James Pradier

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James Pradier

Swiss Neoclassical sculptor

Born 1790 - Died 1852

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  • Images of the Artist


PRADIER, JAMES (1792-1852), French sculptor, was born at Geneva. He was a member of the French Academy, and a popular sculptor of the pre-Romantic period, representing in France the drawing-room classicism which Canova illustrated at Rome. 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. In 1827 he became a member of the Academie des Beaux-Arts and a professor at the Ecole 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 married Hugo 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. (It has since come back to the Louvre.)

His chief works are the Niobe group (1822), Atalanta (1850), Psyche (1824), Sappho (1852) (all in the Louvre), Prometheus (Tuileries Gardens), a bas-relief on the triumphal arch of the Carrousel, the figures of Fame on the Arc des Étoile, and a statue of J. J. Rousseau for Geneva. Besides these mention should be made of his Three Graces (1831).

Other famous sculptures by Pradier are his twelve Victories inside the dome of the Invalides. Aside from large-scale sculptures Pradier collaborated with Froment-Meurice, designing jewelry in a 'Renaissance-Romantic' style.

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.

In 1846 Gustave Flaubert said of him:

This is a great artist, a true Greek, the most antique of all the moderns; a man who is distracted by nothing, not by politics, nor socialism, and who, like a true workman, sleeves rolled up, is there to do his task morning til night with the will to do well and the love of his art.

An exhibition, Statues de chair: sculptures de James Pradier (1790-1852) at Geneva's Musée d'art et d'histoire (October 1985 - February 1986) and Paris, Musée du Luxembourg, February - May 1986) roused some interest in Pradier's career and esthetic.

  • Compiled from entries in the Wikipedia and the 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica.

  • Personal

    student of

    teacher of

    • Geoffroy-Dechaume, Adolphe-Victor (1816-1892)


    member of

    • Academie des Beaux-Arts from 1827

    professor at

    • Ecole des Beaux-Arts from 1827