Charles-Alexandre Lesueur

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19 October 1800, Le Havre, France. Charles-Alexandre Lesueur set sail on a voyage of discovery to the Southern Lands led by Nicolas Baudin. During this four-year journey to the other side of the world, he demonstrated his talents as a natural history artist with a gift for scientific observation.

Driven by an insatiable curiosity, during a golden age for natural history and learned societies, he travelled constantly throughout his life, between Oceania and Europe, and to the United States.


His sketchbooks and vellums provide a record of the animals, landscapes and indigenous people he encountered.

Lesueur sketched, described and sought to understand a world that was still little known, a world that remained to be discovered. The fineness of his drawing, the realism of the colours he used, the accuracy of his descriptions make him an exceptional natural history artist. His work is a true artistic treasure that is still relevant to science today.



In the spirit of the great explorers of the Enlightenment, Lesueur devoted his entire life to combining passion and observation, adventure and art.

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Charles-Alexandre LESUEUR Painter and Naturalist: A Forgotten Treasure
More information on www.museum-lehavre.fr
Editorial direction:Mikaël Ferloni Graphical layout:Claire Mauchin, Laura Authier Proofreading:Jérôme Sich © éditions de Conti, 2009/© MkF éditions, 2016 ISBN: 979-10-92305-29-6/ EAN: 9791092305296 www.mkfeditions.com
Produced by the City of Le Havre Published with the support of the French Embassy in Australiaand the Australian Embassy in France
Gabrielle BAGLIONE Cédric CRÉMIÈRE
Charles-Alexandre LESUEUR Painter and Naturalist: A Forgotten Treasure
Translated from French into English by Jean Fornasiero & John West-Sooby
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Forword
Nature and museums have long maintained a complex and passionate relationship. From Pliny’sNatural Historyin ancient times through to the work of Buffon and the natural historiesof the nineteenth century, humankind has never ceased to believe in the possibility ofencompassing nature in its entirety.
What had already been attempted in many encyclopaedic works was soon applied in cabinets of curiosities and museums of natural history. It soon became evident, however, that nature’s elements were innumerable; the ambition to establish a complete inventory was thus replaced by the more modest objectiveof taking a selection of samples. From that moment on, large quantities of objects were collected and these soon filled to overflowing the spaces dedicated to their conservation and presentation. Space began to run out, despite the invention of the “stores” of the nineteenth century, which constituted an early version of the storage reserves of modern museums.
This world of natural history was founded on the desire to describe nature, to determineits modes of operation. It was a world that would derive its identity from its veryinstitutions: the cabinets, galleries andmuseums of natural history.
The eighteenth century can be considered a golden age for natural history and theconstitution of collections. Political, economic and commercial expansion impelled the great European powers to attempt to realise the impossible dream of assembling all of nature in a single space.
It was in this context that the great round-the-world expeditions rapidly developed and that the tradition of naturalism and collectingwas forged.
Charles-Alexandre Lesueur (17 78-1846)exemplified this ambition to describe – and to record – the world. He combined the collecting of objects with the production of thousands of drawings and sketches which provided a wealth of visual information on, and evidence of, the practices of natural science.
No more and no less than any other, Lesueurwas a representative of the community ofnaturalists: he travelled, drew, described. Our aim here is not to single him out as a great man, amisunderstood genius, but to present his life as a window on to a complex, bygone world.
The ambition behind this publication istwo-fold. It seeks firstly to present and to bring to the attention of a wider audience a large num-ber of works from the collection of the Natural History Museum of Le Havre; its second goal is to offer the reader a biography of Lesueur that is situated in its historical context.
The artworks and archives of Lesueur are not widely dispersed. The largest collection is held in the Le Havre Museum; the remaining items are to be found in the Natural History Museum in Paris, the French National Archives, the American Philosophical Society and the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, as well as in private hands, particularly in the United States.
The many articles, chiefly inventories, that have been published on this collectionby Jacqueline Bonnemains, curator of the Lesueur Collection at the Museum of Le Havre from 1977 to 2003, had already broughtLesueur’s work into prominence. Thanks to those publications, we finally have the opportunityto display the diversity and the wealth ofthe collection.
Our project to produce an illustrated biography was conceived as a kind of “Imaginary Museum”,to borrow Malraux’s expression. This was the nextlogical step in publicising this collection, for which a landmark moment was the opening in September 2007 of a dedicated exhibition room for the artworks. Now, for every season, there is a thematic exhibition which presentsa selection of works from the collection.
In this book, we have chosen to punctuate the chronology of Lesueur’s life with thematicinsets which allow for breathing space and for more general reflections on the context. They are also particularly helpful in distancingourselves from a hagiographic approach.
Lesueur’s biography enables us to experience at close hand a nineteenth century shaped by political turmoil, Romantic passions and scientific discoveries, but also by the richness and simplicity of daily life within a worldin mutation.
The book has been divided into sectionscorresponding to periods in Lesueur’s lifeand travels.
The first introductory chapter describes the universe in which Lesueur was born and grew up, a universe which was to establish his taste for observation and, naturally, to determine his career choices.
The second chapter is devoted to the expedi-tion to the Southern Lands from 1800 to 1804.
In the third section, we focus on the expedition’sreturn, a time which was marked by the pursuitof his research in natural history, then by the temptation to work in an institution, but also by professional disappointments and personaldramas following the death of Péron.
His departure for the United States, in 1815, signalled the beginning of a new life andthe discovery of an emerging nation.
The last chapter describes Lesueur’s return to Le Havre, where he finally achieved recognition; at this point he resumed his paleontological research, which he had put aside following his departure from France, and donated hiscollections to the town of Le Havre. Asa just reward, he was appointed a curator, and his achievements were finally fetedand acknowledged.
Portrait of Charles-Alexandre Lesueur. Charles Wilson Peale – 1818 – oil on canvas – Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia
Forewords
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Spotfin porcupinefish, Chilomycterus reticulatus(Linnaeus, 1758). Indicated on the drawing itself asDiodon holocant[h]uswith the inscription:“two views – latitude 31 degrees South – longitude 18 degrees West of Paris – n° 20” This drawing was in all probability one of the illustrations in the fair copy of Captain Baudin’s Journal. Charles-Alexandre Lesueur – Watercolour, gouache, silver paint and pencil on paper – 27.7 x 20.5 cm – 76 712
Editorial Comments
The selection of drawings was guided by the intention to show the diversity of subjects and of the materials and techniques employed in their creation, but also the range of styles.
We have taken particular care to standardisethe captions. The original titles are givenin italics; others are simply indicative ofthe content.
In the original French edition of this book, the writings of Lesueur were reproduced exactly as they appeared in the manuscripts, with all of their inaccuracies in spelling and syntax. In their English translation, Lesueur’s wordscannot be reproduced in this way, since all translations are by nature an adaptation of an original text. Spelling and syntax have thus been normalised. The reader who wishes to have an idea of the original flavour of Lesueur’s writing can consult either the original French edition or the Lesueur Collection website, soon tobecome available on the Museum of Le Havre’s home page, where accurate reproductions of the original texts will be accessible. To show here with maximum clarity what has been writ-ten by Lesueur himself, we have systematically placed the translations of his words in italics and within inverted commas.
Since his drawings were not always dated, we have decided only to include those dates that Lesueur indicated. For other drawings, the dates can be deduced from the particular period when they were created. (For example, the Voyage to the Southern Lands: not all of the drawings are dated, nor can precise dates be attributed to them, but they were all done
between 19 October 1800 and 25 March 1804; some of them – for instance, those done during stop-overs whose exact dates are known – can be linked to these periods of a few months’ duration. The same applies to the artist’s stay in America.)
We should note the particular case of the 189 watercolours on vellum that Lesueur worked up following his return from the Voyage to the Southern Lands, quite probably right up until 1806, perhaps even 1809.
Where it is not possible to indicate an exact species, the common generic term is used, such as “starfish” ou “jellyfish”.
When the Atlas is mentioned, and accompaniedby no other indication, it refers to the Atlas of the first edition (1807) of the official account of theVoyage de découvertes auxTerres Australes.
Particular attention was given to the reproduc-tion of the images and we wanted Lesueur’s actual choices to be recorded, for example, when he chose to paint a small object in a large format. We have chosen to respect the artist’s point of view and thus to indicate each time when an image represents a detail.
Forewords
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Table of contents
FOéwOD
Editorial Comments
Té HïŝOïçà àD Fàïy COéX
th France, from the Turn of the XIX Century to the Restoration The Political Context Science and Technology The Arts
Charles-Alexandre Lesueur, a Native of Le Havre, a Man of his Time A Le Havre Family th Le Havre at the End of the XVIII Century A Life on Three Continents
The Lesueurs, Father and Son, A Complex Relationship Jean-Baptiste Denis Lesueur, An Attentive Father A Father’s Promotion of his Son’s Work A Son’s Involvement in his Father’s Work
Té AUŝàïà PéïOD: 18001804
The Context of Scientific Expeditions The Discovery of the Pacific The Expeditions of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Eras The Collecting Principle Inset- The British
The Voyage of Discovery to the Southern Lands
The Objectives of the Expedition Inset- Portraits of the Members of the Expedition
. 4
p. 7
. 10
p. 11
p. 11 p. 11 p. 12
p. 14
p. 14 p. 14 p. 17
p. 18
p. 18 p. 19 p. 20
. 22
p. 23 p. 23 p. 23 p. 24 p. 26
p. 28 p. 28 p. 30
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Four Years in the Southern Seas The Departure: 19 October 1800 (27 Vendémiaire, Year 9) Stop-over in Tenerife, Canary Islands Inset- François Péron Stop-over at Ile de France (Mauritius): 15 March - 25 April 1801 Bound for New Holland (departure on 25 April 1801) Leeuwin Land, Geographe Bay: 27 May 1801 Eendracht’s Land, Shark Bay: 20 June – 22 July 1801 De Witt’s Land: 27 July – 16 August 1801 Inset- Landscapes and cartography Three Months in Timor: August-November 1801 Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania), D’Entrecasteaux Channel, Maria Island, Bruny Island: January-March 1802 Terre Napoléon: March-May 1802 Port Jackson (Sydney): June-November 1802 Bass Strait and the South Coast: December 1802 – March 1803 West Coast of Australia and Timor: April-May 1803 Mauritius: August 1803 Inset- Natural man, who are you? Stop-over in South Africa – The Cape The Hottentot Apron Inset- The Fair Copy of Baudin’s Journal
Té Féç PéïOD: 18041815
Parisian Life, 1804-1809
Publishing the Results The Golden Age of French Science Institutional Attraction
Voyages in France Paris and its Neighbouring Areas The Trip to the South of France Inset- Villefranche-sur-Mer Le Havre in 1808 Jeurre Cérilly Between Le Havre and Paris, 1810-1815
p. 34 p. 34 p. 41 p. 46 p. 51 p. 59 p. 61 p. 62 p. 67 p. 68 p. 72 p. 105
p. 116 p. 118 p. 122 p. 142 p. 142 p. 144 p. 152 p. 156 p. 180
. 184
p. 185 p. 185 p. 186 p. 187
p. 188 p. 188 p. 196 p. 214 p. 224 p. 230 p. 234 p. 238
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Té Aéïçà PéïOD: 18161837
The Encounter with Maclure A Voyage to America
From Paris to New York A Stop-over in England Stonehenge (Wiltshire) Cornwall Four Months in the Caribbean
The Early Years in the United States New York and Philadelphia The North-East of America A Decade in Philadelphia – First Publications
Lesueur as an Observer of American Life th The Socialist Utopias of the Early XIX Century The Community Experiment of New Harmony Excursions in Indiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Missouri Inset- Steamboats in the United States Voyage in Missouri in 1826: The Lead Mines Visits to New Orleans Encounters with Indians: The Makings of an Anthropological Approach n Iset- Paleontology and First Steps in Archeology Travels in Tennessee It- American Fauna nse On the Way Home
. 244
p. 245 p. 245
p. 246 p. 246 p. 250 p. 252 p. 256
p. 262 p. 262 p. 264 p. 271
p. 279 p. 279 p. 280 p. 289 p. 290 p. 296 p. 301 p. 305
p. 308 p. 312 p. 316 p. 324
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Té RéU O Fàçé: 18371846
The World had Changed
Escapades out West Le Havre and its Surroundings 1839-1843 Brittany Excursion on the Seine Calvados
Studies of the Cap de la Hève Inset - A Natural History Artist
The Time of Recognition
AéDïçéŝ
Bibliography Index of Names Index of Place Names
P. 326
p. 327
p. 328 p. 328 p. 334 p. 335 p. 338
p. 340 p. 346
p. 380
. 382
p. 383 p. 388 p. 390
Table of contents
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