Nicolas de Largilliere is a French artist who became a member of the Guild of Saint Luke at the age of 17
Nicolas de Largilliere (October 10, 1656 – March 20, 1746) – the famous French artist of the late XVII – early XVIII centuries, one of the brightest masters of the portrait genre of his era. He also painted historical themes, landscapes and still lifes, but these works are practically unknown to the modern audience.
Nicolas de Largilliere was an extremely prolific painter and lived a very long life. During his career, he created more than 4,500 paintings and had a huge impact on the development of European fine art in subsequent eras.
Nicolas de Largilliere was born on October 10, 1656 in Paris into the family of a wealthy merchant. His father, who dreamed that his son would continue his business, sent the boy to London to learn the basics of trade. Little Nicolas spent 20 months away from his parents, after which he returned to Belgium.
Much to the chagrin of the parents, their son was absolutely not interested in trade, but he was very fond of drawing. The father resigned himself to his son’s passion and gave him to study with the famous Flemish master of painting Antoine Goubot. Young Larzhiliere mastered the technique of painting with oil paints in 18 months.
At the age of seventeen, Nicolas de Largilliere became a full member of the Guild of St. Luke of Antwerp. In the British capital, he immediately managed to get a job in the workshop of the famous Dutch painter Sir Peter Lely, a student of van Dyck. 19-year-old Nicolas joined a crowd of assistants who painted draperies and flowers on the master’s paintings, as well as restored works of art for the English king. At the same time, Largilliere turned out to be a much more skillful draftsman than his colleagues.
Soon the case radically changed the fate of the young artist.
One day, Nicolas was commissioned to restore a painting by an old Flemish master from the personal collection of the British king. In a few days, Largilliere coped with a difficult task, and he completely redrawn the lost legs of the main character, perfectly copying the style of the author. When the masterpiece took its place in the palace of Charles II, he wished to personally see the restorer.
So the 20-year-old Largillière met the English monarch, who could not believe that the painting was restored by a young man, and not by a mature master. Having doubted the abilities of Nicolas, the king ordered to show him other works and was completely delighted with what he saw. As a result, Charles II became the most influential patron and regular customer of the French painter.
The meteoric rise of Nicolas de Largillière’s career in England came to an abrupt end for political reasons in 1679. A secret conspiracy against the king, organized by a group of representatives of the highest nobility, was revealed in the country. A full-scale persecution of Catholics began and the artist was forced to urgently leave London, fearing for his life.
He finally moved to his native Paris, where for several years there were rumors about a brilliant painter-countryman living in England. The high metropolitan society received Nicolas very kindly, and the court painter of Louis XIV, Charles Lebrun, promised him all-round help and support.
In 1685, Nicholas de Largilliere, at the invitation of James II, who had just ascended the throne, again went to England, where he lived for about four years. But after the overthrow of the last English Catholic king, the master returned to France forever and never left its borders.
Having finally settled in Paris, the artist lived in prosperity and tranquility until his death. In 1699 he married Margaret Elizabeth Forest, who gave him three children, two daughters and a son. Largilliere was considered the most fashionable portrait painter in France for several decades and was constantly inundated with commissions.
He constantly took part in the Parisian salons, painted portraits of his contemporaries, works on historical themes, still lifes and landscapes. From 1699 he taught at the Academy of Arts, rising to the position of director of this prestigious institution in 1738. The painter built a luxurious hotel in the center of Paris, decorated its interior with hundreds of his own paintings and murals.
Having lived a very long life, on March 20, 1746, Nicolas de Largillière died in Paris at the age of 89. He was buried with great honors in the ancient church of Saint-Merry, where the remains of the great genius still lie today.