Francois-Rupert Carabin (French, 1862-1932)


Carabin was born in Saverne to Alsacian parents. His family refused to accept German citizenship and was thus displaced by the Franco-Prussian war, moving to Paris when he was just eight years old. At sixteen, he apprenticed with an engraver and went on to take on his first job as an ornamental sculptor for a furniture manufacturer in a suburb of Saint-Antoine.

Perhaps the most brilliant sculptor in wood of the Art Nouveau era, was also an accomplished photographer, medal-maker, and designer of ceramics.  Carabin, shown here in an 1892 portrait by Charles Maurin, is best known for incorporating female nudes into his decorative art designs. The figures are overtly erotic and depicted as slaves to either the object or its user. Carabin is especially revered for chairs and tables that incorporate nude female figures as supporting elements. His choice to turn women into structural elements can be read as a heavy-handed reference to the Caryatids of the ancient Mediterranean, but comes from an attidude typical of his era. He was also an accomplished photographer and medal-maker. His superb work led to his appointment as the director of the Graduate School of Decorative Arts in Strasbourg, France.

Between 1889 and 1919, he sculpted a great variety of furnishings made from pear, oak, and walnut. From his post in Strasbourg, he was regularly invited to the Vienna Secession and participated often in the Salon des Independents throught he 1880s. His work is often described as tending towards the Decadent style. He completed many monuments to the First World War, a notable example of which stood in Strasbourg and was destroyed during the Second World War.

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