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Carpeaux, Jean Baptiste

CARPEAUX, JEAN BAPTISTE (1827-1875), French sculptor, was born at Valenciennes, France, on the 11th of May 1827. He was the son of a mason, and passed his early life in extreme poverty. In 1842 he came to Paris, and after working for two years in a drawing-school, was admitted to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts on the 9th of September 1854. The Grand Prix de Rome was awarded to his statue of "Hector bearing in his arms his son Astyanax." His first work exhibited at the Salon, in 1853, did not show the spirit of an innovator, and was very unlike the work of his master Rude. At Rome he was fascinated by Donatello, and yet more influenced by Michelangelo, to whom he owes his feeling for vehement and passionate action. He sent from Rome a bust, "La Palombella," 1856; and a "Neapolitan Fisherman," 1858. This work was again exhibited in the Salon of 1859, and took a second-class medal; but it was not executed in marble till 1863. In his last year in Rome he sent home a dramatic group, "Ugolino and his Sons," and exhibited at the same time a "Bust of Princess Mathilde." This gained him a second-class medal and the favour of the Imperial family. In 1864 he executed the "Girl with a Shell," the companion figure to the young fisherman; and although in 1865 he did not exhibit at the Salon, busts of "Mme. A.E. André," of "Giraud" the painter, and of "Mlle. Benedetti" showed that he was not idle. He was working at the same time on the decorations of the Pavilion de Flore, of which the pediment alone was seen at the Salon, though the bas-relief below is an even better example of his style. After producing a statue of the prince imperial, Carpeaux was made chevalier of the Legion of Honour in 1866. Two years later he received an important commission to execute one of the four groups for the façade of the new opera house. His group, representing "Dancing," 1869, was greeted with indignant protests; it is nevertheless a sound work, full of movement, with no fault but that of exceeding the limitations prescribed. In 1869 he exhibited a "Bust of M. Gamier," and followed this up with two pieces intended for his native city: a statue of Watteau, and a bas-relief, "Valenciennes repelling Invasion." During the Commune he came to England, and made a "Bust of Gounod" in 1871. His last important work was a fountain, the "Four Quarters of the World," in which the globe is sustained by four female figures personifying Europe, Asia, Africa and America. This fountain is now in the Avenue de l'Observatoire in Paris. Carpeaux, though exhausted by illness, continued designing indefatigably, till he died at the Château de Bécon, near Courbevoie, on the 12th of October 1875, after being promoted to the higher grade of the Legion of Honour. Many of his best drawings have been presented by Prince Stirbey to the city of Valenciennes.

See Ernest Chesneau, Carpeaux, sa vie et son oeuvre (Paris, 1880); Paul Foucart, Catalogue du Musée Carpeaux, Valenciennes (Paris, 1882); Jules Claretie, J. Carpeaux (1882); François Bournand, J.B. Carpeaux (1893).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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