Roger Godchaux's innate sensitivity is evident in this beautiful bronze of two lion cubs at play: a talent that made him one of the foremost 20th-century animal sculptors.
Roger Godchaux (1878-1958), Deux lionceaux jouant (Two Lion Cubs at Play), bronze group with a nuanced brown patina, lost-wax casting by Susse Frères éditeurs, signed "Roger Godchaux" on the base,with the indication "cire perdue" and the two marks of the foundry, l. 88 cm/34.6 in.
At the beginning of the last century, Roger Godchaux (1878-1958) worked alongside François Pompon, Gaston Suisse and Paul Jouve in the menagerie of the Jardin des Plantes in Paris. His naturalistic art, based on a keen observation of his models, earned him a bronze medal at the 1922 Salon of French Artists, then a silver medal at the International Exposition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in 1925. The big cats soon became his favorite subjects, and he particularly liked to depict them in their daily lives—drinking, resting or playing, modeling their bodies in clay with oblique striations and smoothed areas that made for interesting material effects. Animal art rapidly found a skillful exponent in this man of intense sensibility from a Jewish family, whose father was an antiques dealer and whose mother was a pianist. After studying in Vendôme, he moved to Paris in 1894 and entered the École des Beaux-Arts. The academic technique he learned from his teachers, Jules Adler and Jean-Léon Gérôme, provided him with masterly skills, and he completed his training at the Académie Julian in 1896. Although he began to exhibit in 1905 at the Salon of French Artists, his career only took off after the Great War. In 1928, the French State bought a bronze elephant from him, and nine years later he signed a production contract with the Sèvres manufacture. Meanwhile, the Susse Frères produced his works in both bronze and terracotta.