When we are looking at all of the artistic greats in the history of European art, do not forget the genius that came with the French sculptors. Here is a list of the ten greatest French sculptors of all time.
- Yves Klein (1928-1962): Yves Klein was not just a painter, but was also a successful sculptor, though his art began through the art of music. Klein is often left off the list of great sculptors, but should not be easily overlooked. While his work was diverse among artist genres, the fact that he was able to bridge over so many only makes him all the more impressive. He is actually the founder of performance art. But his Aerostatic Sculpture is what marks him as a great sculptor, releasing 1,001 blue balloons into the sky.
- Auguste Rodin (1840-1917): Auguste Rodin is by far my favorite French sculptor. If you are visiting Paris, you absolutely need to go by his gardens and see his work first-hand. His most noted work is The Thinker, but some of his other amazing works include The Kiss, The Age of Bronze, and The Burghers of Calais. My favorite is definitely The Kiss. He is best known for his realism within his sculptors, allowing audiences to feel what the sculptor is emitting.
- Edgar Degas (1834-1917): Edgar Degas is a well-known impressionist, known for his work on ballerinas and the beauty of not just the movement, but the incredible work that goes into ballet. In addition to his impressionist paintings, Degas created bronze sculptures of the dancers as well, using a casting method. The best-known and somewhat controversial of his sculptures was The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer.
- César (1921-1998): César Baldaccini was known for his large sculptural representations from found objects. He was the founder of the New Realism movement. The medium of his sculptures changed greatly throughout his career, having moved from plastics, welded metal, and even molten crystal. His works all left an impression, including The Pouce which means “thumb” in French and is quite literally a giant metal thumb.
- Paul Gaugin (1848-1903): Artistic genius in the world of paint, Paul Gaugin also had dabbled in the world of sculpting. His best-known sculpture was Oviri. The name means “savage” in Tahitian, but Gaugin insisted that the sculpture was a depiction of a goddess and not meant in a derogatory way. Though the muse for his sculpture was also controversial as his model was his 13 year-old Tahitian lover.
- Henri Matisse (1869-1954): Henri Matisse is inarguably one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. His works have inspired completely new movements of painting, with his openness to both form and fluidity of form. His sculptures were more of an accompanying piece to his paintings, repeating and sometimes simplifying their meanings and essence.
- Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904): Jean-Léon Gérôme’s works were mostly inspired by his interested and experiences in Egypt and his sculptures were no exception. His career had begun with his paintings, but later in life, he worked with primarily sculptures. His style is known as “Academicism,” meaning his work was influenced by the Académie des Beaux-Arts.
- Joan Miró (1893-1983): Joan Miró is well-known for his murals and lithographs, but he also created a number of sculptures that are featured in public spaces throughout France. His work does not shy away from the harshness of modern life and his keen sense of observation is well-reflected in his work.
- Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi (1834-1904): If you have not heard of Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, you have certainly seen his work. His most famous sculpture of all-time is the Statue of Liberty, located in New York in the United States. The Statue of Liberty was a gift to the United States from France as a symbol of the Franco-American alliance. Another one of his iconic works is the Lion of Belfort which was carved from red sandstone.