COMPIÈGNE.- Albert Ernest Carrier-Belleuse (1824-1887) was one of the most famous and certainly one of the most omnipresent sculptors of the Second Empire. He started his career in a goldsmith's workshop, rose through the ranks in sculpture until he won recognition at the Salon. "He is almost a sculpting machine. Every day busts, ornaments, statues, figurines, bronzes, candelabra, caryatids come out of his workshop. Bronze, marble, plaster, alabaster - he sculpts, shapes, carves everything. But what spirit he has, this sculpting machine! What imagination, what verve!" "Edouard Lockroy, "Le Monde des Arts", LArtiste, vol. 77, 1865, 40).
Indeed, gifted with astounding facility, he drew and modelled whatever his eye fell on. His naturalist style, fed with reminiscences of the Fontainebleau Renaissance and a fascination for the eighteenth century, was adapted to all types of sculpture and decorative arts, for which he supplied a steady stream of models. Apart from his entries in the Salons, he produced mythological, historical or imaginative figures in terracotta, bronze or marble, making innovative use of the technology of the time. He left no field untouched.
As was customary in the nineteenth century, he ran a studio with a large number of assistants who worked on his sculptures and their derivatives. Auguste Rodin started his career there and the decorative vein he found in his master runs through his later work. He also learned to control the diffusion of his work. This exhibition, the first retrospective of Carrier-Belleuse's oeuvre, shows how he and Carpeaux embodied the sculpture of the Second Empire, its eclecticism, generosity, inventiveness and open-mindedness, characteristics that explain why Rodin was so deeply affected by his master.
Exceptional loans from the Musée dOrsay, the Musée Rodin, the Musée des Arts décoratifs in Paris, the Cité de la Céramique, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and public and private collections enable visitors to appreciate the extraordinary quality of his work and measure his influence on Rodin.