This magnificent black granite sculpture is an exciting discovery since recent research has revealed that it is an identical to a full-sized terracotta torso, likewise dated MCMXL, entitled Torse, Terre Cuite that the esteemed French sculptor Louis-Aimé Lejeune exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1941, no. 702. When reviewing the Salon that year, an art critic from “l’Architecture Française: Architecture, Urbanisme, Decoration”, 1941, p. 39, noted “Un Torse en terre cuite de grande dimension de Louis-Aimé Lejeune est d’une objectivité impeccable” but surprisingly continued to state that “toute personnalité de l’artiste en est absente”. All would agree with its flawless objectivity but, most would disagree with the final words since the modelling of the terracotta, as here, is a tour de force. Significantly, in 1941 Lejeune was elected a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts and by that stage, was at the height of his career, having been awarded the Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur in 1931. In addition, he was awarded the Prix Bridan as well as the Prix Chenavard.
Louis Aimé Lejeune was born on 22nd January 1884 in the village of Livet-sur-Authou in the department of the Eure in Normandy. His father was a woodworker and cabinet-maker who had ambitions that his son should become a skilled artisan and follow in his footsteps. To this end the younger Lejeune began to receive his training in craftsmanship. By the age of fourteen, he had shown such promise that he was sent to the École Bernard-Palissy in Paris. There he was acquainted with the elements of architecture, perspective, anatomy, and other subjects essential to the future sculptor. His ability was such that the government of the department of Eure gave him a scholarship that enabled him to enrol at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. There he studied for nine years, firstly under the academic sculptor Gabriel-Jules Thomas (1824-1905) and then Jean-Antoine Injalbert (1845-1933), whose Belle Epoch style was to impact on the aspiring sculptor. While still a student, Lejeune executed Figure Modelée d’Après Nature (1908) and Le Défi (1909).
Lejeune was twenty-two years old, when he sent his first work to the Paris Salon. This was the Rêver de Berger, which was acquired by the Musée d’Evreux. He then won the coveted Prix de Rome with his bas-relief Orestes et Electre Endormis and from 1911 to 1914, became a resident of the Villa Medici in Rome. During 1914, the musician and composer Lili Boulanger (1893-1918) went to stay in Rome, with whom he was still corresponding with in 1915. In August 1914, Lejeune was recalled to France and for the next four years was plunged into World War I. During his years in Italy, he had studied the masterpieces of the Renaissance and from the ruins at Paestum and Syracuse had developed an admiration for Greek art. After his discharge from the army, he travelled to Greece, where he visited the classic remains at Athens, Delphi, Corinth, Mycenae, and Olympus. He became convinced that more than any other nation the Greeks had understood that the true character of great sculpture is architectural. At the Salon of 1920 Lejeune exhibited Éphèbe, for which he was awarded a gold medal and was a work that reflected his understanding of Greek art. Shortly afterward he became a member of the jury of the Salon des Artistes Français and a professor in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.
Following the First World War, Lejeune was commissioned to create a number of war memorials including monuments at Beaumont-le-Roger (1921), Bernay (1921), Villers-Farlay (1921) and at Serquigny. In addition to such commissions, he produced a number of portrait sculptures, including a commission to make a bust of Horace Huntington. In 1926 he travelled to California to complete the portrait bust and while there attracted the attention of a number of American art collectors. Among them was the Californian art patron and heiress Anita Baldwin, who commissioned him to create the sculptures Je n’Oublierai pas (1930) and a bronze fountain at the entrance of her vast mansion Anoakia at Arcadia
Having been appointed a professor in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Lejeune devoted much of his energies into teaching sculpture, counting amongst his pupils the goldsmith and sculptor Jean Puiforcat (1897-1945). In 1924, Lejeune and a group of fellow artists established a society that aimed to offer affordable accommodation in Paris for artists. It was to become the Cité Montmartre aux Artistes, where painters and sculptors could enjoy a community life with exhibition space, conference rooms, a library and act as a cooperative. The project was supported by Jean Varenne, councillor for Grandes-Carrières in the 18th arrondissement of Paris north of Montmartre. The architect involved in the project was Lejeune’s friend, the architect Adolphe Thiers (1878-1957). The building of the Cité Montmartre aux Artistes began in 1929 and was completed in 1936. Prior to this, in 1927, Thiers built an Art Deco style Paris house for Lejeune at the junction of Avenue Junot and rue Simon-Dereure on the Montmartre hill, where the sculptor continued to live up until his death on 7th April 1969.
In November 1941, Louis-Aimé Lejeune and a group of fellow artists agreed to take part in a so-called study trip to Germany to visit the high places of German culture as well as artists’ studios. The trip was organised by Arno Breker and Otto Abetz, the German Ambassador to France. The painters and sculptors involved included Kees van Dongen, André Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck, Paul Belmondo, Henri Bouchard, Charles Despiau, André Dunoyer de Segonzac, Othon Friesz, Paul Landowski, Raymond Legueult and Roland Oudot. The venture was presented to the group as a means of promoting the release of French artists who were still being held prisoner, but it was felt that, in fact, it had largely been exploited by the propaganda of the Third Reich.
Louis-Aimé Lejeune’s work is prized among many private and public collections including such American museums as the Metropolitan Museum, New York: Éphèbe, (1927), the Brooklyn Museum: Sainte Thérèse and at Dartmouth College, Hanover. Other public collections to own his sculptures include the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris: Cupidon (c.1933), the Musée Cognacq-Jay, Paris, the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris: Portrait of Sir Joseph Duveen (1925). Further sculptural pieces by him in Paris can be found at the Petit Palais, the lower terrace at Palais de Chaillot and the Cité de la Musique, in addition to the Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts in Lausanne: Femme à l'Enfant, (1924).
Price : on request
15 000 €