(6 December 1824, Paris – 10 September 1910) was a French sculptor. He is famous for his sculpture of Joan of Arc in Paris (and its “sister” statues in Philadelphia and Portland, Oregon) and the monument to Ferdinand de Lesseps in Suez.
Born in Paris, he was a nephew and pupil of Rude and chiefly devoted himself to animal sculpture. His earliest work was in scientific lithography (osteology), and for a while he served in times of adversity in the gruesome office of painter to the Morgue. In 1843 he sent to the Salon a study of a Gazelle, and after that date worked prolificly. His “Wounded Bear” and “Wounded Dog” were produced in 1850, and the Luxembourg Museum at once secured this striking example of his work.
In the 1850s, Frémiet produced various Napoleonic works. In 1853, Frémiet, “the leading sculptor of animals in his day” exhibited bronze sculptures of Emperor Napoleon III‘s basset hounds at the Paris Salon. Soon afterwards, from 1855 to 1859 Frémiet was engaged on a series of military statuettes for Napoleon III, none of which have survived. He produced his equestrian statue of Napoleon I in 1868, and of Louis d’Orleans of 1869 (at the Château de Pierrefonds) and in 1874 the first equestrian statue of Joan of Arc, erected in the Place des Pyramides, Paris; this he afterwards (1889) replaced with another version. During this period he also executed “Pan and the bear cubs”, also acquired by the Luxembourg Museum and now[update] in the Musée d’Orsay.
In the meanwhile he had exhibited his “Gorilla Carrying off a Woman” which won him a medal of honour at the Salon of 1887. Although praised in its time, this work now evokes ridicule from some observers for its depiction of a gorilla abducting a nude woman, presumably with the intention of raping her. Accordingly, this act has caught the public’s imagination, as witnessed by the repeated popularity of the King Kong theme.
Of the same character is his “Ourang-Outangs” and “Borneo Savage” of 1895, a commission from the Paris Museum of Natural History. Frémiet also executed the statue of St Michael for the summit of the spire of the Eglise St Michel, and the equestrian statue of Velasquez for the Jardin de l’Infante at the Louvre. He became a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 1892, and succeeded Barye as professor of animal drawing at the Natural History Museum of Paris.