Saturday, July 17, 2010

Viscount Alexandre-Isadore Leroy de Barde (1777-1828)

Leroy de Barde

Viscount Alexandre-Isadore Leroy de Barde was born in Montreuil, Pas-de-Calais, France in 1777, and developed an early interest in art, particularly still-life painting. He appears to have been an entirely self-taught amateur, but was recognized as a virtuoso while still in his 20's. He and his monarchist family moved to England in 1792 to avoid the Revolution. In 1797, at the age of 20, he was admitted as an “honorary” exhibitor at the exhibition of the British Royal Academy (he showed two still-life paintings, entitled Grapes and Fruit.) His obvious skill earned him a place in subsequent Royal Academy exhibitions of 1800, 1801 and 1802, where he showed flower paintings and one entitled Moths and Butterflies. In 1803 he began a series of paintings depicting natural curiosities (including minerals)primarily from the Bullock Museum in the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, London. He returned to France ca. 1815, following the restoration of the Bourbon Monarchy, and accompanied Louis XVIII to Ghent during the Hundred Days. In his later years he opened a private museum of natural history in Paris, exhibiting 2,192 minerals, birds, shells and stuffed animals plus various antiquities and ethnographic objects. In 1825 he sold this collection to the town of Boulogne-sur-Mer for the establishment of a public museum, today known as the Château-Musée or "Castle Museum." De Barde referred to himself as “Le Chevalier de Barde” and signed his works that way.

De Bard's masterful Bullock Museum series of still-life paintings depicting natural history objects typical of the times (all in watercolor and gouache) included Still-life of Exotic Birds (ca. 1803), Selection of Shells Arranged on Shelves (1803), and Minéraux en Crystallization (1813). The entire series of paintings, including the mineral painting, was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1817, and purchased by Louis XVIII (they are now in the Louvre Museum, Paris). The minerals were apparently drawn not only from the Bullock Museum collection but also from various British collections including that of Charles Greville. Some of the specimens are still identifiable today in the Natural History Museum, London. De Barde, appointed Premier Peintre d'Histoire Naturelle in 1816 by Louis XVIII, is known to have produced two other mineral paintings following his return to France: Minéraux (1819) and Minéraux tires du Cabinet particular du roy (1822). His mineralogical works mark the zenith of mineral art in the 19th century, with their exquisitely rendered detail far beyond that of any other mineral artist up to that time and for many decades thereafter.


The Grove Dictionary of Art (2000), Macmillan Publishers Limited.
Pinault, M. (1991) The Painter as Naturalist, from Dürer to Redouté. Flammarion, Paris, 287 pages.

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