The Victoria & Albert Museum
The strain of hard labor is evident in the meticulously modeled hands, arms, shoulders and face of this figure of a worker. He poses, bare-chested, in baggy trousers, leaning slightly on his shovel, fatigued but strengthened by the burden of his work.
This figure, circa 1894, is a brilliant representation of the work of Aimé-Jules Dalou (1838 -1902), the son of a French glove-maker who was trained in drawing at the Petit École in Paris. During his studies, Dalou showed a mastery of anatomy and was encouraged to try his hand at sculpture. This pursuit led him to the École des Beaux-Arts in 1854. There, he trained for four years. Some political kerfuffles (like his part in the founding of the Paris Commune in 1871), led to Dalou being exiled from Paris. And so, off to London where he stayed until 1879, often exhibiting at the Royal Academy. He exerted considerable influence on British sculpture while on London.
I suspect he was probably a very unpleasant bloke. He sculpts in the manner of someone unpleasant. Nevertheless, his work is attractive and an important step in the evolution of the "New Sculpture Movement."
This particular statuette, "Le Terrassier," shows Dalou's belief in traditional craftsmanship. He created the figure as a study for a large-scale monument which never came to be. Dalou was very much against the practice of mass producing sand-cast sculptures. This figure was cast in bronze by Susse Frères who utilized the lost-wax method. Inscribed ‘DALOU’ and ‘cire perdue’ on the back of the base, it is marked ‘Susse Frs Edn Paris’on the front. The figure is stamped with the foundry mark ‘SUSSE FRERES PARIS LOITEURS’ and, in the middle, a trademark of blacksmiths’ tools.