Tailleurs de pierre - Maçons

Alexandre Charpentier
Tailleurs de pierre - Maçons
en 1905
plaquette plâtre uniface
H. 26,8 ; L. 22,3 ; P. 2,5 cm
Mode d'acquisition inconnu, s.d.
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d’Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski
Alexandre Charpentier (1856 - 1909)
Niveau médian, Passerelle

These later reliefs echo comments by Charpentier himself to Edmond de Goncourt in 1894: "He wanted to become a sculptor, and, at the time, had an image of a sculptor as a man up on scaffolding, chipping away with a chisel and mallet". This is exactly what the artist is showing us here: in Stonecutters, the men are smoothing off the block, while the masons, perched on the scaffolding, are putting the stones into place.
These reliefs formed the obverse and the reverse of a plaquette entitled Stone, which was the last of three works produced for the Société des Amis de la médaille française in 1904. The titles of the sides were then "a) cutting; – b) facing".
The composition is remarkable: ternary on the obverse, with these three workers, binary on the reverse. It converges in both instances towards the centre around a void formed by parallel planes. The lines are intersected perpendicularly. One single oblique on each side breaks up this sculptural rigour.
Rhythmic and complementary, the gestures and stances form a kind of harmonious choreography. These reliefs place Charpentier's work somewhere between the paintings of building sites by his friend and contemporary Maximilien Luce, and Fernand Léger's The Builders from the 1950s.