Click on photos to enlarge.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Alexandre Falquiere

Tarcisius, 1868, Alexandre Falquiere
Even though I'm a painter, whenever I go to a major museum I find myself far more drawn to the sculpture displayed than the paintings. I guess at least part of the reason for that is that I'm already familiar with a lot of the paintings, but far less so when it comes to the sculpture. That's not good, because unfortunately, that's also the case with most artists and art lovers. Paintings rule! The mallet and chisel has always taken a backseat to the brush and palette in the minds of art enthusiasts. Moreover, one can look on the Internet and find virtually every painting ever painted; and because they're two-dimensional, experience something approximating the same joy and enlightenment as seeing paintings in a museum. That, however, is definitely not the case with sculpture. Being three-dimensional, no digitized image, even those moving around the piece, can begin to capture the reality of existing in the same space as the sculptor's creation. For example, when you think of 19th century sculptors what artist first and foremost comes to mind? Rodin, right? If you think a little harder, Bartholdi, Borglum, Calder, and maybe French might float to the surface. That's pathetic.

Lafayette and Washington, Washington, D.C., 1890-91, Alexandre Falquiere
Alexandre, Falquiere
There are hundreds that should be added to that list. Okay, let me start by suggesting a good candidate for inclusion, the French sculptor, Alexandre Falquiere (pronounced FAL-see-air). If you've ever taken a stroll through Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C. (north side of the White House), you'll see a very good example of the type of work Falquiere did. In one corner of the park you'll find the monument to Major General Marquis Gilbert de Lafayette. Although Lafayette stands alone at the top, to me, Washington and Lafayette standing together alongside the plinth are by far the most outstanding of all the bronze figures around and atop the monument. Their camaraderie is palpable. This is precisely the greatest strength of this under appreciated artist--the interactions of his figures.

Victor of the Cockfight, 1864, Alexandre Falquiere
The Dancers, Musee Orsay,
Alexandre Falquiere
Jean Alexandre Joseph Falguière was born in Toulouse in 1831. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, winning the coveted Prix de Rome in 1859 followed nine years later by the Medal of Honor at the 1868 Paris Salon. His Tarcisius, the Christian Boy-martyr (top) won him the medal, while in a completely different vein, we see his 1864 Victor of the Cockfight (above) which cemented his reputation as one of Paris' foremost sculptors. His The Dancers, now prominently displayed in Paris' Musee Orsay, are lyrically typical of Falquiere's mature style and modeling skills.

Wrestlers, 1875,
Alexandre Falquiere
Falquiere was also a painter, though only infrequently and inadequately. His Wrestlers (left) from 1875 seems to have been an attempt to broaden his skills and reputation. The old saying about "keeping ones day job" comes to mind. Falquiere died in 1900, and judging from the number of outstanding works started shortly before his death, one suspects he may have worked himself to death.

Monument to Louis Pasteur,
1900-1904, Alexandre Falquiere
Falquiere's strongest and most elaborate monument from the latter years was his homage to Louis Pasteur (right) completed after his death. Situated in Paris' Place de Breteuil, the work is reminiscent of the Lafayette Monument in Washington only more elaborate. It features a seated figure of Pasteur atop a larger plinth than the Lafayette piece with four high relief scenes carved from marble, glorifying the benefits of Pasteur's medical discoveries. Two entablatures feature farm animals and their peasant boy attendants while the other two depict the dreaded death spiral associated with Smallpox, and the social well-being in the elimination of the dreaded disease.

The bucolic peace of the naturally immune farm workers.
The Smallpox vaccine was derived from the much milder, Cowpox.

The peasant milk-maid who led to Pasteur's success.

The grim reaper peeks around the corner while his would-be victims suffer.


No comments:

Post a Comment