1902 Encyclopedia > Sculpture > French Sculpture - Modern Era [19th Century].

(Part 15)

French Sculpture - Modern Era [19th Century].

The existing schools of French sculpture are by far the most important in the world. Technical skill and intimate knowledge of the human form are possessed by several living sculptors of France to a degree which has probably never been surpassed, and some of them produce works of very great power, beauty, and originality. Many of their works have a similar fault to that of one class of French painters : they are much injured by an excess of sensual realism ; in many cases nude statues are simply life-studies with all the faults and individual peculiarities of one model. Very unsculpturesque results are produced by treating a statue as a representation of a naked person,— one, that is, who is obviously in the habit of wearing clothes,—a very different thing from the purity of the ancient Greek treatment of the nude. Thus the great ability of many French sculptors is degraded to suit the taste of the voluptuary. An extravagance of attitude and an undignified arrangement of the figures do much to injure some of the large groups which are full of technical merit, and executed with marvellous anatomical knowledge. This is specially the case with much of the sculpture that is intended to decorate the buildings of Paris. The group of nude dancers by Carpeaux outside the new opera-house is a work of astonishing skill and prurient imagi-nation, utterly unsculpturesque in style and especially unfitted to decorate the comparatively rigid lines of a building. The egotism of modern French sculptors will not allow them to accept the necessarily subordinate reserve which is so necessary for architectonic sculpture. Other French works, on the other hand, err in the direc-tion of a sickly sentimentalism, or a petty realism, which is fatal to sculpturesque beauty. The real power and merits of the modern French school make these faults all the more conspicuous.


564-2 On French sculpture see Adams, Recueil de Sculptures Gothiques, Paris, 1858 ; Cerf, Description de Notre Dame de Reims, Rheims, 1861 ; Éméric-David, L'Art Statuaire, Paris, 1805, and Histoire de la Sculpture Française, Paris, 1853 ; Guilhebaud, L'Architecture et la Sculpture du Vme au XVIme Siècle, Paris, 1851-59 ; Menard, Sculpture Antique et Moderne, Paris, 1867 ; Didron, Annales Archéologiques, various articles ; Félibien, Histoire de l'Art en France, Paris, 1856 ; Mrs Pattison, Renaissance of Art in France, London, 1879 ; Montfaucon, Monuments de la Monarchie Française, Paris, 1729-33 ; Jouy, Sculptures Modernes du Louvre, Paris, 1855 ; Réveil, Oeuvre de Jean Goujon, Paris, 1868 ; Viollet-le-Duc, Dictionnaire de l'Architecture, Paris, 1869, art. "Sculpture," vol. vii-i. pp. 97-279 ; Claretie, Peintres et Sculpteurs Contemporains, Paris, in progress.

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