Apollo Subscribe

In Colour: Polychrome Sculpture in France 1850–1910

Musée d'Orsay, Paris

NOW CLOSED

At the start of the 19th century, the only colours accepted in sculpture were the pure white of marble or the monochrome of metals like bronze, with their classical associations of purity. Yet after the discovery by archaeologists that classical architecture and sculpture had, in fact, been painted polychrome, French sculptures saw an opportunity to explore an unfamiliar genre. They utilised a huge diversity of materials: painted waxes, assemblages of variously coloured marbles, gilded and silver bronzes, glass paste, and enamelled sandstone suddenly became the language of a whole mode of French sculpture, testifying to the breadth of artists’ experimentation in the second half of the end of the century.

The exhibition presents a selective overview of this very particular aspect of 19th-century art through an ensemble of around 50 works from the collections of the Musée d’Orsay, moving from Second Empire sculptors such as Charles Cordier to Paul Gauguin and Edgar Degas. Find out more about the ‘In Colour’ exhibition from the Musée d’Orsay’s website. 

Preview the exhibition below | See Apollo’s Picks of the Week here

Prix du Tournoi, Henri Cros

Prix du Tournoi (1873), Henri Cros. Photo: © musée d’Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais/Patrice Schmid

Auguste Hilarion, Honoré Daumier

Auguste Hilarion (1833), Honoré Daumier. Photo: © musée d’Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais/Patrice Schmidt

Fountain Mural, Henri Cros

Fountain Mural: History of Water (1894), Henri Cros. Photo: © musée d’Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais/Patrice Schmidt

Oviri, Paul Gauguin

Oviri (1894), Paul Gauguin. Photo: © musée d’Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais/Patrice Schmidt

Dancing girl aged fourteen, Edgar Degas

Dancing girl aged fourteen (1921–31, from a wax model of 1881), Edgar Degas. Photo: © musée d’Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais/Patrice Schmidt

Event website