Auguste Bartholdi, born on August 2, 1834 in Colmar and died on October 4, 1904 in Paris, is a French sculptor and painter.
He is notably the author of the famous Statue of Liberty (whose exact title is Liberty Enlightening the World), offered by France to the United States and erected in 1886 on Bedloe”s Island, at the entrance to New York Harbor; He is also the author of the group Les Fleuves et les Sources allant à l”Océan of the Bartholdi fountain, located on the Place des Terreaux, in Lyon, as well as the monumental Lion of Belfort, to celebrate the heroic resistance of the city during the siege of 1870-1871, and also of the Monument to Vercingetorix in Clermont-Ferrand. His rare paintings are usually signed with the pseudonym “Amilcar Hasenfratz”.
Born in Colmar on August 2, 1834, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi was the son of Jean Charles Bartholdi (1791-1836), a prefectural councilor, and Augusta Charlotte, née Beysser (1801-1891), daughter of a mayor of Ribeauvillé. They had four children, of whom only the eldest, Jean-Charles (a lawyer and publisher, then interned for illness), and the youngest, Auguste, would survive. When her father died in 1836, her mother, who was well off, decided to go and live in Paris, while keeping the family house at 30, rue des Marchands, which has housed the Bartholdi Museum since 1922, after having been bequeathed to the city in 1907.
From 1843 to 1851, he studied at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris. At the same time, his mother enrolled him as a student in the studio of the sculptor Antoine Étex and the painter Ary Scheffer, on the rue Chaptal (now the Musée de la Vie romantique, which houses two bronzes, La Gravure and L”Orfèvrerie). Scheffer sees in Bartholdi that his vocation is in sculpture. Auguste Bartholdi obtained his baccalaureate in 1852 and a year later, in order to settle down, his mother bought him a studio on rue Vavin, which he occupied for forty years. From 1855 to 1856, he traveled with his friends Édouard-Auguste Imer and Jean-Léon Gérôme to Egypt, where he discovered monumental sculpture, then to Arabia. He brought back orientalist drawings and photographs that would influence him.
His first monument, a bronze sculpture dedicated to General Rapp, was inaugurated on the Champ-de-Mars in Colmar on August 31, 1856.
During the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, as a squadron leader of the National Guards, he was aide-de-camp to General Giuseppe Garibaldi and liaison officer for the government, particularly in charge of taking care of the needs of the Vosges army. It was during this patriotic engagement that Garibaldi and Gambetta reinforced his love for the republic and democracy. Very marked by the annexation of Alsace and Lorraine by the German Empire, he wanted to exalt the values of freedom.
In 1871, at the request of Édouard Lefebvre de Laboulaye – of whom Bartholdi had made a bust in 1866 – and the Franco-American Union, he made his first trip to the United States to personally select the site for the Statue of Liberty. The project resembled a similar one (Egypt Enlightening the East), which should have been installed at the entrance of the Suez Canal, had Ismaïl Pacha accepted it in 1869.
His career took on an international dimension. He became one of the most famous sculptors of the 19th century in Europe and North America.
From 1875 to 1879, he created the Lion of Belfort, a monumental sculpture in high relief located in Belfort, France, at the foot of the cliff of the citadel. The work represents a lion lying on a rock pedestal, its paw resting on an arrow that it has just stopped. This animal symbolizes the resistance of the city besieged by the Prussians during the 1870 war, at the end of which the area, corresponding to the current Territory of Belfort, will be the only part of Alsace to remain French.
Wanting to exalt the universal scope of the republican message, he has been a Freemason since 1875, a member of the Alsace-Lorraine Lodge in Paris. It is from this date that he began the construction of the Statue of Liberty in his Parisian workshops, rue Vavin. The laying of the foundation stone of the pedestal on August 5, 1884, was a Masonic ceremony: it was the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the State of New York, William A. Brodie, who laid it, recalling that the lodges had helped him in his project.
The same year, on December 20, he concluded a “rocky” marriage with Jeanne-Emilie Baheux de Puysieux, a simple milliner but descendant of a large Alsatian family, posing for him, who would have been 13 years younger in the eyes of her husband, at the town hall of Newport (Rhode Island) in the United States. During his stay with his friend John LaFarge, the latter convinced him to marry her in order to conform to the moral values of the American businessmen who financed his Statue of Liberty. LaFarge had the pastor Charles T. Brooks come to his house to celebrate in the church. Brooks to celebrate an impromptu wedding in a hurry. Their marriage will be happy and childless.
In Rouen in May 1885, he supervised the loading of the crates, of the dismantled statue, on the transport frigate Isère. At the invitation of the commander Gabriel Lespinasse de Saune, he embarked with his wife on the ship for the descent of the Seine. The couple disembarked at Caudebec-en-Caux, before the ship undertook the crossing of the Atlantic.
He made another trip to the United States on La Bretagne (CGT) for the inauguration, on October 28, 1886, of the Statue of Liberty in New York.
He was elevated to the rank of Commander of the Legion of Honor in 1886, 22 years after being named a knight.
Auguste Bartholdi died of illness on October 4, 1904 at his home at 82, rue d”Assas in the 6th arrondissement of Paris. He was buried in Paris at the Montparnasse cemetery (28th division). The funeral service, like that of his widow in 1914, was presided over by their friend the pastor J. E. Roberty, of the reformed parish of the Oratory of the Louvre (Paris).
The following year, in 1905, his widow bequeathed the plaster statue of Champollion that her husband had made for the 1867 World”s Fair to the Grenoble Museum. This statue, which was consigned to the museum, was not finally installed in the main courtyard of the Lycée Champollion until 1926. It is now exhibited in room 17 of the museum.
Bartholdi is the author of 35 monuments around the world, including:
Many monuments and statues in Colmar, in the Haut-Rhin (France) :
Many monuments are also visible elsewhere in France and in the world:
Destroyed monuments :
Several projects did not see the light of day:
The Bartholdi Prize is an award aimed at developing the international opening of university education in the Upper Rhine region (F-D-CH).
Auguste Bartholdi is featured on a €10 silver coin, issued in 2012 by the Monnaie de Paris, to represent his native region, Alsace.
: document used as a source for the writing of this article.