• France, Private Collection
Plaster with patina. Paris, Petit Palais, inv. PPS00179 (purchased from Georgette Dalou in 1905).
Bronze edition : by Houdebine under the contract between Susse and Dalou’s heirs, January 27th, 1910, no 26 (as “Désespoir” (Despair))
Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux noticed Aimé Jules Dalou, son of a glove maker, very early, had him attend the Petite Ecole, and closely followed his progress. Two years later, Dalou entered Duret’s studio in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, but throughout his life would consider Carpeaux as his master. The young sculptor suffered from the academic teaching at the Beaux-Arts and abandoned it rapidly. Thirty years later when a position of Professor was offered, he refused it.
This sensitive young man who lacked confidence in himself had a very difficult start. After failing four times for the Prix de Rome from 1861 to 1865, he devoted himself to earning a living with decorative sculpture. He made models for a manufacturer of commercial bronzes, and then worked for the Favière goldsmiths and the decorator Lefèvre. He realized important decorative works for the Marquise de Païva’s Hôtel, and then for the Hôtel Menier.
Jules Dalou had his first success at the 1870 Salon with an Embroiderer. The State commissioned a marble version from him, but the Commune did not allow him to complete the project and led the artist, his wife, and daughter to go into exile for ten years in England where he was warmly welcomed. Upon his definitive return to Paris in 1880, Dalou’s success continued to increase with an assortment of medals at the Salons and numerous public and private commissions.
Sculptures of Women
In addition to the image of a young mother which was highly appreciated by his English patrons, one of Dalou’s favorite subjects was sculptures of nude women. He developed the theme through many vigorously modeled three-dimensional small studies which were neither exhibited nor replicated in his lifetime. Seemingly the artist executed them for his own pleasure, as he kept them in his studio and sometimes drew on this charming repertory of forms in the elaboration of his monuments.
Conserved today in the Petit Palais in collections which came from the artist’s studio, the original plaster for Desperate figures among these undated sketches. It is comparable to a group of studies on Ovidian themes which the artist executed in his last years with a rapid vigorous touch far from the smooth surfaces of his early years. The catalogue of French sculpture of the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek (1999) in the collections in which the bronze is entitled Réveil (Awakening), which suggests identification with the figure of Ariadne of Naxos depicted by Dalou in the group of Ariadne and Bacchus.
Also known under the title L’implorante (Imploring Woman) or Nu s’étirant (Nude Stretching), our Desperate is a young nude woman seated on a rock. Above her strained upper torso, she throws her head back while crossing her hands over her forehead in a gesture of acute pain. Such dramatic tension is rare with Dalou whose women more often assume poses closed in on themselves as they concentrate on their work or caress their child.
Jules Dalou reused this study, as well as that of the Wrestlers, in one of his last projects, the Monument to the Courtesan, on which he worked from 1895 until his death without ever finishing it. The nude bust, the arms bent back over her head, appears on the front of the pedestal supporting the courtesan. Its tormented figure contrasts with the peaceful silhouette of the sleeping courtesan.
Dalou only reproduced a limited number of works in his lifetime, but intended to produce more serious reproductions at the end of his life in order to insure a livelihood for his daughter. Desperate was thus edited in bronze uniquely by the house of Susse which began producing them in 1910.
Bibliography related to the Work
Henriette CAILLAUX, Aimé Jules Dalou (1838-1902), preface by P. Vitry, Paris, 1935, p. 155, cat. 224 (Plaster with patina).
John M. HUNISAK, The Sculptor Jules Dalou: Studies in his style and Imagery, New-York, London, 1977, cat. 71 (Plaster with patina).
Pierre CADET, "L’édition des œuvres de Dalou par la Maison Susse," Gazette des Beaux-Arts, vol. CXXVI, 1994, pp. 97-110, year 3, no 26.
Anne-Brigitte FONSMARK, Emmanuelle HERAN, and Sidsel Maria SONDERGAARD, Catalogue French Sculpture 2, Copenhagen, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, 1999, pp. 112-113, cat. 41 (as Awakening, bronze).
Amélie SIMIER and Marine KISIEL, Jules Dalou, le sculpteur de la République. Catalogue des sculptures de Jules Dalou conservées au Petit Palais, Paris, Musées, 2013, p. 408, cat. 331 (plaster with patina), p. 446, year 5, no 331.
Maurice DREYFOUS, Dalou, sa vie et son œuvre, Paris, Laurens, 1903.
Stanislas LAMI, Dictionnaire des sculpteurs de l’école française au XIXe siècle, Paris, 1914, vol. II.
Pierre KJELLBERG, Les Bronzes du XIXe siècle. Dictionnaire des sculpteurs, Paris, 1989.