remarks on Barye are diametrically opposed to those of Planche, which they most likely had read. Against Planche and those like him, who looked increasingly askance at animal sculpture as somehow in contradiction with the purported essence of sculpture, the Goncourts insisted on the crucial importance of animal sculpture as part of what they term "l'evolution de l'art moderne" (Etudes d'art 139).
The Salon of 1852 was only the second in which Barye participated following a long hiatus of public exhibition. Barye had earlier enjoyed critical attention when he exhibited his first major animal sculptures at the Salons of 1831 and 1833, where he showed his impressive Tigre devorant un gavial and Lion au serpent, respectively (Fig. 2). (3) After 1836, however, when the bronze version of his Lion au serpent was shown, his sculptures were excluded from the annual Salons, due in part to a deepening conservatism on the part of the Salon jury. Bruised by these rejections, Barye refused to submit work to the annual exhibitions again until 1851, when he showed two recent works, both of which were plaster models: Combat du Lapithe et du Centaur, depicting a scene from Greek mythology; and Un Jaguar devorant un lievre. It was the latter work, now exhibited in bronze, which attracted the Goncourts' attention in the Salon of 1852. The sculpture offered the Goncourts a prime opportunity to exercise their growing power of colorful, descriptive prose, a mode of art writing that Edmond would later term ecriture artiste (Les Freres Zemganno viii). I quote here the description of the sculpture that opens the Goncourts' reflections on Barye:
Le jaguar, le train de devant sorti de terre, est aplati sur ses pattes de derriere, le ventre creusant le sol. Arc-boute sur sa patte gauche, dont la tete d'humerus fait saillie au-dessus de la ligne serpentante et effacee de tout le corps, il fouille, d'un moufle court et arrondi, les entrailles d'un lievre; il fouille, le cou tout plein de terribles gonflements. L'avalement de la croupe, mamelonnee de puissantes contractions musculaires, la souplesse des pattes de derriere, ramassees sous la bete, la tranquillite du dos, oU la peau mois tendu se plisse sur le cote, la tension des muscles, les terribles froncements de la face, l'ampleur des machoires, les oreilles couchees, la mollesse de la patte droite, le travail de la robe, travail sans relief, travail de rayures couchees dans le sens du poil, les rampements fameliques, le beau dessin et la belle nature des raccourcis, l'opposition de parties de musculature au repos, de parties de musculature tourmentees, tout ce surprenant melange d'elasticite et de force, font de ce bronze une de ces imitations de la grande nature feline, une de ces imitations au dela desquelles, nous le croyons sincerement, la sculpture ne peut aller. (Etudes d'art 138-39)
The momentum of this passage is striking, moving as it does from a depiction of the jaguar's pose to a description of its carnivorous appetite. In the second sentence, the repetition--"il fouille ... il fouille"--generates a sense of drama that reinforces the jamming of the muzzle into the sort entrails of the hare. The description itself, with its seemingly ravenous desire to point out every aspect of the jaguar's physique, seeks to pin down its subject with almost as much determination as does the jaguar its prey.
No other critics in 1852 wrote about this sculpture in such a compelling manner. There was only one precedent for the Goncourts' extended commentary on Un Jaguar devorant un lievre and that was Theophile Gautier's equally expansive observations on the plaster version of the same sculpture at the time of its exhibition at the Salon of 1851. Like the Goncourts, Gautier had rallied his literary skills of poetic description in a powerful, but moralizing passage on this sculpture. Gautier describes the encounter of the victim and the monster as a predestined duel of power and weakness, in which elemental forces are put on display and pitted against one another. "Un pauvre lievre, victime predestinee, malgre la vitesse inquiete de sa course, malgre l'acuite d'ouie de ses longues oreilles toujours en eveil" he writes, "a ete supris par le bond violent et brusque d'un jaguar aplati en embuscade sur une branche ou sur une roche; il est la l'oeil fixe et mort, les naseaux dilates, essayant un soubre-saut supreme dans la gueule du monstre dont les crocs lui cassent les reins" (La Presse). Turning to the jaguar, he then describes with almost sadistic relish the enjoyment that the jaguar appears to take hOt only in vanquishing but also in devouring its opponent. Gautier continues: "Le jaguar fronce les babines, ferme a demi les yeux ... tout son corps palpite; des frissons de volupte courent le long de son echine onduleuse, arrondie comme le dos du chat qu'on caresse: il y a la plus que l'assouvissement de la faim, il y a le triomphe du chasseur heureux et l'atroce plaisir du mechant qui tue sans risque" (La Presse). (4) The Goncourts had certainly read Gautier's colorful comments on Barye. The brothers knew Gautier and greatly admired him, although they also recognized that their ambitions in criticism were fundamentally different from those of the older Romantic. What they shared with him was their dedication to investing their powers as writers in the evocation of visual works of art in all their specificity, hOt just in generalizations and platitudes about stylistic tendencies, as was the habit of most contemporary art critics. Nevertheless, Gautier's writing was almost too literary and fantastic for the Goncourts' taste, which in the early 1850s was already taking on a naturalist approach. Of their first novel, En 18 ..., published in 1851, for instance, they worried that it was "Gatee par de certaines imitations Gautier" (Journal 1: 29). Indeed, there is a vast difference between the interpretive enthusiasm of Gautier and the observational literalism of the Goncourts.
This literalism is especially evident in the third sentence of their description, in which the focus on anatomical detail takes off in force. The sentence is made up of an extended sequence of deictic gestures that point in a staccato rhythm to the appearance of various parts of the jaguar's body--the tautness of the hindquarters, the suppleness of the hind paws, the tranquility of the back, the tension of the muscles, the terrible frowning of the face, the ampleness of the jaws, etc. The focus, in this seemingly unending series of localized observations on the appearance of each anatomical element through the repeated prioritizing of adjectival modification (tautness, suppleness, tranquility, tension, ampleness, etc.), has the effect of foregrounding not the constituent elements of the animal as such, but the particular physical impact of each element as it enters into the overall rhythm of the sculpture. In this same sentence, lengthy as it is, appear several references to the material work of representation. The first instance occurs with the mention of "le travail de la robe, travail sans relief, travail de rayures couchees dans le sens du poil." The Goncourts are referring here to the evidence of the ebauchoir, or knife, that Barye used to indicate the patterning of the fur in the two animals, since both the jaguar and the hare are rendered with such hatchings. The second reference to Barye's artfulness occurs when, slightly further along in the same sentence, the brothers describe "le beau dessin et la belle nature des raccourcis," both of which refer again not to the anatomy of the animals but to the artist's work. This time, the comment deals with the fundamental composition--the design--and the spatial effects of the composition when seen from different angles--the beautiful foreshortenings. The alternation between beautiful design and beautiful foreshortening, suggesting a shift between the underlying composition and its shifting appearances, is underscored in the Goncourts' language with a shift from masculine (le beau dessin) to feminine gender (la belle nature des raccourcis). Oppositions, indeed, are ultimately what the Goncourts find most impressive in the sculpture, that is, "l'opposition de parties de musculature au repos, de parties de musculature tourmentees," which gives rise to what the Goncourts term "ce surprenant melange d'elasticite et de force."
Following directly upon their attentive description of Un Jaguar devorant un lievre, the brothers make broad claims regarding Barye's historical significance. For instance, despite the fact that they adroit to having never seen the work of the animal sculptors of antiquity, the Goncourts declare that Barye has undoubtedly outdone them:
Nous n'avons vu ni les chevaux de Calamis, ni les chiens de Nicias, ni ce fameux chien de bronze se lechant une plaie ... qu'on gardait au temple de Junon au Capitole; mais nous avons peine a croire que jamais, en aucun temps, on ait egale le prodigieux bestiaire de M. Barye. (Etudes d'art 139)
If the Goncourts were unfamiliar with ancient animal sculpture, they were, conversely very familiar with contemporary oil painting, to which they next compare Barye's work. (5) In a sudden and unexpected declaration, the brothers impute a historical necessity to Barye's animal sculptures that is sweeping in its scope:
Il se fait en ce moment en sculpture le mouvement que nous avons signale en peinture. L'ecole historique se meurt dans l'art qui fait palpable comme dans l'art qui fait visible. C'est le paysage qui la remplace en peinture; ce sont les animaux qui la replacent en sculpture. La nature succede a l'homme. C'est l'evolution de l'art moderne. (Etudes d'art 139)
These comments are meant to be provocative. Contemporary art, they declare, has at its basis the displacement of"l'ecole historique," with its focus on the heroic past, in favor of a direct engagement with nature. This displacement, moreover, is nothing arbitrary, but represents the necessary "evolution" of modern art. Earlier in the same review, the brothers had offered the following assessment of the current state of French painting:
Voila bien, tout le long de ce Salon, des paysages que nous louons; mais le paysage, compris comme il l'est par nos artistes, n'est-il pas la grande gloire du pinceau moderne? N'est-ce pas le paysage qui fait l'honneur de ce Salon de 1852? Salon que les promeneurs superficiels peuvent trouver mediocre, et que nous trouvons, nous, plein de promesses, plein d'oeuvres, plein de tentatives, plein de belles lutes corps a corps avec la nature, avec le soleil? Ne regrettons point les grandes et les superbes qui s'abstiennent, quand nous avons des humbles qui exposent et qui s'appellent Dupre, Ziem, Rousseau, Daubigny, Hoguet et tant d'autres. C'est l'ecole du petit genre, autrefois si mesestimee, qui doit faire la fortune de xIxe siecle; c'est celle dont nous avons essaye de compter les victoires. (Etudes d'art 124-25)
The Goncourts' judgment of contemporary painting in 1852 was unequivocal: monumental painting, or grande peinture, had been eclipsed by the rise of the heretofore minor genre of landscape painting. Analogously, animal sculpture, another minor genre, had emerged to take the place of the historical school in "l'art qui fait palpable." This provocative claim is the most significant aspect of the brothers' entire discussion of sculpture in their review of the Salon of 1852. It is the only moment in the sixteen pages they devote to sculpture when they make a direct statement regarding the contemporary demands of sculpture. And in claiming that animals are replacing man in the evolution of modern art, they pose a direct challenge to one of the most basic, long-standing assumptions in French academic art and oesthetics regarding sculpture's ideal subject matter.
The claim that landscape was emerging in France as one of the most important genres of painting in the mid nineteenth century was far from a unique position. Other critics had made similar claims. (6) Conversely, no critics had elevated animal subjects to an analogous position in sculpture. Even those who championed Barye early in his career did so in a way that accepted the special status of animal sculpture. Indeed, if the petit genre of landscape painting was increasingly tolerated at the annual Salons in France in the mid-nineteenth century as a sign of major artistic ambition, the same was not generally true of animal sculpture. In a review of the Salon of 1834, the critic Gabriel Laviron noted the struggle animal sculptors faced in their attempt to gain admission to the annual Salons:
Quant aux sculpteurs qui font des animaux leurs ouvrages a grand'peine, ils sont toleres par le jury, et il n'a fallu rien moins qu'une revolution politique pour leur ouvrir les portes du Salon; et de fait, ce sont la choses viles qui ne meritent pas l'attention de meisseurs de l'Academie des beaux-arts, vivant dans le commerce des Muses et parlant la language des dieux. (Le Salon de 1834 130)
In a review of the sculpture section of the Salon of 1850-51 published in L'Artiste, the critic Pierre Malatourne voiced a generally held belief when, after praising the animal sculpture in the exhibition, including Barye's Un Jaguar devorant un lievre, which he describes as "d'une vie et d'une science anatomique que M. Barye donne souvent lieu d'admirer," he gently reminded his readers that animal subjects, no matter how well treated, represented a fundamental deviation of sculpture from its true path: "Apres cette digression vers les travaux de cette sculpture speciale et trop remarquable pour qu'il ne fut pas juste de la signaler, il faut remonter a la sphere des sujets qui sont plus essentiellement dans la destination de la sculpture" (L'Artiste 86).
These comments belie a widely held assumption in France in the nineteenth century that the human form was the proper subject matter of sculpture. This notion was implicitly supported by one of the most important eighteenthcentury sources on sculptural oesthetics, Johann Joachim Winckelmann's History of Ancient Art (1764). In his discussion of the flowering of the art of Greek antiquity, Winckelmann suggests that climate and politics contributed to provide the conditions for perfect art. This perfect art was the sculptural representation of the youthful, nude human body. Although Winckelmann makes passing reference to ancient Greek animal sculpture, the marginal nature of his comments about animal sculpture in comparison to his voluminous commentaries on sculpture of the human form implies that animals are less interesting and indeed less appropriate subjects for sculptural representation. (7) The marginalization of animal imagery was more explicitly articulated in the oesthetic writings of the G.W.E Hegel, which, like those of Winckelmann, were available in French translation. (8) While Winckelmann set the tone for a valorization of the human form as the pinnacle of artistic perfection in Greek antiquity, Hegel, in his AEsthetics (1823), built a teleological conception of artistic progress around this ideal, according to which animal forms had first to be overcome and denigrated before the human form could take its rightful place at the helm of Classic art. Animals, which represented deities in pre-Classical art, were, according to Hegel, useful now only "to indicate evil, the bad, the trivial, the natural, and the unspiritual" (AEsthetics 1: 453). Such notions were echoed and disseminated in France by one of the chief voices of Neo-Classicism in the early nineteenth century, Quatremere de Quincy. (9) Like Winckelmann and Hegel, he understood sculpture to be circumscribed by the achievement of Greek antiquity and any contemporary sculptural practice must ground itself in an emulation of the Greek model. There was, in this logic, no place for sculpture based on the animal form, since the medium had reached its perfection in Greek antiquity with the overcoming of animal imagery and the enshrining of the beautiful human body.
Such assumptions were brought to bear on Barye's art by the critic Gustave Planche, who sought to rescue Barye from his own animal subjects in a long essay published on July 1, 1851 in the Revue des Deux Mondes. In the essay, Planche championed Barye's Combat du Lapithe et du Centaur, exhibited at the Salon of that year, as a sign that Barye was at last moving away from animal subjects, and thus a minor genre focused on naturalistic minutiae, to embrace monumental episodes of human action based on generalized, classical themes (Fig. 3). To drive the point home, Planche's article backtracks to Barye's early Lion au serpent and notes its dedication to surface detail and zoological specificity. "Entre le lion expose au Louvre en 1833 et le Combat du Lapithe et du Centaur que nous avons admire cette annee, il y a une grande difference de style," writes Planche, adding: "Il me semble utile de marquer la route parcourue depuis le point de depart jusqu'au point d'arrivee" ("Peintres et sculpteurs" 47-48). (10) The article traces this route as a progressive development to a renewed classicism, a movement that involved a shift from animal to human subject matter, and a shift from the curiosity of animal and genre subjects to the monumentality of subjects informed by tradition.
Planche had singled out Barye's sculpture for comment in his reviews of the Salons starting already in 1831, when Barye made his debut as an animal sculptor with his sensational Tigre devorant un gavial. In his comments about this sculpture, Planche celebrated its bold dynamism but also cautioned Barye against what he deemed to be an excessive zeal in rendering naturalistic detail. "Moins litteralement exacte," writes Planche, "la sculpture de M. Barye serait plus grande et plus belle, elle serait moins reele, mais plus vrai; elle gagnerait en elevation ce qu'elle perdrait en fidelite puerile" (Etudes sur l'ecole francaise 61). In his review of the Salon of 1833, Planche repeated this criticism in his remarks about Barye's Lion au serpent, which he found wanting in precisely the same manner: "Nous rechercherons jusqu'a quel point la statuaire peut negliger les grandes masses, c'est-a-dire se passer d'exagerations et de sacrifices" (Etudes sur l'ecole francaise 181). As Planche explains in his 1851 article, it was not until Barye shifted attention from animal subjects toward subjects from Greek mythology involving the human form, such as Combat de Thesee contre le Minotaure, a work dating from 1847, and especially Combat du Lapithe et du Centaur, that his art made the final step toward monumentality:
J'arrive au dernier ouvrage de M. Barye, au Combat du Lapithe et du Centaur, qui couronne d'une facon si eclatante toutes les pensees qu'il a exprimees depuis vingt ans. Il a pu, dans ce dernier ouvrage, deployer toutes les richesses de son savoir et demontrer aux plus incredules qu'il ne connait pas la forme humaine moins completement que la forme du lion ou du taureau. ("Peintres et sculpteurs" 73)
The tone of this passage is defensive, which highlights the fact that one of the fundamental ambitions of the article was to defend Barye against the claim that he was a mere animalier. The same kind of defensiveness can be heard in the following passage from the same article: "Tous ceux qui s'etaient obstines jusqu'a present a voir dans M. Barye un sculpteur de genre sont obliges, devant le groupe du Lapithe et du Centaure, de renoncer a leurs restrictions et de voir en lui un sculpteur capable d'aborder et de traiter, des qu'il voudra, les sujets les plus varies, les plus difficiles" ("Peintres et sculpteurs" 74). There is something admirable in what Planche tries to do here, since it represents an earnest attempt to defend Barye against detractors. But in so doing, he reinforces the lowly status of animal themes, suggesting that Barye only became truly legitimate as a sculptor when he took up the human form. If Barye's detractors will be obliged to give up their "restrictions" (read: their relegation of Barye to the status of a mere animal sculptor) in the face of Combat du Lapithe et du Centaur, this is because it is focused on the human form. And mastery of the human form, Planche tells his reader, gives Barye access to "les sujets les plus varies, les plus difficiles" Ultimately, in Planche's account, the progress of Barye's career is described as overcoming the animal and its associations of lowly genre subjects and excessive zoological detail, thereby recapitulating on an individual scale the historical development of sculpture from animal to human themes, as described by Hegel. The subject matter of the Combat du Lapithe et du Centaur seems even to invite a reading of an overcoming of animality by humanity, since it depicts a human form vanquishing a half-human and half-animal creature. In the process, what Planche had once referred to as the "impitoyable realite" of Barye's early animal sculptures was finally being replaced with a greater focus on overall sculptural masses (Etudes sur l'ecole francaise 328).
There is, however, a fundamental lacuna in Planche's text: he makes no reference in his description of Barye's career to Un Jaguar devorant un lievre, which was exhibited alongside Combat du Lapithe et du Centaur in 1851. (11) It is easy to understand why this other sculpture would need to be omitted from Planche's account. Un Jaguar devorant un lievre is as focused on detail and naturalism as was his earlier Lion au serpent. But this kind of rigorous detail, according to Planche, should no longer have been a concern of Barye's in 1851. Planche's claim that Barye's career was predicated on the development from detail to masses, from genre to monumentality, and from animals to humanity, is therefore at odds with the facts. Un Jaguar devorant un lievre demonstrates Barye's continued interest right up through the Salon of 1851 of the very literalism that Planche argued Barye had left behind at this point in his career. Rather than address this contradiction in his account of Barye's career, Planche passes over Un Jaguar devorant un lievre in silence. In effect, Planche had to sacrifice Un Jaguar devorant un lievre, by ignoring it in his article, in order to preserve the integrity of his argument concerning the progressive unfolding of Barye's art away from animal themes and toward monumental human subjects inspired by antiquity. Planche had exhorted Barye to sacrifice details in the name of the general masses of his subject so why wouldn't he do the same, ignoring Un Jaguar devorant un lievre for the sake of the broader outlines and masses of Barye's career? Moins reel, mais plus vrai.
The importance of Planche's article on Barye cannot be overemphasized. Not only was it the first assessment of Barye's entire career to date, but the logic of development it proposed was also picked up and repeated by later critics who published assessments of Barye's art, including Paul Mantz and Charles Blanc. (12) If the Goncourts knew Gautier's comments on Un Jaguar devorant un lievre, they were also most likely cognizant of Planche's text of the same year. Although they make no reference to Planche's article on Barye, the Goncourts mention Planche himself several times in their journal. In an entry dated August 1852, for instance, the Goncourts recount a conversation with the older critic Jules Janin and describe sympathetically his dislike for Planche. (13) Such ad hominem attacks on prominent figures in the Parisian art world, however, were not uncommon for the Goncourts, and Planche fares no worse in the journal than do a wide range of other contemporary cultural figures. Nevertheless, the Goncourts' celebration of Un Jaguar devorant un lievre in their review of the Salon of 1852, can be read as a response to Planche's suppression of the same work from his account of Barye's career in 1851. The Goncourts' focus on naturalistic detail in their description of Barye's Un Jaguar devorant un lievre takes on special significance in light of Planche's claims about Barye. The intense focus on detail in the Goncourts' account, their savoring of every bit of hatching and every anatomical feature, represents what might be understood to be a deliberate refusal of Planche's claim that Barye had, by this point in his career, moved away from such literalism. Moreover, while Planche's argument proceeds in a deductive manner, pointing to examples in Barye's career as proof of a logical development, in which detail, naturalism and, indeed, sensation, yield to monumentality, the Goncourts' discussion proceeds in an opposite, inductive manner, unfolding as a series of discrete sensations and perceptions leading toward the eventual comprehension of the whole. This is a mode of writing that corresponds to their image of Barye as a naturalist focused on studying animals in detail and pushing animal sculpture to the extreme limit of imitation. The Goncourts' description of Un Jaguar devorant un lievre involves the careful calibration of writing to the tracking of the writers' sensory experiences in front of the work of art and, as such, runs counter to the kind of abstraction and idealization associated with the classical tradition. It was precisely this kind of abstraction that Planche argues Barye had embraced in his Combat du Lapithe et du Centaur. The Goncourts' refusal to accept such a claim is manifest as much in their argument that Barye represents a return to nature in sculpture as it does in the style of their own writing. Indeed, there is as much of a "surprenant melange d'elasticite et de force" in the Goncourts' description of Barye's sculpture as there is in the work itself. Like "le travail de la robe, travail sans relief, travail de rayures couchees dans le sens du poil," that they admired in Barye's Un Jaguar devorant un lievre, their own work of the pencil, working without relief, bears down on the specificity of what they have seen and describes it as an experience of unfolding sensations and perceptions in which no detail is overlooked.
Whether or not the Goncourts set out to counter Planche's argument about Bayre in their remarks on Un Jaguar devorant un lievre, itis clear that they reach diametrically opposite conclusions about Barye and the course of his career. In Planche's account, Barye has replaced animals with mythological subjects based on the human form, repeating in his career the historical development of sculpture toward classicism in an abandonment of animals for human subject matter. (14) In the Goncourts' account, conversely, it is the human form that has been replaced in contemporary sculpture by the animal. "Dans les societes antiques, oU d'ailleurs le soleil provoquait au nu," they write, "le beau plastique etait l'ambition, le but et le moyen de la vie." "Mais dans nos societes modernes," they continue, "ou le beau des formes n'est pas cote, dans nos civilisations grelotantes sous le ciel froid, dans nos religions de pudeur, l'ebauchoir a beau chercher: le poeme du nu est retourne a l'Olympe" (Etudes d'art 140). These are the words that conclude the Goncourts' discussion of Barye's Un Jaguar devorant un lievre in their review of the Salon of 1852. With them, they declare that the classical ideal is no longer relevant in the contemporary world of Northern Europe.
That the Goncourts were onto something is evident in the increasing anxiety that was expressed regarding the multiplication of animal subjects at the annual Salons. In a review of the Salon of 1853, the critic Henri Delaborde wrote:
Depuis que M. Barye a introduit dans notre ecole un element nouveau, ou plutot un ordre d'art renouvele des monumens de l'art antique, le nombre des sculpteurs d'animaux n'a cesse d'augmenter d'annee en annee. Aujourd'hui ce nombre est presque egal a celui des artistes voues a l'etude de la figure humaine, et de meme que l'on compte plus de talens parmi les paysagistes que parmi les peintres d'histoire, on compterait aussi plus de gens qui excellent a modeler des chevreuils, des chats ou des perdrix, que d'artistes capables de bien executer un buste ou une statue. L'exposition ouverte aux Menus-Plaisirs est riche, trop riche meme en quadrupedes et en sujets de chasse, puisque, ... on ne trouve pas moins de trente sculptures ou groupes d'animaux, sans parler d'une quantite raisonnable de tableaux inspires par la contemplation des memes modeles. La plupart de ces morceaux ont, il faut l'avouer, de la verite et de la finesse; mais ce qui a pu tenter quelques talens doit-il devenir l'objet des etudes de tous? Et notre ecole, au lieu de se souvenir surtout de Jean Goujon et de Puget, finira-t-elle par ne plus reconnaitre d'autre chef que M. Barye? On peut le craindre en voyant les developpemens excessifs d'un genre au fond si secondaire. Dans le statuaire, comme ailleurs, le succes n'appartient plus guere qu'aux oeuvres depourvues d'ideal. ("Salon de 1853" 1156)
The anxiety about the disappearance of the ideal and the rise of the minor genre is linked specifically here to Barye's influence. Even Gautier, despite his colorful description of Barye's Un Jaguar devorant un lievre in a851 and again in 1855, seems to be uneasy about the status of l'art animalier at the 1855 Universal Exhibition. After reviewing the examples of animal sculpture on display, he concludes abruptly with the following apostrophic comment to his reader: "Sans nous arreter plus longtemps a la menagerie, au chenil, a la voliere, retournons a l'homme, qui est le but le plus noble que l'art et surtout la statuaire puisse se proposer. Assez de lions, de chiens et d'oiseaux" (Les Beaux-arts en Europe, 1855 2: 184).
The Goncourts' championing of Barye's Un Jaguar devorant un lievre and, by extension, the entire genre of animal sculpture (they also speak highly of the work of two other animal sculptors exhibiting in 1852, Auguste Cain and Emmanuel Fremiet) emerges as an exception to a general trend in mid-nineteenth century French art criticism that tended to question the legitimacy and seriousness of animal subjects in sculpture. (15) The displacement of the human that had been the focus of l'ecole historique by the animal represents a return to nature, argued the Goncourts, just as in painting the human form was being replaced by landscape. These ideas call to mind the Goncourts' description of the new oeesthetic in Manette Salomon, which they ascribe to the fictional landscape painter, Crescent: "Dans le grand mouvement du retour de l'art et de l'homme du XIXe siecle a la nature naturelle, dans cette etude sympathetique des choses a laquelle vont pour se retremper et se rafraichir les civilisations vieilles, dans cette poursuite passionnee des beautes simples, humbles, ingenues de la terre, qui restera le charme et la gloire de notre ecole presente, Cresent s'etait fait un nom et une place a part" (360).
The Goncourts' own ecriture aritste, with its focus on the inductive accumulation of sensations and perceptions in the description of Barye's sculpture, must be included in this notion of return to nature. When Edmond had an opportunity to write again about Barye in 1886, at the time of an auction of Barye bronzes at the Hotel Drouot in Paris, he reiterated his then-deceased brother's conviction that Barye was fundamentally a naturalist sculptor and, above all else, a sculptor of animals: "Mais avant tout Barye est le Maitre des Fauves, des Feroces, des Felins." "C'est lui," explains Edmond, "qui, un certain jour de sa vie, rejetant de son talent toutes les reminiscences des lions assyriens, ninivites, byzantins, s'est fait l'artiste naturiste, modelant et mesurant, sans treve et sans repos, les feroces dans leurs cages du Jardin des Plantes" (Pages retrouvees 301). Pausing before a reduction of Un Jaguar devorant un lievre, he concludes: "... devant ce chef-d'oeeuvre de l'animalier des animaliers, disons-le hautement, si la sculpture de l'humanite est, hors de tout conteste, superieure chez les anciens, la sculpture de l'animalite en aucun temps, en aucun lieu, n'a atteint la perfection que lui a apportee le Francais du XIXe siecle Antoine-Louis Barye" (303).
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Baudelaire, Charles. "Salon de 1846." Critique d'art suivi de Critique musicale. Ed. Claude Pichois. Paris: Gallimard, 1976: 75-156.
Blanc, Charles. "Barye (1796-1875)." Les Artistes de mon temps. Paris: Firmin-Didot et Cie, 1876: 379-403.
de Caso, Jacques. "A propos du petit bronze et de la sculpture serielle au XIXe siecle: Le Repertoire alphabetique inedit de Ch.-B. Metman." Archives de l'art francais. Vol. 30. Documents sur la sculpture francaise et repertoire des fondeurs du XIXe siecle. Paris, 1989: 157-61.
Delaborde, Henri. "Salon de 1853." Revue des Deux Mondes (1 juin 1853): 1134-58.
Gautier, Theophile. "Salon de 1850-517' La Presse (1 mai 1851): N. pag.--. Les Beaux-arts en Europe, 1855.2 vols. Paris: Michel Levy, 1856.
Goncourt, Edmond et Jules de. Etudes d'art: Le Salon de 1852: La Peinture a l'exposition de 1855. Paris: Librairie des bibliophiles, 1893.
--. Journal: Memoires de la vie litteraire. 22 vols. Ed. Robert Ricatte. Paris: Laffont, 1989.
--. Manette Salomon. Paris: Gallimard, 1996.
--. Notes sur rltalie [1855-1856]. Eds. Nadeije Laneyrie-Dagen and Elisabeth Launay. Paris: Editions Desjonqueres and Reunion des Musees Nationaux, 1996.
--. Pages retrouvees. Paris: Charpentier, 1886.
Goncourt, Edmond de. Les Freres Zemganno. Paris: Hachette, 1879.
Grate, Pontus. "Art Historians and Art Critics--v: Gustave Planche." The Burlington Magazine 101.676/677 (Jul.-Aug., 1959): 277-81.
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(1) "Le Salon de 1852" first appeared in L'Eclair, 1852, nos. 14-23, and was published later the same year in the form of a brochure by Michel Levy.
(2) References to the Goncourts' "Salon of 1852" appear in Lemaistre, Kelly, and Houssais.
(3) For Barye's exhibition history, see Sonnabend, Antoine-Louis Barye (1795-1875): Studium zum plastischen Werk. See also Lemaistre, La Griffe et la dent, and Kelly, Untamed: The Art of Antoine-Louis Barye.
(4) On Gautier's responses to contemporary sculpture see Hamrick, "L'Art robuste seul a l'eternite" 439-67.
(5) In 1855, during a trip to Italy, the brothers visited the Museo Pio Clementino in the Vatican and were impressed by a sculpture of a black panther, which, in their view, was better even than Barye's animal sculptures (Edmond and Jules de Goncourt, Notes sur l'Italie [1855-1856] 261).
(6) See, for example, Thore "Le Salon de 1844 precede d'une lettre a Theodore Rousseau" 1-12. See also Baudelaire, "Salon de 1846" 75-156.
(7) Winckelmann, History of Ancient Art.
(8) Winckelmann's History of Ancient Art, translated into French by H. J. Jansen as L'Histoire de l'art chez les anciens, was published in Paris in 1790-94. Hegel's lectures, translated into French by Charles Bernard as Cours d'esthetique, were published in Paris in 1840-51.
(9) Quatremere de Quincy, Essai sur la nature, le but et les moyens de l'imitation dans les beaux-arts.
(10) On Planche, see Pontus Grate, "Art Historians and Art Critics-v: Gustave Planche" 277-81.
(11) Barye's sculptures were reportedly installed facing one another at the foot of a large staircase. See A.-J. du Pays, "Salon de 1850" 234.
(12) Paul Mantz, "Artistes contemporains: M. Barye" 107-126; Charles Blanc, "Barye (1796-1875)."
(13) Edmond and Jules de Goncourt, Journal: memoires de la vie litteraire. Tome 1, 82. In 1887, Edmond declared that one could write a whole book on the Revue des DeuxMondes and "le mal que la dynastie Buloz a fait a la litterature moderne par la plume de ses gagistes, Planche, Pontmarin, Brunetiere" (Edmond and Jules de Goncourt, Journal: memoires de la vie litteraire 15: 58).
(14) Remarking on the retrospective exhibition of Barye's art in 1875, Edmond criticized Barye's rendering of the human form as "tres ordinaire" (Edmond and Jules de Goncourt, Journal: memoires de la vie litteraire n: 52).
(15) Animal sculpture was also criticized for its association with the biblot through the phenomenon of reductions. In a review of the Salon of 1861, one critic complained: "Mais la statuaire gagne-t-elle beaucoup a descendre sur les cheminees de nos salons? N'est-ce pas assez de tous ces jeunes talens qu'un mouvement fatal entraine vers la reproduction des animaux?" "L'abime," he concludes, "est bien pres" (Leon Lagrange, "Salon de 1861.--Paysages et animaux; les dessins et la sculpture" 170-71). Barye's exclusion from the Salon after 1836 was in part due to the association of his sculptures with serres-papier (Emile Lame, "Les sculpteurs d'animaux: M. Barye" 213). For a general discussion of serial sculpture and reductions in ninenteenth-century France, see Jacques de Caso, "A propos du petit bronze et de la sculpture serielle au XIXe siecle: le Repertoire alphabetique inedit de Ch.-B. Metman" 157-61.
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|Author:||Simms, Matthew T.|
|Publication:||Nineteenth-Century French Studies|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2009|
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