The rise of the French struggle

The rise of the French struggle

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Title: Wrestlers.

Author : FALGUIERE Alexandre (1831 - 1900)

Creation date : 1875

Date shown: 1875

Dimensions: Height 240 - Width 191

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas

Storage location: Orsay Museum website

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

Picture reference: 95DE20327 / RF 1995-19

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowski

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

After the rout of 1870, the French struggle, which is also said to be Greco-Roman, is exalted: its ancient origin and its role in the awakening of bellicose ardor among young citizens are highlighted in several publications. . The most sensitive expression of the new assignment devoted to this sport appears clearly in Léon Ville's work, Wrestlers and Gladiators where he wrote: “After the terrible warning of the campaign of 1870, the only hope that remained to us, the only element of victory that we can still invoke: the propensity of the French to exercise the body; his resistance to fatigue and, taken in its true philosophical sense, his love of dueling, of closed-field battle, of armed tete-a-tete, and, above all, his love of wrestling. 7).

Image Analysis

Present at the Salon from 1857 with sculptures, Alexandre Falguière did not start exhibiting paintings there until 1873. From then on, his creations would be visible simultaneously in the two artistic sections. To achieve this painting exhibited in 1875, the artist started with an anonymous photograph representing the capture entitled "assault of the hip circumference in the belt" (Rodin museum), which he squared before transferring it to his canvas. . He then had several artist friends pose - Jules Isidore Lafrance on the left, Jean-Paul Aubé in the center and Eugène Delaplanche on the right, and certainly Marcelin Desboutin, the man with the pipe, on the right -, whose silhouettes he installed and the portraits on the stands of the arena in rue Le Peletier in Paris. Clearly realistic, inspired by the composition and the dense pictorial material of Wrestlers by Courbet (1853, Budapest, Szépmüveészeti Muzeum), this painting, so different from his sculpture "ideal, ascetic and thin in form" (Th. Véron, Of the art and artists of my time, Paris, 1875, p. 71) created a surprise in the ranks of contemporary critics and aroused the enthusiasm of advocates of realism such as Castagnary.


While certain sporting activities copied from English models (horse riding, fencing, polo, lawn-tennis or yachting) appeared and developed and practiced by the nobility and the upper middle class of industry and business, popular gymnastic traditions continued, such as wrestling, halfway between sport and entertainment. All these physical activities benefited, at the end of the century, from a conjunction of events which increased their fame. The hygiene movement questioned the educational organization of schools and advocated sports, games and recreation aimed at combating excess intellectual work and the sedentary lifestyle of schoolchildren. A specific literature ensured the relay of this desire, in which we find the names of Georges de Saint-Clair, author in 1887 of a Athletic sports and outdoor exercises, and especially Pierre de Coubertin who, the same year, praised the merits of English sports education at school in Education in England. Its action resulted in the creation in 1888, under the aegis of the Ministry of Public Instruction, of a Committee for the Propagation of Physical Exercises in Education.

  • naked
  • realism
  • sport
  • Coubertin (Baron Pierre of)


Pierre ARNAUD "Sport and the French, a social issue (1850-1914)" in 48/14. The Orsay Museum Review , n ° 6, spring 1998, p. 70-83.Collective The Art of the Nude in the 19th Century. The photographer and his model Paris, National Library of France François-Mitterrand, October 14, 1997-18 January 1998, p. 72-75 Collective, From Impressionism to Art Nouveau. Acquisitions of the Orsay Museum 1990-1996 Paris, Orsay Museum, October 16, 1996 - January 5, 1997, p. 129.Marie-Pierre SALÉ “New acquisitions. Alexandre Falguière, Wrestlers »in 48/14. The Orsay Museum Review , n ° 3, September 1996, p. 28-29.Bernard JEU and Ronald HUBSCHER History in motion: sport in French society, 19th-20th century Paris, Armand Colin, 1992.

To cite this article

Dominique LOBSTEIN, "The rise of the French struggle"

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