Tiger Devouring a Gavial
After years of self-study at the zoo of the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, Barye's sculptures put his knowledge of anatomy to good use, emphasizing the musculature of animals in conflict and creating far more realistic portraits of them than the static, posed figures of Academic art. His early work was not successful and he supported his family for eight years by working for a jeweler, creating small animal images, but continued to study various naturalists in his spare time. In 1831, he finally had a breakthrough; Tiger Devouring a Gavial was a sensation at the Paris Salon and won a Second Place Medal. Nonetheless, throughout the 1830s, his work was attacked by conservative critics who derided his ''overly'' naturalistic sculptures for departing from classical models, and accused him of attempting to make the Tuileries (where the Paris Salon exhibited at that time) into a menagerie. It was one of these critics who coined the term ''animalier'', originally intended as an insult, for the nature of his work.