Emmanuel Fremiet (1824 - 1910) was born in Paris, France December 6th 1824 into an upper middle class Paris family with close ties to the art world. His Cousin Sophie, an accomplished painter and early mentor to the young Fremiet, married the famous French sculptor Francois Rude and his mother was also an accomplished artist who constantly encouraged him Young Emmanuel started to receive his formal training in art at the age of five at a private school in Paris and he was excepted at the prestigious Ecole des Artes Decoratifs at the the unheard of age of thirteen. He was to apprentice under the painter Jacques-Christophe Werner at the age of sixteen. He showed so much promise that within the year he was employed by Werner as his head lithographer whose duties were to prepare all of the drawings of both animals and men. Fremiet also studied sculpture and modeling under his uncle Francois Rude, but in spite of all of his early training and advantages it was some time before he and his cousin Sophie convinced Rude to take him on as a pupil in his studio.
Much of Fremiet's time as a student was spent at the Jardin de Plantes in Paris, studying the live animals and like Barye before him, participating in the dissections of the ones who had died. Fremiet spent a great deal of his young life at this famous Paris zoological gardens, first being exposed to the many different wild animals as a student when he was only seven. Fremiet's ties to the Jardin de Plantes were further bonded when he was appointed to succeed Antoine Louis Barye as Professor of Drawing following Barye's death in 1875. Like so many of the great sculptors, Fremiet spent time studying and drawing at the morgue, as well as at various embalmers in Paris. This enabled him to reproduce the muscle and bone structure of both humans and animals very accurately in his works. He is well known for the constant attention to detail in all his animal and monumental works and it is unfortunate that much criticism of his close attention to detail was directed at his numerous monumental sculptures after his death.
Fremiet exhibited his first sculpture in the Paris Salon in 1843 at the age of nineteen and he continued to exhibit at the annual Salon throughout his lifetime, wining numerous awards and medals. During the early part of his career Fremiet concentrated on editions of small animal bronzes which he cast himself in his own foundry. These early, small and competently executed bronzes are very desirable and highly prized today by museums and collectors. He did not follow the violent cruel style which was popular at the time. His work is noted for its soft, gentle, and often amusing nature. Many of his smaller bronzes were sold directly from his workshop and foundry at 42 Boulevard du Temple and later the Fauborg Saint Honord. Fremiet's commercial catalogue, dated 1850-60, lists 68 mostly Animalier titles. Fremiet received the first of his many state public commission for a monument in 1849 at the age of twenty-five and was to receive more commissions for public monuments than any other sculptor before or since his time. It is almost impossible to walk the streets of Paris without coming across one of Fremiet's many monuments.
At the outset of the 1870 Franco-Prussian war, after witnessing the destruction and carnage of this first of the many modern European wars, Fremiet became discouraged with his career in art, seeing it as a frivolous adventure. He fled Paris during the siege and his house and belongings were looted in his absence. After his return he seriously thought of giving up sculpture altogether and for a long time refused to draw or model. Fortunately this depression appears to have been replaced with a renewed enthusiasm in sculpture as shown in the years that followed by the creation of some of his most important works. Following Fremiet's death in 1910 all of his models were sold to F. Barbedienne the famous Paris foundry. His bronzes were cast by them up until the First World War and bear their foundry seal.
Next to Antoine Louis Barye, Fremiet is considered to be the finest and best known of the French Animalier sculptors and responsible for bringing animal sculpture into fashion with the collecting world. He has the distinction of being the sculptor with the greatest influence on the numerous young art students flocking to Paris from America in the late 19th and early 20th century . It was not uncommon for Fremiet to instruct 20 or more pupils at a single time in his studio or at the Louvre where he was director of sculpture. One of his more notable American students was Augustus Saint-Gaudens who had a small bronze sculpture of Pan and the Bear Cubs that he purchased from his teacher placed prominently on his desk in his home in Cornish New Hampshire throughout his life, and which still resides there today.
To list all of the Museums which display Bronzes by Emmanuel Fremiet would take an entire page of it's own.
The life of Emmanuel Fremiet is documented in the following books:
Les Animaliers by Jane Horsell (1971)
The Animaliers by James Mackay (1973)
Fremiet by Phillippe Faure-Fremiet (1934)
Animals in Bronze by Christopher Payne (1986)
Bronzes of the 19th Century by Pierre Kjellberg (1994)
A Concise History of Bronzes by George Savage (1968)
E. Fremiet un Maitre Imagier by Jacques de Biez (1896)
Dictionnaire des Peintres et Sculpteurs by E. Benezit (1966)
Dictionnaire de Sculpteurs de l'ecole Francaise by Stanaslas Lami (1914)
Emmanuel Fremiet La main et le multiple by Musee des Beaux-Arts de Dijon (1988)
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