François-Raoul Larche was a well-known Art Nouveau sculptor born in St.-Andrè-de-Cubzac. He began his studies in 1878 under François Jouffroy, Jean-Alexandre Falguière, and Eugène Delaplanche at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Larche was a regular exhibitor at the official salons beginning in 1884, and was awarded the Second Grand Prix in 1886 at the Prix de Rome competition. At the Exposition Universelle in 1900 he received a gold medal.
Larche was most commonly known for his monumental sculptures, such as the group La Loire et ses affluents, many of which were purchased by the state and placed in public locations around Paris. However his smaller pieces - lamps, goblets, ashtrays, vases and center pieces were recreated in pewter and bronze by Siot-Decauville. These sculptures included a wide range of subjects from mythological figures to peasant girls. Larche’s most popular and endearing works are the statues he created of Loïe Fuller in bronze. He produced three different poses of Fuller, a tall 18 inch version with two lights set into her gauzy robes floating above her head, a smaller version with a single light, and a set of Fuller bronzes with differing left and right poses. Fuller was known for her innovative stage lighting which she used to great effect, illuminating her robes and shock of red hair. Larche imitated this effect in his sculptures by hiding tiny lights inside the bronze robes which illuminated the area above and around Fuller’s head and cast a soft ethereal glow on the sculpture.
The famous American dancer Loïe Fuller, who was a common subject for Larche and many other Art Nouveau artists, was celebrated as the embodiment of the new concept promoted in Art Nouveau. She danced hidden in swirling diaphanous painted silk gauze, epitomizing the exotic sensuous woman of Art Nouveau subject matter. Fuller’s use of electric stage lighting and mirrors had a grand effect on the artist of the time. She used colored glass slides, which she projected onto her swirling robes to create colorful ethereal effects. Her theater at the 1900 Paris Exposition was designed for her by architect Herni Sauvage and was completely dedicated to her image; the interior decorated by Francis Jourdain won a gold medal. The lamps celebrating Fuller created by Larche were on sale during the 1900 Exposition inside Fuller’s studio. Examples of these are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and the Villa Stuck Museum in Germany.
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