Horace Vernet – favorite of the French kings

Horace Vernet. Adopted child
Adopted child.

Horace Vernet is a famous French artist of the 19th century, one of the greatest representatives of the battle genre of his era. Horace Vernet also painted historical and mythological themes, portraits and landscapes. Among the numerous masterpieces of the painter’s work, there are many works that describe the exotic world of the Middle East and North Africa.

Horace Vernet was a worthy successor of the famous dynasty of French painters. A significant contribution to the development of European art was also made by his grandfather Claude and father Charles. In addition, Vernet devoted a significant part of his life to teaching young colleagues and diplomatic work in the service of the French government.

Horace Vernet Maiden's cry
Maiden’s cry.

Biography of Horace Vernet

Horace Vernet was born on June 30, 1789 in the Louvre, where his parents lived. From early childhood, the future artist was taught the basics of painting by his father, who instilled in his son not only a love for the battle genre, but also an enthusiastic attitude towards the personality of Napoleon Bonaparte. And in his youth, Horace continued his studies at the Higher School of Fine Arts in Paris under the guidance of an experienced mentor Francois-André Vincent.

While still a student, Vernet began an independent career as an artist. Even then he painted his first paintings. And for a fashionable Parisian magazine for several years he drew topical cartoons. In 1811, Horace married Louise Pujol and happily married her for the rest of his life. Both of their daughters subsequently married artists. The elder Louise became the wife of Paul Delaroche, and the younger Henrietta became the wife of Adolphe Yvon.

Horace Vernet Judah and Tamar
Judah and Tamar.

In 1812, Vernet presented his paintings for the first time at the Paris Salon, where they attracted the attention of the public and critics. Jerome Bonaparte, brother of the French emperor, especially liked the work of the young artist. And he immediately ordered his equestrian portrait from the author. Very soon, Horace acquired the fame of a fashionable painter in the capital and was able to significantly improve his financial situation.

After the restoration of the power of the Bourbons in France, the artist, to the surprise of many friends, was not persecuted. On the contrary, he acquired a powerful new patron, the Duke of Orleans, who later became King Louis Philippe. Horace Vernet began to receive generous commissions for writing paintings of the battle genre.

Angel of Death
Angel of Death.

In 1829, under the patronage of his patron, Horace Vernet was appointed director of the French Academy in Rome. Together with his family, he moved to Italy, where he lived for six years and became friends with the famous Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen.

The accession of Louis Philippe to the French throne in 1830 significantly expanded the painter’s creative possibilities. At the direction of the king, he made a number of trips to North Africa, visiting Algeria, Morocco and Egypt. The artist was entrusted with an important mission – writing a series of paintings glorifying the colonization of these lands by the French state. Vernet brilliantly coped with this task. And his works depicting military exploits and the everyday life of ordinary soldiers were received with great enthusiasm by a patriotic public.

At the barricades in the Rue Souflot, Paris, June 25, 1848
At the barricades in the Rue Souflot, Paris, June 25, 1848.

Since 1835, the master taught painting at the Higher School of Arts in Paris and brought up a whole galaxy of worthy students.

After the Revolution of 1848, Napoleon III came to power in France. He turned out to be an ardent admirer of the painter’s work. On the instructions of the new monarch, Vernet took part in the military campaign in the Crimea as a staff artist. The artist brought home a cycle of paintings describing the events he saw.

Napoleon with his staff on horseback
Napoleon with his staff on horseback.

Returning to Paris at the end of 1855, Horace Vernet suddenly decided to leave the capital and retire. He bought a large piece of land on the Côte d’Azur. He built a huge medieval castle here and spent the rest of his life in this charming corner in the south of France.

In his declining years, the brilliant painter became a very rich and respected person. For his outstanding services to the arts, 30 European academies have elected him as their honorary member. Shortly before his death, Horace Vernet returned to Paris, where he died on January 17, 1863 at the age of 73.

The last grenadier at Waterloo
The last grenadier at Waterloo.
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