(b Valenciennes, 11 May 1827; d Coubevoie, 11 Oct. 1875). The outstanding French sculptor of his period (also a painter, draughtsman, and etcher). He studied for ten years at the École des Beaux-Arts (where Rude was his main teacher), before eventually winning the Prix de Rome in 1854. His major work in Rome was Count Ugolino and His Sons (1860, Mus. d'Orsay, Paris, and other versions), a tragic scene from Dante.
It made his reputation (although conservatives disliked it) and after his return to Paris in 1862 he won favour at Napoleon III's court, receiving many commissions for portrait busts. He also had several larger commissions, of which the most famous is La Danse (1866–9), a high-relief group for the façade of the Paris Opéra (the original is now in the Mus. d'Orsay). This uninhibitedly dynamic and sensuous work caused a sensation, was denounced as immoral, and had ink thrown over it. Partly because of such attacks on his work, Carpeaux suffered from a persecution complex in his final years before his early death from cancer. He was a pivotal figure in French sculpture, for his exuberance of feeling and vivacious modelling made a decisive break with the Neoclassical tradition and presaged the work of Rodin.
Text Source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)