Today's Hours
Museum: 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Gardens: 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Today's Hours
Museum: 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Gardens: 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Carrier Belleuse, Albert Ernest
(1824-1887)
Collection: European Collection
Specialty: Sculpture
Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse, known as the "most prolific and versatile
sculptor of his time" as well as "the consummate decorative sculptor of
the nineteenth century", was born Carrier de Belleuse to a genteel but
impoverished Parisian family. When his father deserted them, the
13-year-old Carrier went to work as an apprentice, first to a stone
chiseller, then to Jacques-Henry Fauconnier, the goldsmith who trained
Antoine-Louis Barye. The sculptor David d'Angers arranged his entrance
into the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, but Carrier disliked its static formalism
and elitism and departed for the Petit Ecole, the specialized school for
decorative arts both Auguste Rodin and Aime-Jules Dalou would later
attend.

As a student, Carrier-Belleuse began producing statuettes for commercial
manufacturers as well as fine art pieces. In 1850, he made his debut at
the Paris Salon. By then, he was well enough known as a decorative
sculptor to be hired by the Minton China Works in England . Returning to
Paris in 1855, he began specializing in small bronzes, like paired
statuettes of Michelangelo and Raphael, essentially creating a new style,
sometimes called Neo-Rococo, which produced works of color and vivacity
that made academic pieces look stuffy.

In 1863, Carrier-Belleuse had his artistic breakthrough when Emperor
Napoleon III brought his marble group, "Bacchante with a Herm of
Dionysius". In 1867, his "Messiah" won a Medal of Honor at the Salon and
he scored a major success at the Paris International Exposition with,
"Angelica Chained to the Rock", considered an audacious revelation for its
frank sensuality and realistic strain. He was also in demand for his
portrait busts; eventually, more than 200 Parisians sat for him. He
created works commemorating most of the major figures of his time, like
Honore Daumier and Gustave Dore, specializing in fresh, crisply defined
likenesses that abandoned the smooth, idealized features of academic
works.

Possessed of 8 children to support, Carrier-Belleuse knew that, in order
to turn a profit, a sculptor must sell more than one copy of a work.
Scholar Ruth Butler writes, "Carrier was probably the first sculptor to
maintain a separate atelier for the sole purpose of producing multiple
copies of his work", a strategy adopted by the most famous of his
employees, Auguste Rodin. Carrier-Belleuse was also one of the first
artists clever enough to sell directly to the public. Butler states:

Rodin did . . . get a first-rate apprenticeship in entrepreneurial
skills . . . Carrier was his model as to how to run an atelier. In his
employ Rodin learned every facet of making and selling sculpture. The
lessons he absorbed were fundamental to his eventual development as a
supremely successful artist.


In 1876, Carrier-Belleuse was asked to be the art director of national
porcelain manufacture at Sevres, a position he would retain until his
death. Under his leadership, Sevres, which had fallen into mediocrity,
again became the leader in porcelain art. One of the things that made
Carrier-Belleuse both popular and prolific was his willingness to devote
the same attention to his "decorative" work that he did to his "fine art".
He felt that the middle and lower classes also deserved beauty in their
lives.

A man's real legacy can be difficult to evaluate. When Carrier-Belleuse
died in 1887, he received a state funeral and the sale of the contents of
his studio took a full 5 days. But it may say more about the man chiefly
remembered for his employment of Rodin, that his 8 children adoringly
referred to him as "Papa-Bon" and that every one of them chose to emulate
him by becoming an artist.

Everl Adair, Director of Research and Rare Collections