From craftsmanship to the metal industry

From craftsmanship to the metal industry


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  • Interior view of a forge near Châtillon-sur-Seine.

    BOUHOT Etienne (1780 - 1862)

  • Exterior view of a forge near Châtillon-sur-Seine.

    BOUHOT Etienne (1780 - 1862)

  • A forge in Le Creusot.

    CHASSERIAU Théodore (1819 - 1856)

  • The forge in Marly-le-Roi.

    SISLEY Alfred (1839 - 1899)

To close

Title: Interior view of a forge near Châtillon-sur-Seine.

Author : BOUHOT Etienne (1780 - 1862)

Creation date : 1823

Date shown: 1823

Dimensions: Height 38 - Width 46

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas

Storage place: Buffon de Montbard Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - P. Bernard

Picture reference: 96DE17056 / Inv.82.01.01

Interior view of a forge near Châtillon-sur-Seine.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - P. Bernard

To close

Title: Exterior view of a forge near Châtillon-sur-Seine.

Author : BOUHOT Etienne (1780 - 1862)

Creation date : 1823

Date shown: 1823

Dimensions: Height 38 - Width 46.5

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas

Storage place: Buffon de Montbard Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - P. Bernard

Picture reference: 96DE17054 / Inv.82.01.02

Exterior view of a forge near Châtillon-sur-Seine.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - P. Bernard

To close

Title: A forge in Le Creusot.

Author : CHASSERIAU Théodore (1819 - 1856)

Creation date : 1836

Date shown: July 1836

Dimensions: Height 24.6 - Width 33.1

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas

Storage place: Louvre Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J.-G. Berizzisite web

Picture reference: 94CE61097 / RF 25286

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J.-G. Berizzi

To close

Title: The forge in Marly-le-Roi.

Author : SISLEY Alfred (1839 - 1899)

Creation date : 1875

Date shown: 1875

Dimensions: Height 55 - Width 73.5

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas

Storage place: Orsay Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowskisite web

Picture reference: 90DE1228 / RF 1689

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowski

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

The representations of Bouhot and Chassériau date from the years 1820-1840, those of the decisive start of modern industrialization, which combines the use of machines and that of new energies. The construction of the railroad network will considerably stimulate this production from the 1830s (demand for rails, locomotives, rolling stock).
However Bouhot and Chassériau were interested here in two ages of metallurgy, which continued to coexist for a certain time (about fifteen years separate their works). With the Le Creusot plant, the transition to a modern plant has been accomplished: it is steam-driven and involves entire teams in large halls.
In contrast, Sisley represented, half a century later, an artisan workshop, a smithy in the truest sense of the word, where labor continues to be done with the sheer force of arms.

Image Analysis

All three belong to the category of landscape or genre paintings, drawing their subject matter from the contemporary natural and human environment of the artists.
The theme is treated with remarkable attention to the composition of a landscape and the light that bathes it, as well as the semi-darkness that enveloped these "arts of fire" inside the workshops. We can speak of great loyalty to the spirit and the working environment at Chassériau and Sisley. De Bouhot, a contemporary critic praised "its precious finish without dryness": his art has indeed an almost photographic precision.
The drawing is interested in the musculature of the “strong men” who performed very “physical” tasks, in their postures and their gestures around the tool (cf. later the drawings by Lucien Jonas illustrating the steel industry in Valenciennes or those of Raymond Rochette working in the Creusot-Montceau basin).

Interpretation

The subject dealt with has not served as a pretext for some transposition of an ideological or moralizing judgment with regard to industrial work. The plastic testimony can be read "in the first degree".
The paintings of Bouhot and Chassériau all have a certain documentary value. Bouhot, born in the Côte d´Or, was at home in northern Burgundy and he traveled the Châtillonnais at the invitation of the blacksmiths.
The exterior and interior views of the Châtillonnais forge correspond in every way to other testimonies - archives, printed matter, archaeological remains. Outside, notice the shape of the pyramidal fireplace, the hydraulic system, the style of the workers' house on the ground floor. Inside (back left) a block of incandescent cast iron is hammered; the strong piece of frame belongs to the bellows mechanism; in the center, the hearth used to heat the cast iron between two hammer passes. The view of the Creusot forge clearly shows the structure of the large forging hall which operated until around 1860, with its brick arches resting on powerful pillars. The Ferris wheel is part of the stationary steam engine which is not shown in the image. The workers wear visors to protect themselves from the strong light (we see here a first concern for safety) released by the ovens, and handle long metal poles, the old ones, which are used to stir the molten iron to accelerate it. purification. At Sisley, we notice the "neglected" of a modest workshop, with its mended window, the simplicity of the instruments, the almost family character of the company.
The exterior and interior views of Châtillon are of a precision that is worth archaeological testimony. The blacksmith's workshop painting recalls what one could see until recently in the villages or in certain courtyards of eastern Paris. Testimonials that are both precious and of high aesthetic quality, therefore. The drawing of the Creusot forge serves as a historical anthropological document, concerning the athletic morphology of these metalworkers before the mechanization and automation of work.

  • workers
  • industrial Revolution
  • steel industry
  • factory
  • innovation
  • Arts and crafts
  • job

Bibliography

Jean-Yves ANDRIEUX The Iron Workers Paris, Gallimard, coll. "Discoveries" n ° 121, n.d., 176 p.Denis WORONOFF History of industry in France from the 16th century to the present day Paris, Editions du Seuil, 1994, 664 p.

To cite this article

Louis BERGERON, "From craftsmanship to the metallurgical industry"


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