Thomas Couture

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Thomas Couture
Thomas Couture Autoritratto.jpg
Thomas Couture, self-portrait
Thomas Couture

(1815-12-21)21 December 1815
Senlis, Oise, France
Died30 March 1879(1879-03-30) (aged 63)
Villiers-le-Bel, Val-d'Oise, France
Resting placePère Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, France
EducationÉcole des Arts et Métiers
Known forPainting, Author
Notable work
Romans in the Decadence of the Empire
Photographic portrait, by Étienne Carjat, ca.1860

Thomas Couture (21 December 1815 – 30 March 1879) was a French history painter and teacher. He taught such later luminaries of the art world as Édouard Manet, Henri Fantin-Latour, John La Farge,[1] Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Karel Javůrek, and J-N Sylvestre.


Early life and education
Couture was born at Senlis, Oise, France. When he was 11 his family moved to Paris, where he would study at the industrial arts school (École des Arts et Métiers) and later at the École des Beaux-Arts.

Art and teaching career
He failed the prestigious Prix de Rome competition at the École six times, but he felt the problem was with the École, not himself. Couture finally did win the prize in 1837.

In 1840 he began exhibiting historical and genre pictures at the Paris Salon, earning several medals for his works, in particular for his masterpiece, Romans During the Decadence (1847). Shortly after this success, Couture opened an independent atelier meant to challenge the École des Beaux-Arts by turning out the best new history painters.

Couture's innovative technique gained much attention, and he received Government and Church commissions for murals during the late 1840s through the 1850s. He never completed the first two commissions, and the third met with mixed criticism. Upset by the unfavorable reception of his murals, in 1860 he left Paris, for a time returning to his hometown of Senlis, where he continued to teach young artists who came to him. In 1867 he thumbed his nose at the academic establishment by publishing a book on his own ideas and working methods called Méthode et entretiens d'atelier (Method and Workshop Interviews). It was also translated to Conversations on Art Methods in 1879, the year he died.

Asked by a publisher to write an autobiography, Couture responded: "Biography is the exaltation of personality—and personality is the scourge of our time."

In 1879 he died at Villiers-le-Bel, Val-d'Oise, and was interred in Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris.

Selected paintings[edit]


  1. ^ Wilkinson, Burke. The Life and Works of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Dover Publications, Inc., New York. p. 79.

Further reading[edit]

  • O'Neill, J., ed. (2000). "Index". Romanticism and The School of Nature: Nineteenth-century drawings and paintings from the Karen B. Cohen collection. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

External links[edit]