CORDIER, Charles-Henri-Joseph
(b. 1827, Cambrai, d. 1905, Algiers)


French sculptor. He trained at the Petite Ecole (Ecole Spéciale de Dessin et de Mathématiques) in Paris, then with François Rude. He exhibited for the first time at the 1848 Salon, showing a plaster bust of Said Abdallah of the Darfour Tribe in Sudan. This was exhibited in the same year that slavery was abolished in all French colonies. It is now housed at The Walters Art Museum.

> This work, inspired by the taste for the Orient that Eugène Delacroix had done so much to communicate to a whole generation of artists, achieved a precocious success for Cordier and was ordered by the French government in a bronze version. Cordier held the post of ethnographic sculptor to the Museum d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris for 15 years from 1851, going on a number of government-sponsored missions - to Algeria in 1856, Greece in 1858-59 and Egypt in 1865.

> His travels led him to envision a series of modern ethnic types intended to rival those of antiquity. In them Cordier was able to combine his academic training with a passion for exotic subjects and exotic, richly coloured materials and his work made an important contribution to the 19th-century revival of polychrome sculpture. Cordier was able to use onyx from workings in Algeria reopened by the French colonists, and red and ochre-coloured marbles from quarries in Greece on which he reported to the administration of the Beaux-Arts.

> Cordier did not only use 'exotic' models: in the course of his ethnographic work he depicted European types from different parts of France and beyond. His artistic credo was however in conscious opposition to the largely Eurocentric viewpoint prevailing in his day.

> Cordier took part in the great works commissioned by the Second French Empire (Paris Opera, Musée du Louvre, the Hôtel de Ville) or by private interests such as Baron de Rothschild.

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