A sculptor of the 3rd Republic
Alexandre Falguière (1831-1900): A major sculptor of the Third Republic
Like many towns and cities, Toulouse saw a great development in commemorative sculpture in the 19th century (Terre Cabade cemetery, Place Wilson, Jardin Royal and Jardin des Plantes).
The sculpted decor of the parks largely disappeared after 1940 (bronzes melted down by the Nazi occupying forces, then later, vandalism), and a certain number of sculptures have been replaced by copies. We owe these works to what was called ‘the group of Toulousans': Mercié, Marqueste, Ségoffin, Mengue and Seysses amongst others, most of whom were trained at the School of Fine Arts (école des Beaux Arts) in Paris by Alexandre Falguière (Balzac seated and Diana), their leader. Many of these sculptures, originally made for open air settings, are today presented in the shelter of the museum.
Alexandre Falguière (1831–1900) was born in Toulouse. His father, an artisan cabinet-maker, had him attend the School of Fine Arts. In 1853, he was awarded a council grant which allowed him to study sculpture for three years at the Paris School of Fine Arts.
Very early on, the 3rd Republic bought pieces from Falguière, which launched his career. At a time of overriding interest in statuary, he received many commissions from town councils. He worked on historical figures such as Henri de La Rochejaquelein (1772-1794), a young general in chief of the Royalist armies at the time of the Vendéen insurrection. He also worked on personalities of the time such as Cardinal de Lavigerie, Bishop of Algiers and founder of the congregation of "White Fathers", whose aim was to spread the Gospel in Africa. He offered a monumental portrait of this imposing man of the church, an anti-slavery figure and a republican.
Le Cardinal Lavigerie,
Vers 1898, plâtre. Inv. RA 958
At the School Gates, a naturalistic genre scene exhibited in Paris at the Salon of 1887, shows the interest Falguière also had in more day-to-day subjects, here with a family of modest means concerned by the new school laws making instruction compulsory for all.
Like many 19th century sculptors, he kept up the tradition of subjects from mythology, pretexts for single feminine nudes such as Diana. Falguière however added a new naturalistic aspect to this theme.
As a recognised artist, covered in honours, he had no hesitation in confronting Rodin, the greatest sculptor of his time, in particular in his model for a Monument to Balzac, which shows everything he had learned from his spectacularly gifted rival and nonetheless friend (see the portrait of Laurens by Rodin in the Salon Rouge).