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James Pradier

Mar - 8 - 2013
James Pradier

Bust of Pradier by Eugène-Louis Lequesne, from his tombstone

James Pradier, also known as Jean-Jacques Pradier (He was born on June 4, 1790, died in 1852) was a Swiss-born French sculptor best known for his work in the neoclassical style.
The artist’s life and work
Born in Geneva, Pradier left for Paris in 1807 to work with his elder brother, an engraver. He won a Prix de Rome that enabled him to study in Rome from 1814 to 1818. He studied under Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres in Paris. Well-known and appreciated from 1820, Pradier received commissions from all the regimes: the Restoration and the July Monarchy asked him to produce major works, in particular for the House of Deputies in 1830, for the Place de la Concorde in 1836 and the pediment of the Luxembourg Palace in 1840. The female figure was the central theme in his work.
n 1827 he became a member of the Académie des beaux-arts and a professor at the École des Beaux-Arts. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Pradier oversaw the finish of his sculptures himself. He was a friend of the Romantic poets Alfred de Musset, Victor Hugo and Théophile Gautier, and his atelier was a center, presided over by his beautiful mistress, Juliette Drouet, who became Hugo’s mistress in 1833.
The cool neoclassical surface finish of his sculptures is charged with an eroticism that their mythological themes can barely disguise. At the Salon of 1834, Pradier’s Satyr and Bacchante created a scandalous sensation. Some claimed to recognize the features of the sculptor and his mistress, Juliette Drouet. When the prudish government of Louis-Philippe refused to purchase it, Count Anatole Demidoff bought it and took it to his palazzo in Florence.
However his style cannot be reduced to the introduction of pleasant sensuality into an antique repertoire; the painfully restrained, palpitating drama of Sappho (1852) makes that clear.
Other famous sculptures by Pradier are the figures of Fame in the spandrels of the Arc de Triomphe, decorative figures at the Madeleine, and his twelve

Phryne Removing Her Veils (bronze, 1845)

Victories inside the dome of the Invalides, all in Paris. For his native Geneva he completed the statue of the Genevan Jean-Jacques Rousseau erected in 1838 on the tiny Île Rousseau, where Lac Léman empties to form the Rhône. Aside from large-scale sculptures Pradier collaborated with François-Désiré Froment-Meurice, designing jewelry in a ‘Renaissance-Romantic’ style.
Everything conspires to show that Pradier was an ambiguous artist with many different talents: recognised by the Academy at an early age, he nevertheless explored the paths of romanticism drawn from literature, as here. He was close to Victor Hugo, who publicly took his defence on several occasions.
Sappho was on display at the Salon in 1852 when the sculptor died suddenly; she was then covered with a black veil and the artist was posthumously awarded the medal of honour.
He is buried in the Père-Lachaise cemetery. Much of the contents of his studio were bought up after his death by the city museum of Geneva.

Resources on the Web:
The English-language Wikipedia
James Pradier-sculptures
James Pradier-sculptures

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