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
Dalou, Aime-Jules
(1838-1902)
Collection: European Collection
Specialty: Sculpture
View Artwork
In the late 19th century, Jules Dalou was considered Auguste Rodin's rival
for the title of greatest French sculptor. Born to a glovemaker in Paris
in 1838, Dalou was politically active and an advocate of the working man
all his life, sympathetically depicting the lower classes in his art.
Dalou attended both the Petit Ecole and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, though
he felt that the formalist limitations of the Ecole's academic style
stifled him artistically. He turned completely against it after failing to
win the Prix de Rome in four consecutive attempts from 1861-1865.

Dalou turned in the 1860s to decorative sculpture to support himself. It
was while working for an ornemaniste that he became friends with
Rodin, who later reminisced: "My first friend was Dalou. He was a fine
artist in the great tradition of the eighteenth-century masters . . ."
Throughout his life, when Rodin bragged about the speed with which he
modeled clay; he said he had prodigiously fast hands "like Dalou and
Carrier-Belleuse."

After the fall of Napoleon III and the end of the Franco-Prussian war in
1871, Dalou became a member of the ill-fated Commune. When that government
fell amid brutal reprisals, he was forced to flee to England. He was
successful there, sculpting and teaching at the South Kensington School of
Art though he never learned to speak English. His works were exhibited
frequently at the Royal Academy and, according to art historian H.W.
Janson, "combin[ed] acute observation with a Neo-Baroque fullness and
dynamism of form."

In 1879, Dalou returned to France and entered a competition sponsored by
the city of Paris. Though he didn't win, the jury liked his design so much
that it recommended that the city build it also. The result was "The
Triumph of the Republic", a large multi-figure monument erected in the
Place de la Nation. In 1880, another competition was announced for a
monument commemorating the Constituent Assembly of 1789. Though it was
never built, the competition maquettes were exhibited in 1881. So popular
was Dalou's statuette, "Marquis de Lafayette", originally intended
for the monument, that a version was executed in porcelain by Sevres in
addition to the bronze. Soon after, he was named to the Legion of Honor.

Dalou remains best known for the works he created gratis in celebration of
the workers and their political champions. This love and respect for the
workers was reciprocated. Scholar Mary Levkoff tells us of Dalou's funeral
in 1902:

Dalou's biographer and executor, Maurice Dreyfous, wrote that as the
sculptor's coffin was carried toward the cemetery at Montparnasse , whole
phalanxes of workers emerged spontaneously from their factories and
workshops to accompany the artist's body out of the city.


Everl Adair, Director of Research and Rare Collections