Gaston Etienne LE BOURGEOIS
Often compared to the medieval imagists, whose truculence he made his own, Gaston Le Bourgeois undoubtedly owed his manner and style to his training. Originally from Calvados, he followed his father, a stonemason for historical monuments, all over France from an early age. He was imbued with the fragments of sculptures or architectural elements to restore that he came across, in particular those from medieval churches. He thus developed a taste for the profession of sculptor, on stone, ivory and especially wood.
He specialised in the creation of sculptures in relief or in the round, to be fitted into interior decorations such as stair ramps, panelling, furniture panels, ridge pieces.., This brings to light his perfect understanding of all architectural supports, for which the decoration adapts to the constraints of form, a concept found among the stone carvers of the Romanesque period.
He thus adapted his work to its place and destination and did not hesitate to use the machine to saw, roughen or shape. He always chose simple subjects, mainly animals but also characters around him.
In 1900 he left his father’s studio and moved to Paris, close to Rembrandt Bugatti’s studio.
He exhibited at the Salon des Artistes Décorateurs from 1910, at the Salon d’Automne from 1912 and from 1913, at the first Salon des Artistes Animaliers. He lost an eye because of a stone shard and was exempted from military service during the First World War. He then decided to create, together with the decorator Henri Rapin and François Carnot (curator of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs), a workshop for mutilated soldiers, in charge of making wooden toys that he designed and which were sold under the name “Jouets de France”.
His first personal exhibition took place in 1921 at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (Pavillon de Marsan) where he displayed 143 items. For the Exposition of the Arts Décoratifs in 1925, he delivered a part of the frieze for the great reception room of the Pavillon de la Manufacture de Sèvres and made a teak elephant to mark the entrance to the 1931 Exposition Coloniale. From 1920 to 1926 he also worked for Sèvres.
Then a famous artist, he responded to numerous commissions from the State, private collectors or influential personalities such as the couturier Jacques Doucet, the decorator Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann or luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton. Le Bourgeois carried out important public and private works (Normandie cruise liners in 1933, Pasteur in 1939, crypt of the Verdun cathedral, war memorials…). His last personal exhibition took place in 1947 at the Pavillon de Marsan. He left a very rich body of works, many of which are held in French public collections (Musée National d’art moderne, Centre national des arts plastiques, Musée du Grand Palais…).