Director Emeritus Grant Holcomb speaks about this object.
However humble his beginnings, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux became one of the great French sculptors of the 19th century and a particular favorite of Emperor Napoleon III. Though his work is often associated with the imperial court, it’s this image of a poet and the identity of a flaneur (that is… a “man of the world” who loved observing urban life) that intrigues me.
Baudelaire, the great 19th-century French poet, immediately comes to mind. A poet who urged artists to explore the modern world and, in particular, the city in all its human drama and urban grittiness. His influence on painting and on poetry was immense.
Carpeaux’s figure is jaunty, cocky and intensely observant; as if he, too, were wandering the city streets as the passionate spectator who, in Baudelaire’s words, “sets up house in the heart of the multitude.”
The tilted head, open-eyes and even the cigar and lively, vigorous surfaces of the bronze itself convey this sense of vitality, of movement and engagement.
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