A monument to Antoine Louis Barye


So impressed was Lefuel by Barye's mastery of rendering the human figure that he employed him for other projects, including the design of Napoleon I Dominating History and the Arts for the pediment of the Pavilion Sully of the Louvre, and for the decorative program embellishing the south elevation of the guichets (the high passageways below the Salle des États) at the Carrousel entrance to the Louvre. Of the latter endeavor only the river gods, personified by heroic male figures resting on upturned water urns, remain today. For  the Pavilion Sully pediment Barye designed an equestrian portrait of Napoleon III posed as a Roman Caesar (see Fig. 10), which was produced in bronze by an electrotypic process and installed in 1868, only to be removed two years later with the fall of the Second Empire.9

The decision to erect a monument to Barye was reached at a meeting held at the Hôtel de Ville in November 1887 that included the sculptor Guillaume, who lent a note of status to the project through his position as director general of the Académie des beaux-arts; the foundry owner Barbedienne; the painter Charles Victor Tillot (1825-c. 1886); and Henry Havard (1838-1921), a distinguished French historian of European decorative arts. George Lucas was the only foreigner present. He had sailed to France in 1857 and remained in Paris until his death fifty-two years later. To supplement a family annuity, he served as an art consultant for a number of American acquaintances, visiting artists' studios and dealers and negotiating purchases. In the process, he assembled a remarkable collection for himself, particularly in the graphic arts, but also including paintings, sculptures, and artists' palettes.10 Barye's works in various mediums represented a major strength of his holdings. Indeed, although he lacked the funds to acquire the most major pieces, he did acquire numerous sculptures of exceptional quality. 

Among Lucas's clients was the Baltimore merchant Frank Frick (1828-1910), for whom, in July 1860, he acquired the first documented examples of Barye's work to reach the United States: casts of Lion and Serpent and Centaur and Lapith, and three other sculptures. The expatriate's principal Baltimore client, however, was William T. Walters (1819-1894). With a fortune derived from the wholesale whiskey business and investments in railroads, Walters had begun to collect art in the late 1850s. Finding his loyalties divided after the outbreak of the Civil War, he departed for Europe with his family in 1861, living primarily in Paris until the end of hostilities. While there he continued to collect, relying on Lucas to introduce him to artists and to dealers specializing in contemporary European art. Walters accompanied Lucas to Barye's shop and residence at 10 quai Céléstins in September 1861, but it was not until the following August that he actually met the sculptor. Walters subsequently developed an intense commitment to Barye's art, an interest that he shared with his son, Henry (1848-1931), and over the next forty-eight years, the two of them assembled one of the largest American collections of the artist's output.11 The pride of their holdings were unique pieces, such as the duc d'Orléans's hunt groups and the Walking Lion, which had been cast in silver to serve as a racing trophy for Napoleon III to present at Longchamps in 1865.

Equally significant was William Walters's zeal in promoting the reputation of his favorite artist. In 1873, while traveling in the dual capacity as an honorary United States commissioner to the international exhibition held in Vienna that year and as chairman of the Committee on Works of Art for the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D. C., he arranged for the latter, scheduled to open the following year, to purchase a cast of every available subject by Barye. Upon learning this news, the sculptor is said to have exclaimed, "Ah Monsieur Walters! My own country has never done anything like that for me."12 The Corcoran's first catalogue, published in 1874, lists seventy-six bronzes and characterizes its holdings of Barye's work as "the largest one to be found, even in Europe."13 Most of the bronzes were relatively small, but in 1875 Lucas negotiated the acquisition of some larger works including a Centaur and Lapith (Fig. 9) that is identical in composition to the version on the Barye Monument.14

William Walters's enthusiasm did not wane after Barye's death. Ten years later, on January 28, 1885, he held what he called a Barye Inauguration-an elaborate social event marking the unveiling in Mount Vernon Place, the park in the center of Baltimore near Walters's residence, of five Barye sculptures that he had commissioned for the city from Barbedienne the previous year. They included Peace, War, Force (Fig. 15) and Order (Fig. 16), as well as a life-sized Seated Lion of 1846.15 To balance the placement of the Seated Lion at the east end of the square, Walters also donated a cast of Military Courage by Paul Dubois (1829-1905) to be positioned at the west end. In addition, the Barye Inauguration celebrated the opening of the Barye Room, a gallery in Walters's house devoted to the artist's sculptures and paintings (Fig. 11). Unfortunately, although both William and Henry Walters permitted the public to visit their house and picture gallery on set days every spring, the cramped conditions of the Barye Room allowed for only a few guests at a time.

Following the announcement of the plans to erect the Barye memorial in November 1887, Walters subscribed five thousand francs to the project. Received next was a pledge of three thousand francs from the French portraitist Léon Bonnat (1833-1922), who was both an ardent collector of Barye's work and one of Lucas's clients.16 To raise the remaining funds, the committee decided to hold a comprehensive exhibition of the artist's work in Paris and charge admission fees. The site was to be the École des beaux-arts (see Fig. 13) and the date selected, May 1889, was to coincide with the Exposition Universelle, an event that was expected to attract crowds of visitors to the city. Lucas spent the next seventeen months negotiating loans and handling such matters as locating the models that were to be cast for the exhibition. Eventually 855 entries were included, among them 673 sculptures and 111 paintings in watercolors and oils, in addition to miscellaneous prints, drawings, and memorabilia.

When the Paris exhibition failed to realize its financial objectives, Barye's American patrons formed the Barye Monument Association of New York with the intent of holding an exhibition in the halls of the American Art Galleries from November 15, 1889, to mid-January 1890. The seventy-year-old Walters, widely recognized as the preeminent Barye collector in the United States, was elected president of the organization, and Henry G. Marquand (1819-1902) and James C. Welling (1825-1894), presidents of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, respectively, served as vice-presidents, along with the New York banker and collector Cyrus J. Lawrence (1833-1908). Much of the responsibility for organizing the exhibition fell to Lawrence, who together with the collector Thomas B. Clarke (1848-1931) and the critic William M. Laffan (1848-1909), selected the works for display. Most of the loans came from William Walters, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the collectors James F. Sutton (c. 1842-1915), Samuel P. Avery (1822-1904), and Major Theodore Kane Gibbs (1840-1909), and also from Lawrence. Other lenders ranged from Theodore Roosevelt to the schoolmistress Bellina Froehlich. Unlike in Paris, the New York exhibition included 123 works by other artists, namely ones associated with "The Phalanx of 1830," a group of pivotal figures of the romantic era, such as as Eugène Delacroix, Théodore Géricault, and Alexandre Gabriel Decamps; and others who represented the naturalist landscape tradition, among them Jean Baptiste Camille Corot, Théodore Rousseau, Jean François Millet, Narcisse Virgile Diaz de la Peña, and Jules Dupré. The critic for Scribner's Magazine noted ironically that it was a pity from the point of view of popularizing Barye that "one of the most remarkable collections of the pictures of the men of 1830 that have ever been assembled" should inevitably have been the most popular part of the Barye presentation.17

A publications subcommittee of the Barye Monument Association assumed responsibility for the literature issued in conjunction with the New York show. It consisted of Laffan, who was the art critic for the New York Times; Charles de Kay (1848-1935); and Alexander W. Drake (1843­­-­1916), a pioneer wood engraver and art editor for Century magazine, and produced both a deluxe and a commercial edition of the catalogue, each opening with a frontispiece showing Millet's portrait of Barye followed by a preface by Bonnat. The cover of the deluxe edition was printed on expensive laid paper, bound in pseudo-vellum with the title stamped in gold. In addition to the catalogue, the association issued a biography of the artist by de Kay, the first to appear in English. Printed by the DeVinne Press in New York City, it was illustrated with numerous wood engravings, heliogravures, and line-cut prints based on drawings by the painter and writer Kenyon Cox (1856-1919). De Kay dedicated the volume to "William Thompson Walters, first to honor the genius of Antoine Louis Barye with bronzes erected in America, foremost of those who would raise his monument on the Seine." Altogether, through admission fees, donations, and publications, the association raised $9,620, which when added with the funds raised in France equaled $25,000, the anticipated cost of the monument. Following its unveiling, Bonnat is said to have remarked, "It is one of the finest and most original monuments in Paris."18 Unfortunately, it remained intact for less than fifty years: during World War II, the bronze components, the Lion and Serpent and the Centaur and Lapith, were melted for the metal. 

A traveling exhibition entitled Untamed: The Art of Antoine Louis Barye, organized by William R. Johnston and Simon Kelly, will open at the Walters Art Museum on February 18, 2007. The catalogue of the same title will be available from Walters Art Museum at 866-804-9387.

William R. Johnston is the associate director and the curator of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century art at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore.

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[Compiled by Bill Stern, Executive Director at the Museum of California Design, Los Angeles. Originally published in "Curator's Eye" in Modern Magazi

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