The Collection

The Charles Alexandre Lesueur Collection (circa 1800-1846) contains 25 sketches by artist and naturalist Lesueur. Many of the sketches document life in New Harmony, Indiana. Some of the works date prior to 1826, when Lesueur resided in France. The collection also includes 17 sketches attributed to Virginia Dupalais, Lesueur's niece and pupil who lived with him in New Harmony, or Lucy Sistare [Say], a fellow artist teaching at New Harmony.


Charles Alexandre Lesueur was born in 1778, in Le Havre, France. At age 23, after studying draughtsmanship and applied graphic techniques, Lesueur was hired to pictorially document various specimens and species during an expedition to Australia and Tasmania. Throughout the four-year expedition, Lesueur made 1,500 drawings.

In 1815, Lesueur joined geologist William Maclure on a study tour of the United States. After traveling together, Maclure persuaded Lesueur to join him in Philadelphia. Lesueur was one of the founders of the Academy of Natural Sciences at Philadelphia. In 1825, Maclure and Robert Owen convinced Lesueur to join them at New Harmony, their newly founded commune in Indiana. Lesueur remained there until 1837, teaching and lecturing on art, sketching for scientific purposes, and participating in archaeological explorations.

During that time, Lesueur became the most eminent artist in the state of Indiana. His sketches and drawings along the Ohio River and at New Harmony document daily life of the 1820s and 1830s in the region. Lesueur is also recognized as one of the pioneers of lithography in the United States.

In 1837, following the demise of the New Harmony commune, Lesueur returned to France. The majority of his artwork still remains part of the Le Havre Museum's collection. Lesueur died in France on December 12, 1846. He is buried at Le Havre.

Sources: Peat, Wilbur D. Pioneer Painters of Indiana. Indianapolis, IN: Art Association of Indianapolis, 1954. Elliott, Josephine Mirabella and Jane Thompson Johansen. Charles-Alexandre Lesueur: Premier Naturalist and Artist, c. 1999.