Passion For Art

>>>>>Jean-Baptiste Greuze

Jean-Baptiste Greuze (21 August 1725 – 4 March 1805) was a French painter.
He was born at Tournus, Burgundy. He is generally said to have formed his own talent; this is, however, true only in the most limited sense, for at an early age his inclinations, though thwarted by his father, were encouraged by a Lyonnese artist named Grandon, or Grondom, who enjoyed during his lifetime considerable reputation as a portrait-painter. Grandon not only persuaded the father of Greuze to give way to his son’s wishes, and permit the lad to accompany him as his pupil to Lyon, but, when at a later date he-himself left Lyon for Paris — where his son-in-law Grétry the celebrated composer enjoyed the height of favour — Grandon carried young Greuze with him.
Settled in Paris, Greuze worked from the living model in the school of the Royal Academy, but did not attract the attention of his teachers; and when he produced his first picture, “Le Père de famille expliquant la Bible a ses enfants,” considerable doubt was felt and shown as to his share in its production. By other and more remarkable works of the same class Greuze soon established his claims beyond contest, and won for himself the notice and support of the well-known connoisseur La Live de Jully, the brother-in-law of Madame d’Epinay. In 1755 Greuze exhibited his “Aveugle trompé,” upon which, presented by Pigalle the sculptor, he was immediately agréé by the Academy.

Towards the close of the same year he left France for Italy, in company with the Abbé Louis Gougenot, who had deserted from the magistrature — although he had obtained the post of conseiller au Châtelet in order to take the petit collet. Gougenot had some acquaintance with the arts, and was highly valued by the Academicians, who, during his journey with Greuze, elected him an honorary member of their body on account of his studies in mythology and allegory; his acquirements in these respects are said to have been largely utilized by them, but to Greuze they were of doubtful advantage, and he lost rather than gained by this visit to Italy in Gougenot’s company. He had undertaken it probably in order to silence those who taxed him with ignorance of great models of style, but the Italian subjects which formed the entirety of his contributions to the Salon of 1757 showed that he had been put on a false track, and he speedily returned to the source of his first inspiration.

In 1759, 1761 (“L’accordée de village”, Louvre), and 1763 Greuze exhibited with ever-increasing success; in 1765 he reached the zenith of his powers and reputation. In that year he was represented with no less than thirteen works, amongst which may be cited “La Jeune Fille qui pleure son oiseau mort”, “La Bonne Mère”, “Le Mauvais fils puni” (Louvre) and “La Malediction paternelle” (Louvre). The Academy took occasion to press Greuze for his diploma picture, the execution of which had been long delayed, and forbade him to exhibit on their walls until he had complied with their regulations. “J’ai vu la lettre,” says Diderot, “qui est un modèle d’honnêteté et d’estime; j’ai vu la réponse de Greuze, qui est un modèle de vanité et d’impertinence: il fallait appuyer cela d’un chef-d’œuvre, et c’est ce que Greuze n’a pas fait.” (I have read the letter, which is a model of honesty and reverence; I have seen Greuze’s response, which is a model of vanity and impertinence: he should have backed it up with a masterpiece, and that’s precisely what he didn’t do.)

Greuze wished to be received as a historical painter, and produced a work which he intended to vindicate his right to despise his qualifications as a peintre de genre. This unfortunate canvas “Sévère et Caracalla” (Louvre) was exhibited in 1769 side by side with Greuze’s portrait of “Jeaurat” (Louvre) and his admirable “Petite Fille au chien noir”. The Academicians received their new member with all due honours, but at the close of the ceremonies the Director addressed Greuze in these words “Monsieur, l’Académie vous a reçu, mais c’est comme peintre de genre; elle a eu égard à vos anciennes productions, qui sont excellentes, et elle a fermé les yeux sur celle-ci, qui n’est digne ni d’elle ni de vous.” (Sir, the Academy has accepted you, but only as peintre de genre; the Academy has respect for your former productions, which are excellent, but she has shut her eyes to this one, which is unworthy, both of her and of you yourself.) Greuze, greatly incensed, quarrelled with his confreres, and ceased to exhibit until, in 1804, the Revolution had thrown open the doors of the Academy to all the world.

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