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Antoine Louis Bayre
(French, 1796 -1875 )

Undoubtedly the best known of all the French animalier school, Antoine-Louis Barye first exhibited his bronze animal sculptures at the Paris Salon in 1831. Bayre's work was at the time somewhat of a shock, for animals on their own had before that time been only rarely depicted in three dimensions.

A somewhat outspoken critic dubbed Bayre an "animalier: a maker of animals. A species deprived of human nobility." The name stayed with him and became the general term used to describe what we now see as an entire school of sculptors who depicted animals. Barye dared to depict animals as they were, fighting with one another, snarling, and struggling to exist in the harsh reality of nature.

The son of a goldsmith, Barye was born in 1796, and he studied technique under Baron Francois-Joseph Bosio, who had worked under the great sculptor, Antonio Canova. He attended the Ecole des Beaux Arts from 1812 to 1823. He next worked under the goldsmith, Fauconnier (1776-1839) where he was required to make dozens of small animal figures. He became interested, and began to study animals at the Paris zoo, curiously named the Jardin des Plantes, and to study skeletons at the Musee d'Anatomie Comparee. He was very much encouraged by the staff at the zoo, especially by one of the keepers, Pere Rousseau, who would give him carcasses so that he could study them at his leisure.

He was also undoubtedly influenced by another mentor, the painter Baron Antoine-Jean Gros (1771-1835) who was known for large battle scenes. Barye's more ambitious bronzes often reflect this grand Romantic vision, imbuing his work with a sense of movement and bold, flowing lines which gave them a far greater impact than that of many of his contemporaries.

Barye's greatest success was with the exhibition of his "Tiger Devouring a Gavial", a the Salon of 1831. Previously, he had been known for more classical subjects, but with the exhibition of the above, his career became more successful, and his subjects more romantic renditions of animals and their inter-relationships. As with animals in painting, animals in sculpture had before this played a secondary role at best, either symbolic, or decorative.


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