Life and work
Pierre-Paul Prud'hon was born in Cluny, Saône-et-Loire. He received his artistic training in the French provinces and went to Italy when he was twenty-six years old to continue his education. On his return to Paris, he decorated some private mansions and his work for wealthy Parisians led him to be held in high esteem at Napoleon's court.
His painting of Josephine portrays her, not as an Empress but as a lovely attractive woman which led some to think that he might have been in love with her. After the divorce of Napoleon and Josephine, he was also employed by Napoleon' s second wife Marie-Louise.
Prud'hon was at times clearly influenced by Neo-classicism, at other times by Romanticism. Appreciated by other artists and writers like Stendhal, Delacroix, Millet and Baudelaire for his chiaroscuro and convincing realism, he is probably most famous for his Crucifixion (1822), which he painted for St. Etienne's Cathedral in Metz. Crucifixion now hangs in the Louvre.
The young Théodore Géricault had painted copies of work by Prud'hon, whose "thunderously tragic pictures" include his masterpiece, Justice and Divine Vengeance Pursuing Crime, where oppressive darkness and the compositional base of a naked, sprawled corpse obviously anticipate Géricault's painting The Raft of the Medusa.
Portrait of Louis de Saint-Just, 1793
Study for The Dream of Happiness (with Constance Mayer) (1819)
Nicolas Perchet, 1795, Princeton University Art Museum
Notes and references
- O'Neill, J, ed. (2000). Romanticism & the school of nature : nineteenth-century drawings and paintings from the Karen B. Cohen collection. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
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- Europe in the age of enlightenment and revolution, a catalog from The Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries (fully available online as PDF), which contains material on Prud'hon (see index)
- Crucifixion at Web Gallery of Art
- Pierre-Paul Prud’hon: Napoleon’s Draughtsman at Dulwich Picture Gallery, London
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