He left his native Lyon for Paris at the age of twenty and found employment in the large atelier of Charles Le Brun, the equivalent of an academy. He made his reputation by his portraits in pastels, to which he gave a sparkle and immediacy hitherto unreached in that medium.
He was received in the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture in 1701, under the designation peintre en pastel. He was appointed counsellor to the Academy and provided lodging under royal auspices at the royal manufactory of the Gobelins.
From Paris he visited Brussels. Vivien was taken up by the francophil Elector of Cologne and worked at Munich, as first painter to the Elector's brother, Maximilian Emmanuel, Elector of Bavaria. At the time of his death at Bonn, he was engaged on a vast canvas combining portraits of the whole family of the Elector, in oils.
Selected illustrations of Vivien's portraits
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- Grove Dictionary of Art. Grove. 1996. p. 659.
- His morceaux de reception, pastel portraits of the sculptor François Girardon and the architect Robert de Cotte, are in the Louvre Museum.
- Matthew Pilkington and Johann Heinrich Füssli, A Dictionary of Painters
- H. Borsch-Supan, "Joseph Vivien als Hofmaler der Wittelsbacher", Münchner Jahrbuch der bildenden Kunst 14 (1963).
- Benezit Dictionary of Artists. Paris: Éditions Gründ. 2006. p. 411.
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