He passed them along to Bostock, who gushed over the drawings and decided not to make them into postcards, but rather into posters.Leaving the lace industry, Gustave Soury dove head first into the world of menageries and circuses, working in turn as a cashier for tamer Mac Donald, administrator of Professor Maladolli’s Caucasian Circus and as assistant to Henry Thétard, educational walking tour guide at the Vincennes Zoo.Gustave Soury made a first donation to the museum (then the National Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions) of preparatory sketches for menagerie posters.
Gérôme would observe those big cats at Pezon Menagerie, where Gustave Soury would follow in his footsteps a few years later, sketchpads and pencils in hand.
More than all the rest of his oeuvre, Gustave Soury’s notebooks filled with sketches and very preliminary drawings reveal the artist’s true talent.
In particular, there are images of panthers and tigers for which he had only just begun to draw the complex patterns of the big cats’ pelts.
And so he shows us, unexpected spectators that we are (since his sketchbooks were not intended for exhibition) strange creatures with incomplete coats of fur.
Likewise, he constructed some of his work according to the principle of axial symmetry, using tracing paper that allowed him to produce a frontal figure that was exactly symmetrically and perfectly proportioned.
These animal heads, more perfect than nature itself, are of enhanced formal excellence, but depart from the naturalism of his sketches which are undoubtedly more personal and more moving.
To stage those fascinating creatures and make the public want to see and meet them, circus and menagerie managers called on the services of artists the likes of Gustave Soury.
More broadly, any firm that wanted to communicate through the image of an animal – however wild – could commission a piece from Gustave Soury.
Advertising Gustave Soury’s personal archives bequeathed to the museum include various communication media for which circuses and menageries commissioned his talent as an animal sketch artist, graphic artist and poster artist.