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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

Aimé-Jules Dalou (1838–1902)

Sculptor. The son of a Parisian glove-maker, Dalou’s youthful talents in modelling were discovered by the sculptor J.-B. Carpeaux. He studied at the École Gratuite de Dessin, known as the Petite École. He was accepted at the École des Beaux Arts in 1854, but failed in his four attempts to win the Prix de Rome. During the 1860s, Dalou worked on a number of prestigious commissions for architectural and decorative sculpture, notably at the Hotel Païva in the Champs-Élysées. He also exhibited at the Salon, where, in 1869, his group of Daphnis and Chloë was seen and admired by the writer, Théophile Gautier. As a staunch republican, Dalou participated in the Paris Commune of 1871, and was appointed adjunct curator of the Louvre. When the Commune was suppressed, Dalou was obliged to flee to London, where he remained until the general amnesty permitted him to return to France in 1880. In England, Dalou’s poeticised modern realism, in works like the Boulonnaise allaitante of 1873 (terracotta version in the Victoria and Albert Museum), made a profound impression. He found many patrons, particularly amongst the landed aristocracy, and even worked for Queen Victoria. His Charity Drinking Fountain (1877–79) stands outside the Royal Exchange Buildings, City of London. He was employed to teach modelling in the National Art Training School, South Kensington, and briefly also at the South London Technical School of Art, Kennington. His teaching was one of the catalysts for the emergence of the English ‘New Sculpture’ in the last two decades of the nineteenth century. Dalou’s first task on his return to Paris was the completion of a competition model for a Monument to the Republic for the Place de la République. He did not win this competition, but his model made such an impression that the jury decided it should be erected in Place de la Nation. The bronze version of this was inaugurated only in 1899. In the meantime, Dalou had completed other commemorative monuments for Paris, Bordeaux and Quiberon. He had also, since 1889, been working towards an ambitious Monument to Labour, for which he amassed large numbers of small models and more completed figures, many of which are in the Musée du Petit Palais in Paris. The definitive monument was never completed.

Bibliography (updated 2024): T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Kensington and Chelsea with Westminster South-West, Watford, 2023, pp. xxviii; M. Dreyfous, Dalou, sa vie et son œuvre, Paris, 1903; J. Hunisak, The Sculpture of Jules Dalou: Studies in His Style and Imagery, New York and London, 1977; P. Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of the City of London, Liverpool, 2003, pp. xxv, 336–38.

Philip Ward-Jackson, 2003

Dalou, Aimé-Jules

Aimé-Jules Dalou dans son atelier de l’impasse du Maine à Paris, from Revue Illustrée, Ludovic Baschet éditeur, Paris, no. 23 – 15 November 1899 (photo: Wormser, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)