Charles Alexandre Lesueur

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Charles Alexandre Lesueur
Lesueur Charles Alexandre (1778-1846).png
Lesueur in 1818, painted by Charles Willson Peale
Born 1 January 1778
Le Havre
Died 12 December 1846
Nationality French
Fields naturalist
New Harmony, Indiana in the year 1831. Sketch from Charles Alexandre Lesueur.
The Great Traveller Charles Alexandre Lesueur in the Forest. Lithograph after the watercolor: Lesueur, the Naturalist at New Harmony by Karl Bodmer.

Charles Alexandre Lesueur (1 January 1778 in Le Havre – 12 December 1846 in Le Havre) was a French naturalist, artist and explorer.

In 1801 he travelled to Australia as artist on the expedition of Nicolas Baudin. With François Péron he took over the duties as naturalist after the death of the expedition's zoologist René Maugé. Together they collected over 100,000 zoological specimens.

Between 1815 and 1837 he lived in the United States. In 1833, he visited Vincennes, Indiana where he sketched the first known drawing of Grouseland, the mansion of William Henry Harrison. The mansion is today a National Historic Landmark.

In the years 1825–1837 Lesueur lived in New Harmony, Indiana, where he filled sketchbooks full of the finds discovered during the utopian adventure funded by his friend William Maclure. He drew the boat "Philanthropist", which arrived full of intellectuals who came to live in the small town of New Harmony, on the Wabash River. He took research trips and sketched the people and the small towns in the area. He was in New Harmony when Prince Maximilian, Prince of Wied-Neuweid, Germany, and artist Karl Bodmer came to spend five months there in 1832–1833. Prince Maximilian said of Lesueur "He had explored the country in many directions, was acquainted with everything remarkable, collected and prepared all interesting objects and had already sent considerable collections to France" (Elliott & Johansen, p. 6) Indeed, Lesueur sent specimens of unique fish, animals and fossils, as well as artefacts he had dug from the Indian Mounds in New Harmony back to France, where they remain.

Self portrait from le Géographe

Lesueur returned to France in 1837, only after his friends Thomas Say and Joseph Barabino had died and William MacClure had returned to Philadelphia, accompanied by many of his fine books. He had spent 21 years in the United States, but continued his scholarly studies and activities in France, where he resumed his occupation of artist-naturalist and began to catalogue his extensive research and artwork. At last, he was awarded the honor of Chevalier de l’Ordre Royal de la Légion d'honneur for his long years of work in the sciences (Elliott & Johansen, p. 7).

In March 1846 Lesueur was appointed curator of the Musée d'Histoire Naturelle du Havre. Nine months later, he died suddenly (12 December 1846) and was buried at Le Havre. In the 1900s, his work was finally published by the Museum, totalling over 60 books, including reports of his zoological, geological, historical and archeological research, as well as studies of his life (Elliott & Johansen (Elliott & Johansen, p. 7).

Pictured here is the oil portrait by Charles Willson Peale of Charles-Alexandre Lesueur. The original hangs in the reading room of the Ewell Sale Stewart Library in the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.

One frog and two lizards were named in honour of Lesueur:

Further reading[edit]

  • Josephine Mirabella Elliott and Jane Thompson Johansen, Charles-Alexandre Lesueur: Premier Naturalist and Artist, New Harmony, Indiana, 1999.
  • Claus Nissen: Die zoologische Buchillustration. Ihre Bibliographie und Geschichte. Vol. I: Bibliographie. Anton Hiersemann, Verlag 1969. Page 252.
  • R. W. G. Vail, The American Sketchbooks of Charles Alexandre Lesueur, 1816–1837, American Antiquarian Society, 1938.
  • Cédric Crémière et Gabrielle Baglione, Lesueur, Peintre voyageur, Un trésor oublié, coll. Très Grande Bibliothèque Thalassa, Éditions de Conti, Paris, 2009 (ISBN 9782351030110)

See also[edit]

External links[edit]