CHAPU, Henri
(b. 1833, Le Mée-sur-Seine, d. 1891, Paris)

Biography

French sculptor. His father, a coachman, sent him to the Petite École (École Gratuite de Dessin), Paris, to have him trained as a tapestry-maker. In 1849 his successes led him to the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris, where he became a pupil of James Pradier, François Duret and Léon Cogniet. In 1855 he won the Prix de Rome for sculpture with the relief Cleobis and Biton (plaster, untraced; sketch model, Le Mée-sur-Seine, Musée Henri Chapu); he completed his education at the Académie de France in Rome, remaining there until 1861. During this time he lived as a virtual recluse, his only friend being the painter Léon Bonnat.

The bas-relief Christ with Angels (plaster, 1857; Le Mée-sur-Seine, Musée Henri Chapu), which was the first of the works he was required to send for judgement at the École des Beaux-Arts, was strongly criticized by Duret; it now appears to be one of the most sensitive sculptures of a classicizing artist, whose other Roman works included a copy of the antique Spinario (marble, 1858; Paris, École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts) and the much-exhibited statue of Mercury Inventing the Caduceus (marble, 1862-3; Paris, Musée d'Orsay).

His statues Mercury of 1862 and Jeanne d'Arc of 1870 (in which she was represented as a peasant girl) were his first big successes, and led to many commissions thereafter. He is also known for his medals, and led the French revival in the medal as an artistic form.