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Antoine Louis Barye

Bronze sculptor 1796 - 1875

Antoine Louis Barye was born in 1796, in Paris, France. He was actually the first ever student at the French Animaliers school and is widely acclaimed as the finest sculptor to study at the school. Almost exclusively sculpting wild animals, he has produced a variety of equestrian groups as well as mythological figures.

His animal sculptures are well known for being incredibly violent in nature, especially those of the big cats. An accomplished artist, Barye’s work is all based on his studies of actual wild animals, both living and dead, at the Jardin de Plantes in Paris, where he spent a lot of his time.

His first Salon exhibit, the Milo of Croton, was awarded the second prize in 1819, but much of his later work was turned down. It wasn’t until 1831 that he received huge acclaim for his work. That year, he exhibited his masterpiece, a sculpture of a tiger devouring a Gavial. This was bought for the Luxembourg Gardens and now resides in the Louvre.

The following year, he displayed the Lion and Serpent sculpture, another masterpiece that was later installed in the Gardens of the Tuileries. Even though he gained much commercial success with his bronze sculptures and monuments, the committee of the Salon refused much of his work and the rejection of most of his 1836 entries angered him so much that he refused to exhibit there again until 1851.

His Royal and State monumental commissions, as well as the patronage of the Duke of Orleans and the Duke of Luynes, Montpensier and Nemours enabled him to hire the finest foundry craftsmen in Paris and turn his hand to producing smaller and more intricate bronze sculptures in his own foundry.

The period between 1837 and 1848 is widely acknowledged as Barye’s most successful. However, despite his success with his finest Animaliers sculptures, he was not financially successful. Because of this, and the financial crisis and revolution of 1848, he was forced to declare bankruptcy.

After his bankruptcy and the loss of his models in 1848, he became the Director of Casts and Models at the Louvre, until he was replaced by Emmanuel Fremiet in 1850. The following year, he resumed exhibiting for the Salon, with a jaguar devouring a hare; another masterpiece destined for the Luxembourg Gardens and later placed in the Louvre. He was then appointed as the Professor of Drawings at the Museum of Natural History at the Jardin de Plantes in 1854, a position he held until his death.

Following his death in 1875, the majority of his bronze sculptures and other works were purchased by Ferdinand Barbedienne, the famous founder whose earlier gold FB casts of Barye’s work were so meticulously done. He continued casting bronzes from Barye’s original models until after the turn of the century.

Today, most of Barye’s works are the property of the Louvre.