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The bear "Les Saumons n ° 1" leaves the lair of its creator

Updated: Aug 25, 2023

What wildlife photographer has never dreamed of capturing Mother Nature's spectacle of a bear catching a salmon in mid-flight ?!

Here it may not be a bear in the flesh that we have before our eyes. But indeed a bronze with real patience, waiting for this famous salmon ...

Throughout the month of July, the bear roams the banks of rivers to delight in this precious fish with delicious flesh. It is precisely this important moment that the animal sculptor Michel BASSOMPIERRE transcribed with his bronze work entitled

"The Salmon n ° 1".

Moreover, the latter will be integrated into the "Ballade des ours" walk in the town of Andenne.

It is therefore a bear weighing 500 kg, measuring 2 m that will make a long journey to Belgium.

Several key moments are necessary for a clay sculpture of a few centimeters to become a bronze of 2 meters.

Michel BASSOMPIERRE never creates from photographs at the risk of making "the sculpture soft", he stores in his head long hours of observations in the field or in videos to identify the attitude of a brown bear on the lookout. of a salmon.

An essential moment to munch on the animal while being transparent so as not to be odd in terms of musculature and articulation, which will help bring the sculpture to life.

Once the sketch is finished, Michel Bassompierre comes to model the chamotte clay, without dwelling on the smooth rendering of the sculpture, which will be easier on the plaster print, which will be obtained after having molded the sketch in earth.

The plaster sculpture, a few tens of centimeters high, will serve as a model for the monumental sculpture.

More details on the different stages of the process of creating a sculpture.

In 2012, there were not all the technologies that we can have today (here the new techniques he uses)

Michel Bassompierre therefore had to carry out the enlargement of the bear on his own. He sculpts directly in the polyurethane foam, knowing that a block measures only 80 cm for a bear that is more than a meter, it will be necessary to glue several pieces between them. So it's equipped with a saw, which he manipulates with determination and hours of "work" as he turns a block of foam into an animal!

"What a great satisfaction to give birth to a monumental 2m sculpture from a 50cm plaster! But from now on I subcontract this part… You have to know how to live with the times! "

Then he covers it with plaster to make it more solid and - like his model - refine the details and give it a smooth appearance using several hours of sandpaper sanding.

At this stage, the 50 cm sculpture reaches 2m, in just 2 months.

Head to the side, posture serene, "Salmon No. 1" is waiting to be transformed into bronze.

There are then several stages that will follow one another to go from a plaster and polyurethane foam sculpture to a bronze sculpture.

The foundry uses the lost wax process.

This colossal task falls to the founder Underwood. First melted in London, it will be assembled in Jublains in Mayenne.

The welding was the most perilous moment. As the bear is in 10 parts, you shouldn't go wrong with a millimeter or the sculpture would be distorted.

After 5 months of being pampered by all these little hands, the monumental bronze sculpture leaves the foundry, for a stealthy passage into the lair of its creator, the time to say goodbye and here it is on its first destination. : Courchevel.

It's only a good bye…

From December 2012 to today, this bear will have experienced many adventures by chaining several destinations ... Dinard, Courchevel, Paris to end his journey in Andenne.

It was only after 8 years that Michel Bassompierre decided to let it take off and go to new horizons ... Belgium.

"I have the impression that one of my babies is leaving the nest ... But that's in the order of things! "

Watch the different stages in video.

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