French Art – Jean Goujon

CHE remains, too, one of the very finest, even in a competition constantly growing more exacting since his day. He had a very particular talent, and it was exhibited in manifold ways. He is as fine in relief as in the round. His decorative quality is as eminent as his purely sculptural side. Compared with his Italian contemporaries he is at once full of feeling and severe. He has nothing of Pilon’s chameleon-like imitativeness. He does not, on the other hand, break with the traditions of the best models known to him—and, undoubtedly he knew the best. His works cover and line the Louvre, and anyone who visits Paris may get a perfect conception of his genius—certainly anyone who in addition visits Rouen and beholds the lovely tracery of his earliest sculpture on the portal of St. Maclou. He was eminently the sculptor of an educated class, and appealed to a cultivated appreciation. Coming as he did at the acme of the French Renaissance, when France was borrowing with intelligent selection whatever it considered valuable from Italy, he pleased the dilettanti. There is something distinctly ” swell ” in his work. He does not perhaps express any overmastering personal feeling, nor does he stamp the impress of French national character on his work with any particular emphasis. He is too well-bred and too cultivated, he has too much aplomb. But his works show both more personal feeling and more national character than the works of his contemporaries elsewhere. For line he has a very intimate instinct, and of mass, in the sculptor’s as well as the painter’s sense, he has a native comprehension. Compare his “Diana” of the Louvre with Cellini’s in the adjoining room from the point of view of pure sculpture. Goujon’s group is superb in every way. Cellini’s figure is tormented and distorted by an impulse of decadent though decorative aestheticism. Goujon’s caryatides and figures of the Innocents Fountain are equally sculptural in their way—by no means arabesques, as is so much of Renaissance relief, and the modern relief that imitates it. Everything in fine that Goujon did is unified with the rest of his work and identifiable by the mark of style.

( Originally Published 1892 )

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