Louis-Léopold Boilly (French: [bwɑji]; 5 July 1761 – 4 January 1845) was a French painter and draftsman. A gifted creator of popular portrait paintings, he also produced a vast number of genre paintings vividly documenting French middle-class social life. His life and work spanned the eras of monarchical France, the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Empire, the Bourbon Restoration and the July Monarchy.
Life and career
Boilly was born in La Bassée in northern France, the son of a local wood sculptor. A self-taught painter, Boilly began his career at a very young age, producing his first works at the age of twelve or thirteen. In 1774 he began to show his work to the Austin friars of Douai who were evidently impressed: within three years, the bishop of Arras invited the young man to work and study in his bishopric. While there, he produced a cascade of paintings – some three hundred small works of portraiture. He received instruction in trompe l'oeil painting from Dominique Doncre (1743–1820) before moving to Paris around 1787.
At the height of the revolutionary Terror in 1794, Boilly was condemned by the Committee of Public Safety for the erotic undertones of his work. This offence was remedied by Boilly's eleventh-hour production of the more patriotic Triumph of Marat (now in the Musée des Beaux Arts, Lille) which saved him from serious penalties.
Boilly was a popular and celebrated painter of his time. He was among the first artists to produce lithographs, and became wealthy from the sale of his prints and paintings. He was awarded a medal by the Parisian Salon in 1804 for his work The Arrival of a Mail-coach in the Courtyard of the Messageries. In 1833 he was decorated as a chevalier of the nation's highest order, the Légion d'honneur.
Style and works
Boilly's early works showed a preference for amorous and moralising subjects. The Suitor's Gift is comparable to much of his work in the 1790s. His small-scale paintings with carefully mannered colouring and precise detailing recalled the work of seventeenth-century Dutch genre painters such as Gabriël Metsu (1629–1667), Willem van Mieris and Gerard ter Borch (1617–1681), of whose work Boilly owned an important collection.
After 1794, Boilly began to produce far more crowded compositions that serve as social chronicles of the urban middle class. In these works, his observation of contemporary customs is slightly sentimental and often humorous.
Boilly was also well respected for his portraiture. By the end of his lifetime he had painted about 5,000 portraits, most of which were painted on canvases measuring 22 cm x 17 cm (8 5/8 in. x 6 5/8 in.). He worked quickly, and boasted of requiring only two hours to complete a portrait. He painted both middle class sitters and prominent contemporaries such as Robespierre. Boilly's portraits strongly characterize the sitters as individuals, and are usually painted in a sober range of colors.
His trompe l'oeil works include numerous paintings in grisaille that mimic prints. His interest in caricature is most apparent in his suite of 94 lithographs titled Recueil de grimaces, published between 1823 and 1828.
Boilly remains a highly regarded master of oil painting. A major exhibition of his work, The Art of Louis-Léopold Boilly: Modern Life in Napoleonic France, travelled to the United States where it was shown at both the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth and the National Gallery of Art in Washington (1995). The Musée des Beaux Arts in Lille held a large-scale exhibition of Boilly's work during the winter season of 2011–2012.
The Suitor's Gift, c.1790, Royal Scottish Academy
Portrait of Jan Anthony d'Averhoult, 1792, Centraal Museum
Portrait of a Woman, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Houdon, c. 1803
Portrait of Charles-Louis Havas
- Léonce Bénédite (1910). Great painters of the XIXth century and their paintings. London: Sir I. Pitman and sons. pp. 51–52. OCLC 4537324. Retrieved 2 August 2011.
- Rose Georgina Kingsley (1899). A history of French art, 1100–1899. London: Longmans, Green. p. 378. OCLC 3677192. Retrieved 2 August 2011.
- "The J. Paul Getty Museum: Louis-Léopold Boilly". J. Paul Getty Trust. 2011. Retrieved 2 August 2011.
- Armelle Baron; Pierre Baron (1986). L'art dentaire à travers la peinture (in French). Paris: ACR. p. 231. ISBN 978-2-86770-016-3. Retrieved 2 August 2011.
Il a été élève du peintre de trompe-lœil Dominique Doncre.
- Chaudonneret, M.arie-Claude (2003, January 01). "Boilly, Louis-Léopold". Grove Art Online.
- Kenneth Myers; Hudson River Museum (1987). The Catskills: painters, writers, and tourists in the mountains, 1820–1895. Hudson River Museum. p. 103. ISBN 978-0-943651-05-7. Retrieved 2 August 2011.
- Taws, Richard (9 May 2019). "At the National Gallery". London Review of Books 40 (9): 26–27.
- Etienne Bréton, Pascal Zuber (2011). "Catalogue Raisonné de Louis Léopold Boilly" (in French). Archived from the original on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 2 August 2011.
- "Exposition Boilly". Pba-lille.fr. Palais des Beaux Arts de Lille. 2012. Retrieved 8 March 2012.
- The Art of Louis-Léopold Boilly: Modern Life in Napoleonic France by Susan L. Siegfried (Yale University Press, 1995)
- Romanticism & the school of nature : nineteenth-century drawings and paintings from the Karen B. Cohen collection by Colta Feller Ives (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000)
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