Antoine-Jean Gros

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For The 19th century diplomat, see Jean-Baptiste Louis Gros.
Antoine-Jean Gros
Antoine-Jean Gros.jpg
Antoine-Jean Gros,
by L. Massard after François Gérard
Born 16 March 1771 (1771-03-16)
Paris
Died 25 June 1835 (1835-06-26) (aged 64)
near Meudon
Education College Mazarin
Known for Painting

Baron Antoine-Jean Gros (16 March 1771 – 25 June 1835), also known as Jean-Antoine Gros, was both a French history and neoclassical painter.

Early life and training[edit]

Equestrian portrait of prince Boris Yusupov, 1809

Born in Paris, Gros began to learn to draw at the age of six from his father, who was a miniature painter, and showed himself as a gifted artist. Towards the close of 1785 Gros, by his own choice, entered the studio of Jacques-Louis David, which he frequented assiduously, continuing at the same time to follow the classes of the Collège Mazarin.

The death of his father, whose circumstances had been embarrassed by the French Revolution, threw Gros, in 1791, upon his own resources. He now devoted himself wholly to his profession, and competed (unsuccessfully) in 1792 for the grand prix. About this time, however, on the recommendation of the École des Beaux Arts, he was employed on the execution of portraits of the members of the National Convention, and disturbed by the development of the Revolution, Gros left France in 1793 for Italy.

Genoa and Bonaparte[edit]

Bonaparte at the pont d'Arcole, 1801

He supported himself at Genoa by the same means, producing a great quantity of miniatures and fixes. He visited Florence, but returning to Genoa where he made the acquaintance of Joséphine de Beauharnais. He followed her to Milan, where he was well received by her husband, Napoleon Bonaparte.

On 15 November 1796, Gros was present with the army near Arcola when Bonaparte planted the French tricolor on the bridge. Gros seized on this incident, and showed by his treatment of it (entitled Bonaparte at the pont d'Arcole) that he had found his vocation. Bonaparte at once gave him the post of inspecteur aux revues, which enabled him to follow the army, and in 1797 nominated him on the commission charged to select the spoils which should enrich the Louvre.

Paris[edit]

Bataille d´Aboukir, 25 juillet 1799, 1806

In 1799, having escaped from the besieged city of Genoa, Gros made his way to Paris, and in the beginning of 1801 took up his quarters in the Capucins. His esquisse of the Battle of Nazareth (now in the Musée de Nantes) gained the prize offered in 1802 by the consuls, but was not carried out, owing it is said to the jealousy of Jean-Andoche Junot felt by Napoleon; but he indemnified Gros by commissioning him to paint his own visit to the pest-house of Jaffa. Les Pestiférés de Jaffa (Louvre) was followed by The Battle of Aboukir, 1806 (Versailles), and The Battle of Eylau, 1808 (Louvre).[1] According to the article about Gros in the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, 1911, these three subjects – the popular leader facing the pestilence unmoved, challenging the splendid instant of victory, heart-sick with the bitter cost of a hard-won field – gave Gros his chief title to fame.

Britannica further remarks that as long as the military element remained bound up with French national life, Gros received from it a fresh and energetic inspiration which carried him to the very heart of the events which he depicted; but as the army, and its general separated from the people, Gros, called on to illustrate episodes representative only of the fulfilment of personal ambition, ceased to find the nourishment necessary to his genius, and the defect of his artistic position became evident. Trained in the sect of the Classicists, he was shackled by their rules, even when by his naturalistic treatment of types, and appeal to picturesque effect in color and tone he seemed to run counter to them.

Salon[edit]

Napoleon at the Pyramids in 1798, 1810
Lieutenant Charles Legrand, c. 1810

At the Salon of 1804, Gros debuted his painting Bonaparte Visiting the Plague House at Jaffa. The painting launched his career as a successful painter. It depicts Bonaparte in Jaffa visiting soldiers infected with the bubonic plague. He is portrayed reaching out to one of the sick, unfazed by the illness. In reality, Bonaparte ordered the soldiers to be poisoned to either avoid returning or give up his soldiers to the Turks. It is even said he burned the pesthouse in order to cover up what he had done. The painting was commissioned as damage control when word spread of his actions. The painting is in the Neo-Classical style, though it shows elements such as the lighting and taste for the exotic are precursors to the upcoming Romantic ideals.

In 1810, his Madrid and Napoleon at the Pyramids (Versailles) show that his star had deserted him. His Francis I and Charles V, 1812 (Louvre), had considerable success; but the decoration of the dome of St. Genevieve (begun in 1811 and completed in 1824) is the only work of Gros's later years which shows his early force and vigour, as well as his skill. The "Departure of Louis XVIII." (Versailles), the Embarkation of Madame d'Angoulême (Bordeaux), the plafond of the Egyptian room in the Louvre, and finally his Hercules and Diomedes, exhibited in 1835, testify only that Gros's efforts – in accordance with the frequent counsels of his old master David – to stem the rising tide of Romanticism only damaged his once brilliant reputation.

Death[edit]

Again citing Britannica, "Exasperated by criticism and the consciousness of failure, Gros sought refuge in the gros[ser] pleasures of life." On 25 June 1835 he was found drowned on the shores of the Seine at Meudon, near Sèvres. From a paper which he had placed in his hat it became known that "tired of life, and betrayed by last faculties which rendered it bearable, he had resolved to end it."

Renown[edit]

Gros was decorated and named baron of the empire by Napoleon, after the Salon of 1808, at which he had exhibited the Battle of Eylau.[1]

The number of Gros's pupils was very great, and was considerably augmented when, in 1815, David quit Paris and gave over his own classes to him. Under the Restoration he became a member of the Institute, professor at the École des Beaux Arts, and was named chevalier of the Order of Saint Michael.

Gros has also been an inspiration to Eugene Delacroix, especially with his work in Lithography. The two having both worked in the same time period and both doing portraits of Napoleon. Though at one point Gros had referred to Delacroix's Chios and Missolonghi, a "a massacre of art".

G. Dargenty produced a book titled Les Artistes Celebres ("Famous Artists") Le Baron Gros GILBERT WOOD & Co. London

M. Delcluze gives a brief notice of his life in Louis David et son temps ("Louis David and his Times"), and Julius Meyer's Geschichte der modernen französischen Malerei ("History of Modern French Painting") contains what Britannica cites as an excellent criticism on his works.

Iconography[edit]

Image Title Date Dimensions Collection
Antoine-Jean Gros - Madame Pasteur.jpg Madame Pasteur 1795-1796 Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux
Portrait of Madame Bruyere 1796 79 × 65 cm Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery
1801 Antoine-Jean Gros - Bonaparte on the Bridge at Arcole.jpg Bonaparte at the Pont d'Arcole 1796 130 × 94 cm Palace of Versailles
The Death of Timophanes 1798 44.4 × 57.6 cm The Louvre
Antoine-Jean Gros 009.jpg Portrait of Christine Boyer ca. 1800 214 × 134 cm The Louvre
Antoine-Jean Gros 010.jpg The Battle of Nazareth 1801 136.1 x 196.4 cm Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes
Antoine-Jean Gros - Sappho at Leucate - WGA10704.jpg Sappho at Leucate 1801 122 × 100 cm Musée Baron Gérard, Bayeux
Gros - First Consul Bonaparte.png First Consul Bonaparte 1802 205 × 127 cm Musée de la Légion d'honneur
Antoine-Jean Gros - Bonaparte visitant les pestiférés de Jaffa.jpg Bonaparte Visiting the Plague Victims of Jaffa 1804 715 × 523 cm The Louvre
Antoine-Jean Gros - Bataille d'Aboukir, 25 juillet 1799 - Google Art Project.jpg Battle of Aboukir, July 25, 1799 1806 578 × 968 cm Palace of Versailles
Antoine-Jean Gros - Napoleon on the Battlefield of Eylau - Google Art Project.jpg Battle of Eylau, February 9, 1807 1807 104.9 × 145.1 cm The Louvre
Pierre Zimmermann.jpg Portrait of the French componist Pierre Zimmermann 1808 118.5 × 91 cm Palace of Versailles
Baron Antoine-Jean Gros-Battle Pyramids 1810.jpg Battle of the Pyramids 1810 389 × 311 cm Palace of Versailles
Antoine-Jean Gros - Capitulation de Madrid, le 4 décembre 1808.jpg Napoleon accepts the surrender of Madrid, 4 December 1808 1810 361 × 500 cm Museum of French History
Antoine-Jean Gros 003.jpg The Horse Mustapha Pasha ca. 1810 89 × 175 cm Musée des Beaux-Arts et d'Archéologie de Besançon
Frz-Gardekuerassier.png Portrait of Second Lieutenant Charles Legrand ca. 1810
Apothéose de st Geneviève 3.jpg The Apotheosis of Saint Genevieve 1811-1824 Panthéon de Paris
François I and Charles V Visiting the Church of Saint-Denis 1812 The Louvre
Murat by Gros.jpg Equestrian Portrait of Joachim Murat 1812 89 × 175 cm Musée des Beaux-Arts et d'Archéologie de Besançon
Departure of Louis XVIII from the Palace of the Tuileries on the Night of 20 March 1815 1817 405 × 525 cm Palace of Versailles
Antoine-Jean Gros 004.jpg Embarkation of Madame d'Angoulême 1819 326 × 504 cm Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux
Gros - Jean-Antoine Chaptal.png Count Jean-Antoine Chaptal 1824 Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux
Hercules and Diomedes 1835
Portrait of Pierre Daru 19th Century Palace of Versailles

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Prendergast, Christopher. (1997). Napoleon and History Painting: Antoine-Jean Gros's La Bataille d'Eylau. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-817402-0

References[edit]

External links[edit]