Afred Boucher, was one of the most celebrated French sculptors of the late 19th century.
Born in Bouy-sur-Orvin near Nogent-sur-Seine in 1850, he is often referred to as an academic artist, his work, known mostly for its likeness to life and wonderful sense of movement, imbued with an allegorical symbolism, glorifying the labour of everyday man.
Born to modest beginnings, the son of a farmhand, Boucher moved with his parents to to Nogent-sur-Seine, where they become employees of the neo-classical sculptor Joseph-Marius Ramus (1805-1888). Ramus, recognising the boys talent, opened his studio to him and together with Paul Dubois and the mayor of Nogent-sur-Seine, assisted him in receiving a scholarship to attend the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. At the age of 19, Boucher moved to Paris to study in the workshop of the sculptor Augustin Dumont at the École des Beaux-Arts and was awarded with his first medal at the Salon of 1874.
He travelled several times to Italy, where, surrounded by the works of antiquity, he was able to refine his skills and widen his knowledge. He spent two periods of time in Florence and in Rome, first from 1877-1878 and then five years later from 1883-1884.
He is perhaps best known for his bronze work entitled ‘Au But’ or ‘To The Goal’. In 1886 Boucher entered 'Au But' in the Prix de Salon, where it was received to great acclaim and a première classe medal. Boucher was commissioned in 1887 to complete a larger version in bronze for the Luxemburg Gardens in front of the Sénat. He was then awarded with a golden medal at the Exposition Universelle in 1889.
His prolific output included busts of artists and politicians, statues and public monuments. His work reflected his classical training and interests, but embodied a modern aesthetic, one of symbolism and expression that characterised the transition from the 19th to the 20th century.
J. Piette, Alfred Boucher 1850-1934 "sculpteur – humaniste", ex. cat. Musée Paul Dubois – Alfred Boucher, Nogent-sur-Seine, 2000, no. 39a, p. 46.