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JEAN-ALEXANDRE-JOSEPH FALGUIÈRE (FRENCH, 1831-1900)

Jean-Alexandre Joseph Falguière was considered by his contemporaries during the 1870s as one of maybe six or seven major French sculptors, an artist with a gift both at capturing the Romantic spirit and of constantly remaining in the public eye. After studying drawing under Albert Carrier-Belleuse, he was accepted at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1854 where he trained under François Jouffroy.

He won the highly coveted Prix de Rome in 1859 with his submission of the bas-relief Mézence blessé par Enée et secouru par son fils Lausus, a most fortunate start to what would be a most prolific and successful career. The five years he spent training at the Académie de France in Rome from 1859 through 1864 had a dramatic impact on his later entries at Salon. Despite the rigidness of his original academic training, he was able to shake free much of this rigid classicism with his first major Salon exhibition, Winner of the Cockfight, in 1864, a work that juxtaposed the classical inspiration for the subject against a freedom of movement and vivid realism of a more fully realized human being.

In 1866 he exhibited the secular mythological subjects of Omphale and Nuccia, the Trastevere Girl. He won a Medal of Honor for his 1868 Salon submissions of Tarcisius, Christian Martyr. This model typified his ability to translate a classically religious scene with his modern aesthetic, capturing the gaunt and impoverished boy with a perfect realism of features free of idealization and overworked detail. This was achieved first by study of a live model for his work, reportedly a street urchin he recruited from his neighborhood, but also by referring to photographs throughout the process; this was a methodology he employed throughout much of his career.

In total, he would exhibit at thirty-seven consecutive Paris Salons from 1863 through 1899, including from 1867 through 1878 at the Exposition Universelle and at the 1900 Exposition Centennale. His lifetime output included more than thirty monuments, including commission for The Triumph of the Revolution which surmounts the Arc de Triomphe, at least fifty portrait busts as well as a large series of female figures.

In 1870 he was inducted into the Legion of Honor as Chevalier, where he continued to rise through the ranks to Officier in 1878 and achieving the role of Commandeur in 1889. Starting in around 1870 he began sharing a studio with fellow sculptor Paul Dubois (French, 1829-1905). In 1882 he took on a professorship at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and also was awarded membership in the Académie des Beaux-Arts.

His work was cast primarily by the workshops of Thiebaut Freres, Susse Freres and Hebrard.

Artist Listings & Bibliography:

  • The Romantics to Rodin: French Nineteenth-Century Sculpture, Peter Fusco & H.W. Janson, 1980, p. 255-264
  • Dictionnaire des Scultpeurs de L'École Française, Vol. II, Stanislas Lami, 1970, p. 324-335
  • Nineteenth-Century Romantic Bronzes: French, English and American Bronzes 1830-1915, Jeremy Cooper, 1975, p. 29-31
  • Bronzes of the Nineteenth-Century: A Dictionary of Sculptors, Pierre Kjellberg, 1994, p. 310-13