Montauban, Tarn-et-Garonne 1861 - Le Vésinet, Yvelines 1929
Maker: Rudier, Eugène
Dimensions (HxWxD): 183 x 41 x 24 3⁄16 in.
inscribed: LA FRANCE A LA / POINTE DE GRAVE / SALUE L'ESCADRE / ET L'ARMEE LIBRE / DES ETATS UNIS / D'AMERIQUE / GRANDE GUERRE 1914-1918
Acc. No.: 25.861
Credit Line: Gift of William A. Putnam
Photo credit: Brooklyn Museum photograph, Creative Commons-BY
- 1925, Gift of William A. Putnam (1847-1936)
- Museum's website (January 3, 2017)
- Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_works_by_Antoine_Bourdelle (accessed October 2, 2017):
La France, 1920-1923, Briançon :
The bronze statue in Briançon is one of several castings of the Bourdelle work La France.
It was after the 1914–18 war that a project was launched to create a sculpture to commemorate the 1917 entry of the United States of America into that war and the architects Ventre et Damour were asked to design it. The first thoughts were to erect the monument at the Pointe de Grave [on the Atlantic Ocean, north of Bordeaux, facing the city of Royan] near where the Americans had disembarked in 1917 and the architects had the idea of constructing a lighthouse in front of which would be placed a colossal statue depicting France searching the horizon for a sight of the Americans. At first the commission to create the statue was given to Albert Bartholomé but he persuaded his colleague Bourdelle to accept it and Bourdelle had the first maquette ready in 1922. Meanwhile, the building of the lighthouse had gone ahead but consumed the major part of the funds allocated for the project, leaving little to fund Bourdelle moving to the next point. Bourdelle however managed to complete a version of the work but with a height of 4.5m, half the full size planned, which was shown at the 1923 Salon. The French State then asked Bourdelle to execute the statue in the full 9 metres height which was then cast in bronze and used to decorate the entrance to the Grand Palais at the 1925 Exposition des Arts Décoratifs. Bourdelle based the central figure on Athena and she carries a lance and shield and wears a helmet. After the exhibition closed the sculpture was put into storage with the intention of using it at some future date as part of the project to build a Palais des Arts Décoratifs Modernes but whilst languishing in storage it was seen by Maurice Petsche, the Under Secretary of State for the Arts and the Parliamentary Deputy for Briançon, who acquired it for his town's war memorial where it was erected on a spot overlooking the Durance valley near Vauban's great fortress above the town.
Another cast was made for the Montauban monument aux morts.
The statue commemorating the entry of the Americans into the war was never erected by the lighthouse built in the Pointe de Grave and the lighthouse was in fact blown up by the Germans during the 1940s occupation.
However another bronze casting, 9 meter high, was made by Rudier, and this graced the terrace of Algier's Musée des Beaux-arts but in 1961 and just before Algerian independence, the monument, a symbol of France and Gaullism, was dynamited by the OAS. The fragments of Bourdelle's work were returned to France and the work was reassembled and can be seen in the Coëtquidan "Musée du Souvenir" at the École St-Cyr although the group of serpents which stood next to the figure of France in Bourdelle's original composition and part of the lance carried by the figure were lost.
A fourth casting was carried out by the Hohwiller foundry and this was erected outside the Palais de Tokyo as part of a monument honouring the "Free French" and the "call" of 18 June 1940 by de Gaulle. Bourdelle himself believed "La France" to be his greatest masterpiece.
Casts of the 4.60m version are held by the Brooklyn Museum and others.