by Dr. Lori Verderame
Antoine Louis Barye was born in Paris, France, in 1796, the son of a goldsmith. Barye started his career as a goldsmith, like his father and he worked as a sculptor from an early age.
In 1809, Antoine Louis Barye was apprenticed to Napoléon Bonaparte’s chief goldsmith after working alongside his father. In 1812, noting his ability as a draftsman, Barye joined Napoléon’s army as a topographical engineer.
After the Battle of Waterloo and military service, Barye studied art in Paris. He attended the École des Beaux-Arts from 1818 to 1823. He trained under the sculptor Baron François-Joseph Bosio and the painter, Baron Antoine-Jean Gros. Later, he produced numerous small animal figures and models based on his training. He became strongly interested in animal sculpture, studying living animals at the Paris Zoo and reviewing the anatomy of dead animals via skeletons at the Musée d’Anatomie. Barye was commissioned to produce sculptures for the French royal family and other members of high society.
Teacher to Rodin
In 1839, Barye established his own foundry and art gallery. His work was largely based on modeling sculptures of animals for the public. Barye is best known as an “animalier” sculptor who depicted exotic animals from Asia and South America. In 1848, Barye was made a curator at the Musee de Louvre and continued to work in that capacity until 1850. This tumultuous period in French history prompted Barye to return to his private studio work where he modeled animals and published catalogues featuring his works that were available for sale. In 1854, Barye took a post as a Professor of Drawing for Zoology at the Museum of Natural History. Barye was one of the teachers of the great Impressionist sculptor, Auguste Rodin and completed his own career as an innovator and the quintessential artist of the French Realist movement. He continued to produce animalier sculpture, mostly in bronze, until his death in Paris in 1875.
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