Alexander Roslin the consummate Swedish portrait painter of all time

Alexander Roslin, Portrait of Françoise-Marguerite de Sévigné (1646-1705), comtesse de Grignan, daughter of Madame de Sévigne 1753
Portrait of Françoise-Marguerite de Sévigné (1646-1705), comtesse de Grignan, daughter of Madame de Sévigne 1753

Alexander Roslin (July 15, 1718 July 5, 1793) the famous Swedish artist of the XVIII century, an outstanding master of the portrait genre. Alexander Roslin was a prominent representative of the Rococo style in the history of European painting, and his work was highly appreciated by his contemporaries. The best paintings of the artist today are kept in museums in Russia, France and Sweden, and his biography is full of interesting events and numerous travels.

Alexander Roslin achieved recognition early and was a very wealthy person for most of his life. He was elected a member of many European art academies, and the Swedish monarch Gustav III even granted the artist a knighthood and awarded the royal order of Vasa.

Alexander Roslin, Lovisa Ulrika som änkedrottning 1775
Lovisa Ulrika som änkedrottning 1775

Biography of Alexander Roslin

Alexander Roslin was born on July 15, 1718 in the city of Malmo in the family of a city doctor. From early childhood, the boy was fond of drawing, and his parents sent him to study with the Admiralty artist Lars Ehrenbill, who immediately saw his talent and advised him to take up painting seriously.

At the age of 16, Alexander left for Stockholm to continue his studies with the court painter of King Fredrik I, Georg Schröder. In the workshop of an experienced mentor, the young man spent the next 7 years and finally decided on his favorite genre it was then that he began to paint the first portraits.

Alexander Roslin, Countess Kataryna Zamoyska, 1753 Skokloster Castle
Countess Kataryna Zamoyska, 1753 Skokloster Castle

In 1741, Alexander Roslin moved to Gothenburg, and a year later to Skone, where he diligently engaged in portrait painting, and also painted paintings on religious themes for local churches. Soon the rumor about the young talented artist spread not only throughout southern Sweden, but also penetrated into neighboring countries, including Germany.

In 1745, Roslin received an invitation from Frederick III of Brandenburg-Bayreuth to take the position of court painter.

The ruler of a small Bavarian principality offered Alexander a good salary, so the painter quickly gave a positive answer. Over the next two years, he painted portraits of the prince and his family, after which he decided to leave for Italy to personally get acquainted with the works of ancient masters.

Alexander Roslin left Bayreuth in the summer of 1747 and went on a long journey to Florence, and on the way visited Nuremberg, Neuburg, Innsbruck, Venice, Ferrara and Bologna. He lived in each of these cities for several months, so he arrived at his final destination only in July 1748. But in Florence, the artist did not stay long, soon he went to Naples, then to Rome and Parma.

Alexander Roslin, Portrait of Grand Duchess Maria Fiodorovna (at the age of 18),
Portrait of Grand Duchess Maria Fiodorovna (at the age of 18),

Thanks to this trip, the master met many influential people in Italy and gained immense popularity in society. In addition, the artist did not forget about his main work, he painted portraits of local nobles with great inspiration and earned a substantial amount of money while traveling across the Apennine Peninsula.

Alexander Roslin traveled to Paris with a letter of introduction from the Duchess of Parma, Maria Louise Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of Louis XV. In addition, the Swedish ambassador provided significant assistance to the artist in the French capital, who personally recommended him to the king. Thanks to these influential connections, the 34-year-old painter was enthusiastically received by the local public, and a year later he became a member of the Royal Academy of Arts.

Alexander Roslin, Portrait of Gustav III of Sweden 1772
Portrait of Gustav III of Sweden 1772

Arriving in Paris, Alexander Roslin met 18-year-old artist Marie-Suzanne Giroust, young people passionately fell in love with each other. But on the way of their family happiness were the guardians of the girl, who were categorically against the marriage of a Catholic and a Protestant.

Best portrait painter

The artist had to seek the hand of his beloved for seven long years, and only thanks to the personal assistance of the Swedish ambassador, the wedding took place. This marriage turned out to be very happy for Alexander, although it lasted only 13 years. His wife, who was also a skilled artist, gave him six children (three daughters and three sons), but died in her prime in August 1772 from breast cancer.

Portrait of Hedwig Elizabeth Charlotte of Holstein-Gottorp (1759-1818) 1774
Portrait of Hedwig Elizabeth Charlotte of Holstein-Gottorp (1759-1818) 1774

In Paris, Alexander Roslin quickly gained fame as the best portrait painter of our time and until his death enjoyed great prestige among his colleagues. His regular customers were members of the French royal family and the rulers of other European countries. The works of the master constantly received high awards at the Paris salons, the king allocated him luxurious apartments in the center of the capital and appointed him a life pension.

In 1774, after the death of his beloved wife, the painter briefly left Paris, he visited his native Sweden, and then went to St. Petersburg. Catherine II was a passionate admirer of the master’s talent and persistently persuaded him to stay in Russia, but the artist responded to the queen with a polite refusal to her proposal and returned to Paris.

Portrait of Princess Natalia Petrovna Golitsyn, born Tjernysjev 1777
Portrait of Princess Natalia Petrovna Golitsyn, born Tjernysjev 1777

The last years of the master’s life coincided with the turbulent events of the Great French Revolution. The authoritative artist watched with bitterness as the country plunged into the abyss of terror, and meanwhile his health was rapidly deteriorating. On July 5, 1793, Alexander Roslin passed into eternity in his luxurious Parisian home. Unfortunately, his grave has not survived to this day.

The most famous paintings by Alexander Roslin

The brilliant Swedish painter has created many magnificent masterpieces in his life. And yet, the most famous paintings by Alexander Roslin are:

  • “Self-portrait with his wife Maria-Suzanne Giroud, painting a portrait of Henrik Wilhelm Peil” (1767) is a work that clearly reflects the wonderful atmosphere in the artist’s family. The couple clearly have warm feelings for each other and are happy to be together.
  • “The Lady under the Veil” (1768) a portrait of the beloved wife of the master imbued with tenderness. A woman dressed in the latest fashion of that era, playfully looks at the viewer, and her face is partially covered with a black veil.
  • Factory Owner John Jennings, His Brother and Daughter-in-law (1769) is a ceremonial group portrait of the family of an influential Swedish merchant and industrialist. The heroes of the picture are depicted in luxurious costumes of that era, next to a musical instrument.
  • “Portrait of Zoya Giki” (1777) is one of the few works of the artist, fully completed during his stay in Russia. The painter skillfully depicted in a folk costume the daughter of the Moldavian ruler, who died in the fight against the Ottomans.

Alexander Roslin is widely regarded as the best Swedish portrait painter of all time. Thanks to his paintings, many years later, we have an excellent opportunity to see the faces and costumes of a huge number of famous people of the 18th century.

Princess Francavilla Sun.
Princess Francavilla Sun.
Self-Portrait 1790
Self-Portrait 1790
The artist Anne Vallayer-Coster. 1783
The artist Anne Vallayer-Coster. 1783
Ulrik Scheffer (1716 – 99)
Ulrik Scheffer (1716 – 99)
Like this post? Please share to your friends: