Philbrook Hosts Antoine-Louis Barye Collection

MONUMENTAL FEAT: Philbrook Communications Manager Judy Ward and Ruth G. Hardman Curator of European and American Art James Peck stand in front of a photo of the Barye Monument, part of the Antoine-Louis Barye exhibit at Philbrook through Sept. 2. The original monument was funded by exhibitions put on by George A. Lucas and William T. Walters and was erected in 1894 on the Île Saint-Louis, Paris.

GTR Newspapers photo

Philbrook Museum of Art will exhibit over 130 works devoted to French artist Antoine-Louis Barye (1796–1875), the foremost animal sculptor or animalier of the 19th century. The exhibition was organized by the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. On view June 10-September 2, this exhibition will be the first in recent times to emphasize the full range of Barye’s production, including not only his well-known bronze sculptures but also his oil paintings, watercolors and sketches.

These pieces are drawn entirely from the Walters’ Barye collection, which rivals the Louvre both in scope and significance. These artworks will reveal the breadth of his subjects from game animals and mythological creatures to animal combat scenes and the human form. Auguste Rodin was an early pupil, and Barye’s work was a source of inspiration to Henri Matisse and Paul Cézanne.

“This is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity to get a comprehensive look at the works of one of the most important and influential sculptors of the 19th century,” says James Peck, Philbrook’s Ruth G. Hardman Curator of European and American Art.

Barye produced some of the most experimental and controversial sculptures of the century based on careful observation of specimens in the Jardin des Plantes, the botanical and zoological garden founded in Paris in 1793. He is remembered for monumental works commissioned by the state as well as for small sculptures intended for interior decoration. Barye was also a pioneer in the production of multiple bronze casts (called “editions”) for the rapidly expanding middle-class market.

In addition to Barye’s well-known sculptures, he was also a painter. He began in the late 1820s to paint with watercolors, a medium that British artists, including George Stubbs, made popular in early 19th-century France. Still using exotic animals as his subject, Barye developed a distinctive technique using opaque pigments or washes combined with ink, chalk and pastel. He built up rich textures and frequently abraded the surfaces. In the 1840s, he began painting landscapes in the vicinity of the village of Barbizon, an artist’s colony on the edge of the Fontainebleau forest. He included unusual rock formations, stretches of sand and gnarled trees.

The largest oil painting found in Barye’s studio after his death was Tiger at Rest (ca. 1850s-60s). A tiger appears in a landscape similar to that found in the Apremont Gorge, a rocky valley in the Fontainebleau forest. The majestic animal rests in the twilight, and the scene is bathed in a warm, golden light. Tiger at Rest has a highly textured paint surface employed by many Barbizon painters at this time.

Admission to Philbrook is $5.50 to $7.50. Children 18 and under free. Museum hours are Tuesday–Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The museum
is closed on Monday. For more information visit

Updated 06-29-2007

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