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 Antoine-Louis Barye  (1795 - 1875)

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Lived/Active: France      Known for: animalier sculpture

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Antoine-Louis Barye
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

The son of a goldsmith, Parisian born Antoine-Louis Bayre was a sculptor of animal subjects and acclaimed, not only for his apparent skill, but as the founder of what became known as the French Animaliers School. Among his patrons were representatives of the state government and royalty including the Duke of Orleans and the Dukes of Luynes, Montpensier and Nemours. 

Well compensated financially, he was able to buy the best of materials and hire the country's most skilled foundry craftsmen.  The foundry he hired was owned by Ferdinand Barbedienne, and casts from this period were stamped with the letters, FB.  However, he did not make a lot of money from his work because he was such a perfectionist that often he would not sell his work because he thought it was not 'quite right'.  In 1848, he declared bankruptcy, and his molds and plaster casts were sold along with the copyrights. 

Bayre's specialty was aroused, angry seeming wild game such as lions and tigers and elephants, but he also did equestrian groups and mythology figures.  In order to do realistic depictions of animal anatomy, he spent much time at the Jardin de Plantes in Paris. 

His early training was as an apprentice to a metal engraver, but being drafted in the army in 1812, ended that education.  In 1832, he had established his own studio, and unique at that time was his method of cold stamping his bronze casts, so that each one had a special number.  He had his first entry, The Milo of Croton, in the Paris Salon in 1819, winning a second prize.  In 1831, a work regarded as a masterpiece, Tiger Devouring a Gavial, was in the Salon, and purchased for the Luxembourg Gardens, is now in the Louvre.  However, many of his subsequent Salon submissions were rejected and so angered him that between 1836 and 1851, he refused to submit entries.  In 1851, he again exhibited at the Salon with Jaguar Devouring A Hare, and this work, like the 1831 entry, was placed in the Luxembourg Gardens and eventually in the Louvre.

In spite of problems with the Salon, Bayre received many accolades for his work, and the period of 1837 to 1848 was considered the most productive time of his career.  However, in 1848, when he lost control of his work and it was reproduced by others including Martin and Barbedienne, the sculptures, according to some art professionals, are not as skillfully executed---in other words, devoid of the perfection he strove so hard to achieve.

In 1848, after his bankruptcy, Barye became Director of Casts and Models in the Louvre, until 1850, when he was replaced by Emmanuel Fremiet.  It was a very difficult time for him.  However, within a few years, he began receiving accolades for the quality and uniqueness of his work, and people began appreciating the powerful images of his sculpture---especially the wildlife in their natural surroundings. 

In 1854, he was appointed Master of Zoological Drawing in the Musee d'Histore Naturelle, and held this position until his death in 1875. There one of his pupils was Auguste Rodin, who would become a revolutionary modernist sculptor of figure and portrait subjects. By 1857, Bayre was recovered financially and resumed controlled of his casts and models.  Although he continued with his former subject matter, the many state commissions he received took most of his creative energy.

He also received many official honors such as Officer in the Legion d'Honneur, first presidency of the Central Union of Beaux Arts, Grand Medal at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, and membership in the Institute of France.

His work as a sculptor ended in 1869 when he was 73, and after his death, six years later, Ferdinand Barbedienne purchased most of his plasters and molds. Barbedienne, who was Bayre's original foundry owner and who had accommodated the perfection demanded by the sculptor, continued casting bronzes.  These posthumous works reportedly have the same meticulous attention to detailing that Bayre would have demanded.

Barye by Alfred Saunier (1925)
Barye by Charles De Kay (1889)
Barye by the Musee de Louvre (1957)
Les Animaliers by Jane Horswell (1971)
A.L. Barye by Arsene Alexandre (1889)
L'Oeurve de Barye by Roger Ballu (1890)
The Animaliers by James Mackay (1973)
Animals in Bronze by Christopher Payne (1986)
Bronzes of the 19th Century by Pierre Kjellberg (1994)

Biography from Red Fox Fine Art:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Barye was born in Paris, France, in 1796.

His father was a goldsmith; Barye was himself apprenticed to Napoléon's goldsmith in 1809. In 1812 he joined Napoléon's army as a topographical engineer; after Waterloo he studied in Paris under the sculptor Baron François-Joseph Bosio and the painter Baron Antoine-Jean Gros. He attended the École des Beaux-Arts from 1818 to 1823, but after failing to win the Prix de Rome he left and worked under a goldsmith who required him to model numerous small animal figures.

He became strongly interested in animal sculpture, studying living animals at the Jardin des Plantes (the Paris Zoo) and skeletons at the Musée d'Anatomie. In 1831 he exhibited his Tiger Devouring a Gavial in the Paris Salon, where it drew critical acclaim. It is from this point that his career as an animalier begins. His patrons included the French royal family; one early commission, begun for the Duc d'Orleans in 1837, was for a centerpiece for the Duc's table; the work as designed turned out to be too heavy for the existing table, which collapsed under the weight of the base alone, and the project was abandoned.

In 1839 Barye established his own foundry and a gallery through which to sell his work. He had worked exclusively on commission heretofore, but was now modeling animal bronzes for purchase by the general public. In 1848 he became a curator at the Louvre, but held the position for only two years; he was compelled to resign owing to the unstable political situation at the time. He continued modeling animals, periodically publishing catalogues of works available for sale. He also continued to work on commission, and taught at various institutions. He became a Professor of Drawing for Zoology at the Museum of Natural History in 1854.

Barye died in Paris in 1875.


Forrest, Michael. Art Bronzes. Atglen, PA:

Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 1988.

Hook, Philip and Poltimore, Mark. Popular 19th Century Painting -

A Dictonary of European Genre Painters. Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK:

The Antique Collectors' Club, 1986.

Horswell, Jane. "Les Animaliers": Reference and Price Guide.

Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK: The Antique Collectors' Club, 1971.

Kjellberg, Pierre. Bronzes of the 19th Century.

Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing LTD, 1994.

Licht, Fred. Sculpture 19th & 20th Centuries.

London, England: Jarold & Sons, 1967.

Mackay, James. The Animaliers-A Collector's Guide to the
Animal Sculptors of the 19th & 20th Centuries.

Toronto, Canada: Clarke, Irwin & Company, 1973.

Payne, Christopher. Animals in Bronze: Reference and Price Guide.

Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK: The Antique Collectors' Club, 1986.

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