« Hunting dogs », a monumental cast iron sculpture by Camille Gaté

Cast iron

Plaster cast exhibited at the 1885 Salon des Artistes Français.

Bronze cast displayed at the 1886 Salon des Artistes Français.

Cast iron displayed at the 1889 World’s Fair, bronze medal.

Dimensions of the statue : H : 134 cm / 52" 3/4 ; W : 238 cm / 93" 3/4 ; D. 121 cm / 47" 5/8

Signed on the pedestal : « C. Gaté ».

After 1885.

Awarded a bronze medal at the 1889 World’s Fair, these Hunting dogs are the well-known work of a late 19th century artist, Camille Gaté.
This sculpture deeply left its mark on the writer Emile Hizelin, a friend of the sculptor’s who acquired a reduction mentioned in his short stories, and who also wrote a poem about it, published in A whole soul, ancient and new verses (1892):

“The two hunting dogs are tied in undergrowth.
One, on the damp earth, gives in to dreams,
The other is standing, watching, and suddenly he shudders
There he listens to some vague barking.
It's hunting! The hunt with its furious voices
The trembling horses fly, the horn sounds,
And all follow a pale and superb Amazon
On a golden whip clenching her fair fingers.
The hunt runs off like a gust.
In the eyes of the two dogs passed, triumphant,
The clear vision of the new kills,
They thought they saw the beast already torn,
And in the evening, in the courtyard, under red torches
The thousand teeth orgy of the hot spoils.”

Sketch after Hunting dogs, in "Notes on Camille Gaté", by Emile Hinzelin, in  Livre d'or de Rémy Belleau, 1900.

As the title suggests, these two idle bloodhounds will be called to relay other dogs to continue the hunt. Presumably, they are two Grands Bleus de Gascogne, hunting dogs from the South of France, employed in the royal packs since Henri IV for hunting wolves or game. It is a breed appreciated for its serene vivacity, its fine muscles which give it a certain nobility.

Hunting dogs, far larger than life, not only magnify a breed appreciated by the artist, but evoke the noble art of hunting, and the imaginary that is attached to it. Indeed, the year the artist dedicates himself to this sculpture, he also publishes a collection of fairy tales, attesting to his sensitivity turned towards the universe of the forest. It is the work of an artist deeply attached to his hometown, in the midst of the forests of La Perche, Nogent-le-Rotrou. The town with its picturesque medieval past, still dominated by the Chateau Saint-Jean, was undoubtedly a hotspot for hunting.

Edition of the Hunting dogs, at the Chateau Saint-Jean of Nogent-le-Rotrou, ancient postcard.

Camille Gaté, born in a family of modest tanners in 1856, participates in the family business without giving up his dreams.
In 1884, he began to sculpt realistic works, with portraits of the tannery workers, The Petit Maître and Woker Woman, two terracotta now preserved in the castle of Nogent-le-Rotrou, and quickly, animal subjects whith which he meets success. The rapidity of his success is striking, and one must attribute it to an exceptional artistic talent, suddenly revealed in a young man who was not destined for art.

Hunting dogs is one of his first sculptures, the plaster of which obtained an immediate success by being received at the Salon des Artistes Français of 1885. The success of the sculpture is confirmed the following year, where a bronze copy is showed again at the Salon. After this first success, he produced several other carved groups of dogs, which earned him, in 1888, the status of Officer of the Academy. It was in 1889, finally, that a  iron cast of Hunting dogs, the work that launched his career, brought him luck again and triumphed at the Paris World’s Fair.
Camille Gaté remains famous in his hometown, which dedicated an exhibition to him in 2016, but is also known for his statue of the poet Rémy Belleau, destroyed by the Germans during World War II. His works from 1889 to his death reveal a philosophical ambition, an optimistic vision for the human race, attached to both sensibility and reason. Thus, in 1889, he produced the Triumph of Philosophical Thought, a high relief in plaster, and two years before his death, a marble work poetically entitled Humanity in front of the infinite.

Camille Gaté in his workshop.

The success at the 1889 World’s Fair, which was the centenary of the French Revolution and the installation of the famous Eiffel Tower, says a lot about the merit of this sculpture.
The work is present in two places of Nogent-le-Rotrou, the Place de la République, and the garden of the Chateau Saint-Jean. The copy of the garden, however, is mounted on a different base. In Joinville-le-Vallage, a beautiful cast by Durenne and the Val d'Osne, dated 1953, was installed in the municipal park.
It is present throughout the world, notably in Argentina, in Mar del Plata in the province of Buenos Aires.

Plaza San Martin, Mar del Plata, Argentine.

Park in Joinville-le-Vallage.

Catalog of the sculptures, 1889 World’s Fair in Paris.

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