In Chartres, Paul Richer examines the land workers
Behind the apse of Chartres Cathedral lies another architectural splendor, the former episcopal palace, seat of the Museum of Fine Arts. In its reserves, the large plasters of Paul Richer (1849-1933) were biding their time.
Here they are in the spotlight alongside pieces on loan, notably from the Musée d’Orsay. His gift for drawing made him noticed by Professor Charcot, his master in neurology at the Salpêtrière hospital in Paris, while his knowledge of anatomy was illustrated in sculpture in the realistic vein.
Contemporary with the industrial revolution, Beauceron worked to immortalize a rural world on borrowed time. “This peasant aspect is little known and the large statues that we have restored have never been exhibited,” underlines Grégoire Hallé, the director of the museum. No political view in Richer, but a singular look: “He is interested in everything, scientific discoveries and technical inventions of his time, while remaining very formal on the artistic level”, comments the specialist.
Movement, in particular, fascinates the sculptor doctor, to the point that he and Albert Londe invented chronophotography, a process which breaks it down using very close-up shots. Sensual hip swing Reaper, dynamic composition of relief in Harvest, carousel of blacksmiths hammering an iron bar… his chisel examining the work in the fields and in the forge attests to this with mastery.
Photo: Sculptor Paul Richer working on his Reaper, circa 1889.