The sculptor who defended Colmar
After a trip to the Orient with fellow-painter Jean-Léon Gérôme, he devoted himself entirely to sculpture ; his first works are created for Colmar, his native town. A huge statue of Général Rapp (1855) was to reveal his taste for sculpture of a colossal size.
Among his other works are the statue of the Colmar-born painter Martin Schongauer(1445-1491) and the statue of Admiral de Bruat (1863).
During the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, he unsuccessfully tried to organize the defence of Colmar ; the annexation of Alsace by Germany inspired most of his future work :
- Le commerce d’Alsace (Commerce in Alsace)
- Le tombeau des gardes nationaux de Colmar (Mausoleum of the Colmar National Guard)
- La malédiction de l’Alsace( The Alsatian curse) – in silver and offered to Gambetta in 1873.
Bartholdi and monumental sculpture
After the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, Bartholdi’s travels in the United States gave a new impulse to his career. In New York City he imagined a huge statue at the entrance of the harbour. It was to be the statue of “Liberty enlightening the world”, made of sheets of copper wrapped over a 33-meter high steel and iron structure and placed on a 34-meter high pedestal. The statue, financed by public subscriptions in France and in the U.S.A, was inaugurated in 1886 and its sculptor was granted the citizen ship of New York City.
From 1875 to 1880 he worked on a 22 meters-long monumental red sandstone lion, for the citadel of Belfort. A smaller-sized copy was placed in the centre of the Place Denfert – Rochereau in Paris, and unveiled on 21 September, 1880.
From then on, Batholdi was officially commissioned to execute several sculptures :
- Rouget de Lisle, for Lons le Saunier, in 1879
- Diderot, for Langres, 1884
- Washington and La Fayette, for Paris, in 1892
- La Suisse secourant les douleurs de Strasbourg (Switzerland soothing the pains of Strasbourg), for Basel, in 1895
Patriotic inspiration and an eye for monumental art enabled Bartholdi to considerably renew the tradition of sculpture in open air public places.
His birth place in Colmar is now a museum.