Musée d'Orsay: Pencil, Ink or Terracotta : sketches by Henri Chapu (1833-1891)

Pencil, Ink or Terracotta : sketches by Henri Chapu (1833-1891)

Henri Chapu 
 Jeanne d'Arc à Domrémy [Joan of Arc at Domrémy]
 Between 1870 and 1872
 Marble statue on a base
 H. 117; W. 92; D. 83 cm
 Paris, Musée d'Orsay
Henri ChapuJoan of Arc at Domrémy© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski
A sculptor, Chapu's career incorporates winning the Prix de Rome in 1855 and election to the fine arts academy on November 23rd, 1880, and is crowned in particular by the Joan of Arc in Domrémy (plaster, in the 1870 salon), a famous symbol of the hope for revenge against Germany. Henri Chapu divided his activity between on the one hand official commissions and public monuments and on the other private commissions. The latter included both portraits and decorative pieces.Yet it was probably in the field of funeral art that he was the most successful. People used to say that "the best thing if one wants to leave an immortal trace is to be entombed by Mr Chapu "!

Like other sculptors, Chapu drew as much for his pleasure as to prepare his work. He made extensive use of jotters on which he wrote addresses, street-scenes or ideas for compositions, in pencil or above all in ink. If, once over his youth, these drawings had little to do properly speaking with sculpture, it is because they are mostly essays for gestures and attitudes. For Chapu, drawings were creative : by repeating the same lines, by modifying them imperceptibly from one sheet to the next, his hand found, gradually, the right shape. Dozens of sketches for the Christ aux anges (Christ with angels), L'Espérance (Hope) or the monuments celebrating Balzac, amongst others, thus made it possible to follow the creative path in which the three dimensional models were essential landmarks, though rarely definitive, towards the setting of shapes and volumes.

Thus Chapu could have said, like Rodin in 1895 : "My natural means are earth and pencil".


Antoinette Le Normand Romain, curator of sculptures, Musée d'Orsay

22 October 1991 - 12 January 1992
Musée d'Orsay

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