Gifts in memory of Mr. Bruno Foucart

Alexandre Séon, La Vierge à l'Enfant, vers 1905  ©Musée d’Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
Séon Alexandre, La Vierge à l’Enfant
Paris, musée d'Orsay, Vers 1905, Don de Jacques et Elisabeth Foucart en mémoire de Bruno Foucart, par l’intermédiaire de la Société des amis du musée d’Orsay et de l’Orangerie, 2021
©Musée d’Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt

The museum has just been enriched by a set of seven works from the former collection of art historian Bruno Foucart (1938-2018), donated by the latter's brother, Jacques Foucart, and his wife, Élisabeth Foucart-Walter, through the Société des Amis des Musée d'Orsay et de l'Orangerie.
Bruno Foucart's personality is, in more ways than one, inseparable from the Musée d'Orsay. A member of the Society of Friends of the Museum and a donor himself, he was also one of the major players in the rehabilitation of nineteenth-century architecture and art in France, a movement that culminated in the creation of the Musée d'Orsay in 1977, and the classification of the Orsay train station as a historic monument in 1978.

Born in 1938 in Cambrai, a former student of the École Normale Supérieure and professor of literature, Bruno Foucart trained in art history with André Chastel and Jacques Thuillier. He specialized in the study of nineteenth-century religious painting and architecture, conducting a pioneering doctoral dissertation on the theme of the revival of religious painting in France between 1800 and 1860.
Having become a university professor – he taught at Dijon, then at Nanterre, at the Sorbonne and at the École des beaux-arts de Paris –, he in turn trained several generations of young 19th-century art historians and directed numerous doctoral theses.

Engaged in the defense of the architectural heritage of the nineteenth century, both religious and industrial, at a time when it was still subject to destruction, he played an important role in the cabinet of Minister of Culture Michel Guy (1974-1976). Curator of the exhibition Viollet-le-Duc at the Grand Palais in 1979, and of the exhibition dedicated to the Flandrin brothers at the Musée du Luxembourg in 1984, Foucart regularly spoke out in the press to defend exhibitions dedicated to other little-known or scorned 19th century artists.
More broadly, his works led to a true rereading of 19th century. Bruno Foucart strenuously advocated for a revaluation of the eclectic spirit of the 19th century, castigating the dogmatism of the modernists, sometimes with a taste for polemics. These same ideas preside over the purchases made by Foucart for his own collection, as evidenced by the group of works now donated to the Musée d'Orsay, mixing recognized artists such as Guillaumet or Barrias, with figures more recently brought to prominence, such as Séon, or who remain largely unexplored, such as Henri Lévy and his rare vision of the Paris Commune.

The works

Félix-Joseph Barrias
Étude pour Les Exilés de Tibère [Study for The Exiles of Tiberius ](1850)

, Barrias, Félix Joseph
, Barrias, Félix Joseph, musée d'Orsay ©Musée d’Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Photographe