Albert Bartholomé
L’ Adieu à la vie ou Le Baiser (Farewell to life or The Kiss), 1903

  • Albert Bartholomé (Thiverval-Grignon, 1848 - Paris, 1928)
  • L’ Adieu à la vie ou Le Baiser (Farewell to life or The Kiss), 1903
  • Marble, 38 x 51 x 18 cm
  • Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne. Henri-Auguste Widmer bequest, 1939
  • Inv. 47
  • © Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne

After fighting in the Franco-Prussian war of 1871, Albert Bartholomé left the army and moved to Geneva to study art with Barthélémy Menn. By 1874, he was regularly returning to Paris, moving back permanently in 1877 to study painting with Jean-Léon Gérôme. There, he caught the eye of Edgar Degas, who became a close friend and confidant.

The death of Bartholomé’s first wife Prospérie de Fleury in 1887 was a source of great distress, and he lost all inspiration. To help his friend recover, Degas suggested sculpting a tomb as a memorial. Bartholomé, trained as a painter, had to start over from scratch, learning how to shape the clay, oversee the bronze casting process, and ensure the quality of the patina. He soon designed a work with a broader scope as a memorial to all the dead, devoid of religious connotation. The Monument to the dead was put up in the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris in 1899. Bartholomé saw the work, which took some ten years to complete, as a way of sharing his own profound grief with all those mourning the loss of a loved one and of analysing physical reactions to such traumatic losses. Each group and isolated figure expresses a particular emotion, from prostration and denial to despair and acceptance.

The Farewell – a girl on the cusp of adulthood, eyes closed, her left hand casting one last kiss to her loved ones and to life itself – was much admired. Several copies were produced, including this marble commissioned from the artist in 1903 by the collector Henri-Auguste Widmer. Another copy can be seen on the grave of the artist Charles Giron at the Plainpalais cemetery in Geneva.


Thérèse Burollet, Bartholomé. La redécouverte d’un grand sculpteur, Paris, Arthena, 2017, n° S. 6/19/F.

Paul-Louis Rinuy, « La collection de sculptures modernes du docteur Henri-Auguste Widmer », in Catherine Lepdor et Jörg Zutter (eds.), La collection du Dr Henri-Auguste Widmer au Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne, exh. cat. Lausanne, Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Milan, Skira, 1998, p. 67-79.