- Monument aux morts (Aisne)
There are several hundred individual monument aux morts (war memorials) in the Aisne, in the region of Picardy, and this article describes some of them, with information on the sculptors, marbriers or foundries involved.
This region was very much "on the frontline" for the whole of the Great War. 1914 had seen the Allied armies retreating through the region before the advancing German armies and then, after the Battle of the Marne, saw the German army retreat to the Aisne and then dig in there before the so-called "race to the sea". The region was then for four years an integral part of the Western Front, the "Chemin des Dames" seeing the French army in constant action and witnessing continuous carnage.
Saint Quentin, one of the major cities of the Aisne region, suffered major damage during the Great War and the monument aux morts, designed by the Prix de Rome winning architect Paul Bigot, has splendid bas-reliefs by Henri Bouchard and Paul Landowski. These cover the wars of 1557, 1870–1871 and 1914–1918. The monument was inaugurated on 31 July 1927 by Général Débeney. On the monument 1361 names are recorded of which 1302 were soldiers.
Below we see some photographs of the remarkable bas-reliefs.
Firstly those dedicated to the 1870 and 1557 conflicts:-
These followed by the remarkable and detailed bas-relief covering aspects of St Quentin's experiences in the 1914–1918 war and some scenes in the trenches.
Saint-Quentin has a mainly Gothic Basilica and a splendid Hotel de Ville with its campanile housing a peal of 37 bells. It is also the site of the Musée Antoine-Lécuyer with its great collection of pastels by Quentin de La Tour
Henri Bouchard (1875–1960) was a Dijon born sculptor who won the Prix de Rome in 1901. He also worked with Paul Landowski on the statues for the Reformation Wall in Geneva . Amongst his best known works are the symbols of the four evangelists for the campanile of the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur in Paris and the Apollo group for the terrace of the Palais de Chaillot. His work can be seen throughout France and it was Bouchard who was honoured with the commission for the sculptural work for the grave of Albert Bartholomé in the Pére Lachaise cemetery.
German military cemetery near Saint-Quentin
There is a German military cemetery near Saint-Quentin which holds the graves of 8,229 soldiers and there is a monument in that cemetery erected in memory of the soldiers from both sides- "morts pour leur patrie". Wilhelm Wandschneider, who was an sculptor, created an imitation Greek temple with four Doric columns. On the rear wall is a sculpture with the inscription "Requiescant in pace mortui hic pro patria 1914–1918". On two pedestal are bronze statues representing two warriors these by Wandschneider (sculptor) and "Geg Lauchhammer" (foundry) and dated 1915. This monument is something of a rarity.
At the commune of Essigny-le-Petit is an Établissements H.Jacomet edition by the sculptor Étienne Camus. In bronzed cast iron it is called Poilu baïonnette au canon" and is a well-known piece in France as is Jacomet's Poilu au repos another work by Camus. Essigny-le-Petit can be reached by the D67 which runs north east from Saint-Quentin. Works marketed by Jacomet were mentioned in the articles on both the Somme and Oise regions.
Tergnier lies south from Saint-Quentin and can be reached by the D1 road and in this commune is a monument aux morts called Victory marketed by Marbreries Générales Gourdon. This monument was inaugurated on 26 April 1925
At Chauny we can see another example of the work of Émile Pinchon . We have covered Pinchon's work in the sections on the Somme and Oise and there is a powerful example of his work in this commune‘s monument aux morts which dates from 1930 with inauguration taking place on 6 July 1930. Chauny lies south west of Tergnier off the D1032 and near the St Quentin canal. A maquette of this work is kept at the Historial de la Grande Guerre at Péronne.
In the commune of Fargniers east of Tergnier, the monument aux morts features a work by Paul Landowski whose work we encountered at Ault in the Somme. This monument was inaugurated on 11 November 1926. Fargniers suffered much destruction in the Great War and like many other communes was awarded the croix de guerre in recognition of her sufferings. Interesting to note that the post-war rebuilding was partly helped by a donation from the Carnegie Fund in the United States of America.
In this commune we have a chance to see another work by Marius-Léon Cladel whose work we encountered at Appilly in the Oise département.
As one would expect there are works from Rombaud-Roland in the Aisne region and one such is at Saint-Gobain which lies south-east from Tergnier. Here we have a bronze of the work Histoire écrivant; this inaugurated on 29 July 1923. This work was made available in bronze, cast iron and marble and can be seen throughout France; indeed we saw this at Soyécourt in the Oise.
At Danizy, just by La Fère, we have sculptural work by N.Staquet on the monument aux morts which was inaugurated on 15 August 1923. The same work can be seen in the Aisne département at Brissay-Choigny, Croix-Fonsomme, and Nouvion-et-Catillon.
At Achery, also near to La Fère, we have a monument aux morts which features work by N. Staquet who lived in Tergnier. The inauguration took place on 29 July 1923. The same statue, that featuring a poilu, can be seen at Versigny, this monument aux morts being inaugurated on 12 July 1925.
Just a few kilometres west of Saint-Quentin and reached by the D1029, is the village of Holnon and the monument aux morts here features a work in bronze by the sculptor Grégoire Calvet (1871–1928). The monument was inaugurated on 30 May 1926.
It was Calvet who was partly credited with the idea of the eternal flame at the tomb of the unknown soldier under the Arc de Triomphe. Calvet also worked on the statue of Colonel Driant at Beaumont-en-Verdunois and the monument aux morts at Port-Sainte-Marie. He worked with the foundry Andro.
The D1029 takes one to Vermand and south from Vermand is the village of Foreste and the monument aux morts here features sculptural work by Raoul Josset (1892–1958). Josset had worked as an interpreter for the US troops during the Great War. He was a distinguished sculptor who had studied under Antoine Bourdelle between 1920 and 1926. He was awarded the Rome prize in 1923 and the Prix de Paris in 1924, 1925 and 1926. Josset did some work on the church in Roupy in the Aisne (The Bell Tower and carving of Christ on the cross). He was also responsible for the sculptural work on the monument aux morts at Châtillon-sur-Seine. In the late 1920s he moved to the United States of America to work for the Terra Cotta Company in Chicago and then moved to Dallas where he completed many public works there and in other parts of Texas. It was Josset who did the sculpture for this fine monument aux morts at Foreste which was inaugurated on 26 April 1925. Josset also who worked on the monument aux morts at Jussy in 1924 and also that at Saint-Germain d’Anxure in Mayenne, again in 1924.
The D1029 east from Saint-Quentin takes one to Guise where the monument aux morts features a work by André Joseph Allar (1845–1926). A woman, meant to represent Guise, comforts a child. Allar was born in Toulon and won the Prix de Rome in 1869. He became a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 1905. Amongst his works are "Hécube découvrant le cadavre de Polydore" in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Marseille, the "Monument de la Fédération" on the place de la République in Toulon, Sainte Madeleine on the facade of the Cathédral de la Major in Marseille, the Monument du Centenaire in Nice and several other works in Toulon and Marseille.
Also in Guise is the monument aux morts du Familistère de Guise and the monument to the 5th French Army, both by Joel and Jan Martel (1896–1966). These brothers were well known as avant garde and cubist sculptors. Amongst their well-known public works we should include the monument to Claude Debussy in Paris and the monument aux morts at Olonne-sur-Mer. The brothers were also the sculptors of the Général Leclerc statue in the Place René-Goblet in Amiens.
Some photographs of the Martel works in Guise are shown below:-
north of Guise are Wassigny and Ménnevret and both involve work by Jules Delvienne, the marbrier.
At Laon, the capital of the Aisne region, the monument aux morts involves a work by Marcel Gaumont (1880–1962). Gaumont was involved in many monument aux morts. One such is that at Tours and in that city he also worked on the monument aux Enfants de Tours morts pendant la Guerre. The monument aux morts at Laon dates from 1926.
At Bucy-lès-Pierrepont the monument aux morts involves one of the works of Société anonyme des fonderies et ateliers de construction du Val d’Osne, the foundry whose work we have encountered in the Somme and Oise regions. This involves a casting of a work by the sculptor Charles-Henri Pourquet. The monument was inaugurated on 23 July 1922. The work was given the title Poilu No.853 in Val d’Osne's catalogue and can be seen throughout France.
At Vervins, and in the place du Palais, is a monument aux morts in the form of an obelisk and a sculpture of a young woman paying homage to the bust of a helmeted poilu. The poilu has a croix de guerre pinned to his chest and the young woman holds a laurel leaf, both the war medal and a laurel leaf are in bronze. The sculptural work was by Joseph Shany Gauthier and dates from 1922.
At Soissons, another of the major cities of the Aisne, the monument aux morts has a statue by Albert Bartholomé and a series of bas-reliefs by Raoul Lamourdedieu (1877–1953). Lamourdedieu was a sculptor and medallist. He studied at the art school in Bordeaux and then at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris.
Lamourdedieu's bas-reliefs, which feature parts of Soisson's rich and turbulent history, are of the highest standard and three photographs are shown below:-
In Soisssons we have another opportunity to see work by Jan and Joël Martel on the monument erected in 1925 to commemorate the activities of the "coopératives dans la reconstruction des régions sinistrées après la première guerre mondiale" and the rôle played by Guy de Lubersac the président of the confédération générale des coopératives, the fédération départementale des unions de coopératives de reconstruction de l' Aisne and of the union soissonnaise des coopératives de reconstitution.
Whilst in Soissons it is worth looking at Eric Kennington's "Monument to the Missing" which stands near to the Soissons monument aux morts.
The monument aux morts at Braine features a bronze allegory of France by the sculptor Charles Breton. This was inaugurated on 10 December 1922. The bronze was produced by the foundry Leblanc-Barbedier et Fils. Breton had worked on the monument aux morts of Saint-Mandé and Fontenay-sous-Bois in Val-de-Marne and that at Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole in Lozère. Braine can be reached by the N31 running east from Soissons.
At the commune of Pontavert, which can be reached by taking the D925 east from Soissons, we have a monument aux morts with a relief by Norbert Gaillard (1884–1951). The monument dates from 1926 and was inaugurated on 3 October 1926. The relief features a helmeted victor in profile whose right hand shows a winged figure holding in the left hand a crown of laurels. A gallic cock to the rear is accompanied by the word "PAX". Gaillard was the sculptor involved with the Jouy-lès-Reims and Fresne-lès-Reims monument aux morts both near Reims.
At the commune of Acy, south of Soissons, the monument aux morts features one of the works of Henri Charlier (1883–1975) entitled L’Ange de l’Apocalypse, which was completed in 1924. Also in Acy, and on the plateau d’Acy is the Pleureuse d’Acy remembering the dead of the 1939–1945 war.
Charlier had started out as a painter before concentrating on sculpture and had seen service in the army during the Great War. He was exempt from normal service for health reasons but served as a medical orderly. He lived with wife and brother Andre at Cheny where they converted a barn on the family farm into a sculptor's studio and there completed work on some of the greatest of monument aux morts and ecclesiastical sculptures. It was from Cheny that Charlier completed his great "Joan of Arc" for Villers-devant-Mouzon in the Meuse region, here Joan being shown as a shepherdess and his Weeping Woman for the war memorial at Onesse-et-Laharie in Landes. Charlier was to become one of France's greatest sculptors working mostly on works of a religious nature and his output was immense especially when one takes into account the fact that his last work was executed at the age of 89. After several years working at Cheny, Charlier moved to Mesnil-Saint-Loup where he worked for many years. One of Charlier's most beautiful works is the cross for the grave of Charles Peguy at Villeroy. Peguy was a poet, killed in the Battle of the Marne and a close friend of Charlier. For the Peguy grave, Charlier has carved the figure of Hope into a cross, this in place of Christ, this figure looking at the martyr's rose of which Peguy wrote in his Mystere des Saints Innocents. Charlier also worked on the monument aux morts at Commensacq, in the Landes region. He also carved a Flagellation du Christ for Chaource. As we have already noted, Charlier was famous for his ecclesiastical work, in both stone and wood, and these can be seen in churches throughout France, Canada and other parts of the world.
At Villers-Cotterêts the monument aux morts has sculptural work by Louis Dejean (1872–1954) and Henry Arnold. Louis Dejean was a sculptor and engraver noted for his work on medallions. The monument features a standing woman who is an allegory for the forest of Retz and on each side of her are seated soldiers. It was inaugurated on 22 July 1923. Two of Dejean's best known works are the Muse allongeé in the Museé d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, and "La Parisienne" in the Museé d’Orsay. On the side of the D811 between Villers-Cotterêts and Puiseaux-en-Retz is a spot called "au rond de la Reine" and the monument there has the words "Passant Arrete-Toi" (literally "Passersby stop!") carved on it and above a relief by Francois- Léon Sicard (1862–1934). It was inaugurated in September 1922 and honours the officers and men of the Grenadier Guards, Coldstream Guards and Irish Guards who fell in this area on 1 September 1914. The memorial was placed here by the mother of one of those remembered, George Edward Cecil, who died when only 18 years of age!
The monument aux morts in this major town is most unusual. It features a dead soldier laying flat on the ground and is a work by the sculptor Achille Jacopin.
At the village of Chavignon we have a monument aux morts which involves work by Henri Albert Lagriffoul (1907–1981). This monument was inaugurated on 1 October 1933. There are two bas-reliefs on the monument. One shows a soldier carrying a sword and the other a woman carrying her child and a sheaf of corn.
Henri Lagriffoul (1907–1981) was born in Paris and entered the Ecole des Beaux Arts where he was a pupil of Paul Landowski. He received the Premier Grand Prix de Rome in 1932. Amongst Lagriffoul's works are the "Monument aux Déportés politiques" at Auxerre and three bas-reliefs for the Faculté de médecine de Paris on the theme of Egyptian medicine. .He was also the author of the bronze bas-relief Déportation for the "Mémorial de la France combattante" at Mont Valerien. .He also worked on medallions and coins and it was his Marianne which featured on France's 5,10 and 20 centime pieces before the introduction of the Euro.
The monument aux mort at Faverolles features work by the sculptor Emmanuel Centore. Faverolles lies south east from Villers-Cotterêts. Centore created the three bronze medallions. The monument remembers the dead of the 128e division and was inaugurated in 1927. This monument is known as the "Monument des Loups".
The monument aux morts in Mézières-sur-Oise features a work by Durenne. This is in bronzed cast iron and was inaugurated on 10 June 1923. The authorship of the relief is not known and the same relief can be seen at Becquigny. In the parish church in Mézières-sur-Oise there is a monument aux morts by Charles Desvergnes (1860–1928) called Ange de la reconnaissance couronnant un soldat.
- Patrimoine de France - Source of information on monument aux morts (French)
- FranceGenWeb - Source of information on monument aux morts (French)
- Henri Bouchard - Information on Henri Bouchard
- Henri Charlier  –Information on Henri Charlier
- Henri Charlier - another source of information on Henri Charlier
- Monument aux morts at Chateau-Thierry - Article containing image of the Chateau-Thierry monument aux morts.
- Guise-National Archives’ article on monument to 5th French Army at Guise.
- Sites of Memory (Historical markers, memorials, monuments, and cemeteries worldwide)
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