Born in Valenciennes, Nord, son of a mason, his early studies were under François Rude. Carpeaux entered the École des Beaux-Arts in 1844 and won the Prix de Rome in 1854, and moving to Rome to find inspiration, he there studied the works of Michelangelo, Donatello and Verrocchio. Staying in Rome from 1854 to 1861, he obtained a taste for movement and spontaneity, which he joined with the great principles of baroque art. Carpeaux sought real life subjects in the streets and broke with the classical tradition.
Carpeaux debuted at the Salon in 1853 exhibiting La Soumission d'Abd-el-Kader al'Empereur, a bas-relief in plaster that did not attract much attention. Carpeaux was an admirer of Napoléon III and followed him from city to city during Napoléon's official trip through the north of France. After initially not making any contact with the emperor, he finally succeeded in arranging a face-to-face encounter at Amiens where he managed to convince Napoléon to commission a marble statue that was to be carried out by a practitioner, Charles Romain Capellaro.
Carpeaux soon grew tired of academicism and became a wanderer on the streets of Rome. He spent free time admiring the frescoes of Michelangelo at the Sistine Chapel. Carpeaux said, "When an artist feels pale and cold, he runs to Michelangelo in order to warm himself, as with the rays of the sun".
While a student in Rome, Carpeaux submitted a plaster version of Pêcheur napolitain à la coquille, the Neapolitan Fisherboy, to the French Academy. He carved the marble version several years later, showing it in the Salon exhibition of 1863. It was purchased for Napoleon III's empress, Eugénie. The statue of the young smiling boy was very popular, and Carpeaux created a number of reproductions and variations in marble and bronze. There is a copy, for instance, in the Samuel H. Kress Collection in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Some years later, he carved the Girl with a Shell, a similar study.
In 1861, he made a bust of Princess Mathilde, and this later brought him several commissions from Napoleon III. Then in 1866, he established his own atelier in order to reproduce and make work on a grander scale. In 1866, he was made chevalier of the Legion of Honour.
He employed his brother as the sales manager and made a calculated effort to produce work that would appeal to a larger audience. On 12 October 1875, he died at George Barbu Știrbei's château in Bécon-les-Bruyères, outside Courbevoie.
- Ugolin et ses fils (Ugolino and His Sons) (1861; Metropolitan Museum of Art) with versions in other museums including the Musée d'Orsay, Paris.
- The Dance, commissioned for the Opera Garnier in 1869, featuring several nude figures in a wild and boisterous dance, criticized as an offense to common decency
- Pêcheur à la coquille (Neapolitan Fisherboy) (Musée du Louvre, Paris)
- Young girl with a shell, Valenciennes
- Antoine Watteau monument, Valenciennes
- Flora and bas-reliefs for the southern facade of the Pavillon de Flore, Palais du Louvre, for architect Hector Lefuel, 1865
- The multifigure allegorical group on the top of the City Hall of his home town, Valenciennes, 1860–1873
- Fontaine de l'Observatoire, also known as the Carpeaux Fountain, south of the Jardin du Luxembourg. Partly complete at his death, Carpeaux finished the terrestrial globe with the cardinal points represented by the four figures of Asia (East), Europe (North), America (West) and Africa (South).
- L'Amour à la folie, part of a group La Danse for the facade of the Opera Garnier (1869)
In popular culture
Bust of Carpeaux Saint Roch Cemetery
The Seasons turning the celestial Sphere for the Fountain of the Observatory, Jardin du Luxembourg
Patinated plaster model for Valenciennes defending the arts of peace with the arts of war
Young Girl With a Shell, Valenciennes
|Carpeaux's Dance, Smarthistory|
- Kjellberg, Pierre (1994). Bronzes of the 19th Century (First ed.). Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing, Ltd. p. 174. ISBN 0-88740-629-7.
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). . Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Frusco, Peter, Janson, H.W., The Romantics to Rodin, George Braziller, Inc., 1980
- "Ugolin et ses fils". Archived from the original on 23 May 2015. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
- "Pêcheur à la coquille". Archived from the original on 23 May 2015. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
- See the article by Elizabeth McGrath in The Slave in European Art: From Renaissance Trophy to Abolitionist Emblem, ed Elizabeth Mcgrath and Jean Michel Massing, London (The Warburg Institute) 2012
- Dominique Auzias, Jean-Paul Labourdette, Hauts de France 2018/2019 Petit Futé, Paris, (2018)
- "Carpeaux's Dance". Archived from the original on 22 June 2013. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
- "Carpeaux's Dance". Smarthistory at Khan Academy. Archived from the original on 22 June 2013. Retrieved 23 February 2013.
- A page from insecula.com listing more views of Carpeaux's works (it may be necessary to close an advertising window to view this page)
- A page analysing Carpeaux's Ugolino, with numerous illustrations
- Europe in the age of enlightenment and revolution, a catalog from The Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries (fully available online as PDF), which contains material on Carpeaux (see index)
- Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux in American public collections, on the French Sculpture Census website