Antoine Louis Barye (1796-1875)
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Antoine Louis Barye was born in Paris, France on September 24, 1796. He is known as perhaps the finest sculptor of the Animaliers school.
Barye’s first Salon exhibit was in 1819. His creation, The Milo of Croton was honored as second place, but none of his other pieces received recognition. After this event, he continued to exhibit many of his masterpieces. Although he received much recognition and success in the commercial sales of his bronzes, the Salon refused many of his entries. By 1836, he had become so frustrated and enraged by this that he adamantly refused to exhibit there again. He kept this promise until 1851.
Although the next eleven years, from 1837-1848 were considered to be when Barye produced his finest sculptures, he didn’t achieve much financial success. In fact, he became so obsessed with attaining perfection in his art that often, he wouldn’t sell pieces because he believed they had tiny flaws. He began giving each of his sculptures a unique cast number and began cold stamping them. His attention to detail and relentless pursuit of perfection eventually served as a contributing factor to his having to declare bankruptcy.
Tragically, his models, his plasters, and the right to produce them were sold to pay off his existing debts. During the years of 1848-1857, the casts were made by others who weren’t as meticulous. It is easy to distinguish the finer early casts shaped by Barye’s personal touches.
After filing bankruptcy and losing his models, Barye became Director of Casts and Models at the Louvre until 1850. Barye suffered from depression during these dark times. His spirits were lifted when articles started to appear praising the works he had produced of animals in their natural state.
In 1851, Barye finally began exhibiting at the Salon again. By 1857, he was able to pay off his debts and resume control of the casts and models he had tragically had to give up. He again devoted himself to casting his works, but his recent success and commissions he was awarded began to consume much of his time.
In 1855 and in 1867, he was awarded the prestigious Grand Medal in Paris for his works. Late in life, he was finally awarded the recognition he so rightfully deserved.
Today, most of Barye’s plasters and models are housed in the Louvre. Those who do possess a Barye original will note the markings and the extreme focus on perfect detail. His animal sculptures are often animals in the wild, many of violent nature. Each one truly is a work of art, making it easy to know why he still enjoys such an unmatchable reputation. If you suspecct you own a Barye, please contact us.