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Jean-Baptiste Greuze

1725 - 1805

Place Born

Tournus

Place Died

Paris

Bio

The decline in Greuze’s reputation during the the second and third quarters of this century – after having been one of the most popular painters with nineteenth and early twentieth century collectors of French eighteenth century art – was a reaction against what was perceived as an obsessively sentimental approach to painting. Happily, this was arrested by the monographic exhibition held at Hartford in 1976, by an excellent biography by Anita Brookner and his inclusion in several of the recent major shows of French art. Far more wide ranging in talent than his popular images of pretty girls inappropriately disguised as ‘chastity’ or ‘innocence’ lead one to expect, Greuze was the master of a new interpretation of genre subjects (praised by Diderot as the equal of history painting), and a superb portraitist. Furthermore, despite not having had the lengthy academic training of so many of his peers, he was a superb draughtsman and, as well as a handful of full composition drawings, he produced some splendid figures and bold character studies in red chalk which are much sought after today.

His modest birth and training with a minor Lyon painter ill-prepared him for the sudden fame he would achieve at the Salon of 1755. The next two years, which he spent in Italy, proved invaluable however, and the decade following his return was the most productive of his career. His large scale genre paintings, which mimic the themes of Dutch painting of a century earlier, are nonetheless highly original in their approach, most notably for their moral conviction. Greuze’s ambition to be accepted as a painter of elevated history subjects, possibly fueled by the adulation he had enjoyed with his early genre subjects, almost derailed his career. The judgment of his peers was probably right, however, and we may be grateful he returned to the subjects to which his talents were best suited. As his style matured, his touch softened and we see a gradual blurring of forms that becomes particularly apparent in his late portraits of the revolutionary and directoire periods. Despite changing taste, which made his earlier paintings increasingly unfashionable, he remained a leading figure in the art establishment, being invited to become a member of the revolutionary Salon juries, and widely mourned upon his death.

Art Works Sold

Figure de jeune homme

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Historical Period: 1720-1780 Rococo
Figure de jeune homme
Portrait of Jean Tupinier, 1797

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Historical Period: 1720-1780 Rococo
Portrait of Jean Tupinier, 1797
Portrait of Madame Courcelles

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Historical Period: 1720-1780 Rococo
Portrait of Madame Courcelles