Joseph félon

academic painter and sculptor

Joseph Félon

Bordeaux 1818 – Juan-les-pins 1896

Joseph Félon, born in Bordeaux on August 22, 1818, is a prominent figure in 19th-century French academic art. Trained by Pierre Lacour fils and apprenticed under the engraver Gaspard de Galard, Félon honed his skills in painting and engraving from a young age. Admitted to the École des beaux-arts de Paris in 1839, he excelled in various artistic disciplines including painting, sculpture, and lithography. Félon’s career began impressively with works exhibited at the Salon from 1840, including a self-portrait and a plaster statuette.

In Paris, Félon joined the studio of the renowned sculptor François Rude, uncle and mentor to sculptor Emmanuel Frémiet, where he further refined his sculptural abilities. He distinguished himself with an elegant and expressive style, blending realism with romanticism. His sculptures, noted for their finesse and meticulous detail, garnered significant recognition in Parisian salons.

In 1857, Joseph Félon gained recognition as a cartoonist for the stained glass windows of the church of Sainte-Perpétue et Sainte-Félicité in Nîmes. This experience enabled him to master the art of glass painting, leading to notable projects such as the restoration of the stained glass at the Saint-Nom de Jésus in the Saint-Étienne-du-Mont church in 1864. He continued with creations for the Saint-Séverin church in 1865 and undertook other significant restorations in Paris until 1874. In 1879, Félon was appointed an honorary member of the stained glass painters’ guild, acknowledging his expertise in this field.

The intense activity of church restoration and construction under the Concordat, alongside the triumph of the neo-Gothic taste championed by Viollet-le-Duc, Jean-Baptiste Lassus, and diocesan architects, provided a fertile ground for Joseph Félon’s stained glass artistry. His compositions, often highly sculptural, frequently ventured into Renaissance vocabulary and historical themes more broadly.

Joseph Félon, stained glass design for the church of Saint-Etienne du Mont, Petit Palais
Joseph Félon, stained glass design for the church of Saint-Etienne du Mont, Petit Palais
Outre ses réalisations en vitrail, Joseph Félon laisse une empreinte durable dans la sculpture et la peinture. Ses œuvres ornent des lieux prestigieux tels que le pavillon Richelieu du palais du Louvre, avec des sculptures allégoriques comme La Justice et la Fraternité, ainsi que La Vérité et l’Histoire. À la Sorbonne, à l’église Sainte-Élisabeth et à Saint-Étienne-du-Mont, ses sculptures ajoutent une dimension esthétique et symbolique. Parmi ses créations les plus célèbres, la statue Nymphe chevauchant un dauphin au Jardin des Plantes de Paris et la statue de La Science au château des ducs de Savoie à Chambéry témoignent de sa maîtrise et de sa polyvalence. Artiste officiel, Félon a reçu de nimbreuses commandes publiques et privées Félon et a également contribué à la décoration de divers monuments parisiens, laissant une empreinte durable dans le patrimoine artistique de la capitale française.
A polychrome terracotta sculpture of a nude woman lying on a divan. Named "The Vanity," it was crafted and painted by Joseph Félon for the 1866 Salon.
Polychrome terracotta figure of a nude woman lounging on a couch. This piece, titled "The Vanity," was sculpted and painted by Joseph Félon for the 1866 Salon.

Félon also practiced smaller-scale sculpture in various materials like terracotta, as evidenced by his Vanity likely exhibited at the 1866 Salon, showing surprising shifts towards Realism reminiscent of a languid odalisque.

Alongside his career as a sculptor, Joseph Félon developed a rich and diverse body of paintings. His works, marked by great sensitivity and technical mastery, encompass themes ranging from mythology to everyday life.

Preparatory drawing for the sculpture "La vanité
Reclining nude woman front view - Joseph Félon - Preparatory drawing in black stone

In painting, his artwork “Nymph Huntress,” housed at the Bordeaux Museum of Fine Arts, showcases his talent and acute sense of composition. After settling in the South of France in 1884, Félon continued contributing to the art world, becoming curator at the Cannes Museum of Paintings and a professor at the School of Decorative Arts in Nice. A contemporary of renowned artists such as Jean-Léon Gérôme and Alexandre Cabanel, Félon operated within an artistic milieu dominated by the academic style, characterized by meticulous attention to detail and technical prowess.

Joseph Félon passed away in Antibes Juan-les-Pins on March 6, 1897, leaving behind a rich and varied artistic legacy that attests to his dedication across multiple artistic disciplines.