• Grand Paysan - Aimé-Jules Dalou, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Grand Paysan - Aimé-Jules Dalou, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Grand Paysan - Aimé-Jules Dalou, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Grand Paysan - Aimé-Jules Dalou, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Grand Paysan - Aimé-Jules Dalou, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Grand Paysan - Aimé-Jules Dalou, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Grand Paysan - Aimé-Jules Dalou, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Grand Paysan - Aimé-Jules Dalou, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Grand Paysan - Aimé-Jules Dalou, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Grand Paysan - Aimé-Jules Dalou, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Grand Paysan - Aimé-Jules Dalou, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Grand Paysan - Aimé-Jules Dalou, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
Click image to enlarge

Grand Paysan

Aimé-Jules Dalou

(French, 1838-1902)

Signed DALOU
Inscribed Susse Fres Edts Paris and cire perdue
Inset with Susse Fres Editeurs/Paris foundry pastille
Bronze with brown, red and light green patination
Height: 24'' (61 cm)

Conceived 1897 and cast after 1902


Le Grand Paysan was initially conceived as part of the Monument aux Travailleurs (‘Monument to the Working Man’) ­– a project that occupied Dalou between 1889 and 1902. The artist passed away before completing it, however, leaving a large number of terracotta studies which are currently housed in the Petit Palais collection, Paris. Le Grand Paysan was the only sculpture of the group that was ever completed by the artist. Its monumental version was cast in bronze and unveiled to the public shortly after the artist’s death and is now on permanent display at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

Dalou worked lengthily on the subject, producing at least six terracotta models in different poses before finalising the peasant’s stance. The artist then worked on the figure’s anatomy, clothing and, finally, on the depiction of his dignified, pensive expression. The result is a work of sober monumentality, which illustrates Dalou’s mastery of depicting the human form in bronze. The model was replicated numerous times after the artist’s death. This particular cast is a fine example of the work created by the Susse Frères Foundry using the cire perdue method. As a result, this example has an especially crisp, detailed surface, which is further highlighted by the deep earth tones of its patination.

The piece is indicative of the poetics of the Realist Movement, which thrived in France from the 1850s onwards. Painters such as Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) and Jean-François Millet (1814-1875) started placing labourers at the centre of their work in order to demonstrate their independence from France’s ‘established’ taste. The political implications of such depictions led Courbet to found the independent Fédération des Artistes in 1871; Dalou joined the group in the same year, fleeing to London shortly thereafter.

While the Realist movement can be credited with the introduction of labourers in painting, it was in England that the first ever worker figure appeared in sculpture, in The Mower by Hamo Thornycroft in 1875; yet Thornycroft’s handling of the subject differs completely from Dalou’s, in that the Mower is a romantic image of a handsome youthful worker, whilst Dalou’s is a more realistic image of a man of the soil.

In London, Thornycroft’s idealist depiction was indicative of the sculptural ‘Renaissance’ that characterised the New School artists. In Paris, Dalou’s realist stances spurred from early counter-establishment aesthetics, appreciated by a wider public by the turn of the century. In this light, Le Grand Paysan and The Mower are a compelling testimony of the deeply interconnected, yet highly independent development of sculpture that characterised 19th-century continental and British art.

Works by Aimé-Jules Dalou

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