Paul Delaroche – master of the historical genre

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Paul Delaroche (born July 17, 1797 – died November 4, 1856) was a 19th century French artist, a representative of academic art, engaged in historical painting. His work combines a naturalistic tendency in the depiction of the environment, costumes with the fascination of romantic plots, the idealization of noble persons. The master’s paintings depict many prominent personalities of his time.

Biography of Paul Delaroche

Paul Delaroche, a native of Paris, was born on July 17, 1797. At birth, the boy received the name Hippolyte, but everyone called the child’s home Paul, similarly he was called by those around him in adulthood. Delaroche’s father had an excellent understanding of painting, and his uncle was an employee of the Paris Public Library, a conservative of the cabinet of prints. Therefore, the future artist from a young age had the opportunity to join the beautiful. Paul Delaroche initially took a great interest in landscape painting, he studied nature depiction under Louis Étienne Watelet.

Later, his interests shifted towards the historical genre, and Constant Joseph Desbordes became a new mentor. Then for several years the young man worked under the guidance of the famous painter Antoine-Jean Gros. Paul Delaroche presented his first work in the historical genre, “Joseph Saves Joaca”, at the Paris Salon of 1822. The work, in which the artist’s talent was already felt, made a strong impression on the audience and critics. Later, the painter became interested in the romantic school, and the plots of his paintings became more dramatic.

Delaroche’s works gained fame and were published in lithographs and engravings. The master was an excellent portrait painter, he received orders from many famous contemporaries.

He soon left for Italy, where he married the daughter of the French artist and diplomat Horace Vernet (Emile Jean Horace Vernet). Three years later, the master returned to Paris, where he presented his new works at the Salon of 1837. They again attracted a lively response from the public and critical acclaim.

In the period from 1837 to 1841, Paul Delaroche worked on a large-scale mural fifteen meters long called “Semicircles”. It was the tribune that adorned the assembly hall of the School of Fine Arts. The monumental work depicts 75 of the greatest artists of the past from ancient times to the 17th century.

In the 1840s, the painter painted pictures on religious themes. Having traveled to Italy for the second time in 1844, he recreated everyday scenes typical for this country in his works. After the death of his wife in 1845, Paul Delaroche turned to tragic subjects.

The artist died in Paris on November 4, 1856.

The most famous paintings by Paul Delaroche

Paul Delaroche’s paintings are distinguished by their accuracy in conveying the smallest details. Among the outstanding works of the master are the following:

  • “Portrait of Henrietta Sontag” (1831) – the painter depicts a famous opera singer, his contemporary. A young woman with a beautiful soulful face looks as if through the viewer. Her lips are slightly touched by a dreamy smile, and her eyes are sad.
  • “Execution of Jane Gray” (1833) – the plot of the picture is based on real events, recreates a mournful atmosphere. To enhance the drama, the artist deliberately departed from historical circumstances: the uncrowned queen of England is dressed in white robes, is not in the courtyard of the Tower, but in a gloomy dungeon.
  • “Portrait of Peter I” (1833) is one of the most famous images of the great Russian emperor, which is often used to illustrate history books and articles.
  • Bonaparte’s Crossing the Alps (1848-1850) – the plot of the work is inspired by a series of works by Jacques-Louis David. But if in David Napoleon, in the same setting, looks like a self-confident hero, dressed with a needle, then in Paul Delaroche everything is much more realistic. The Emperor is tired, sad, and suffers from cold.
  • “Christian martyr of the time of Diocletian in the Tiber” (1853) – the picture shows an episode of the era of early Christianity, the times of persecution of believers. The martyr thrown into the water with her hands tied is beautiful, her face radiates divine light.
Paintings by Paul Delaroche

Diocletian Christian Martyr in the Tiber
Diocletian Christian Martyr in the Tiber
Execution of Lady Jane Gray
Execution of Lady Jane Gray
Filippo Lippi and Lucrezia Buti. Declaration of love. 1822
Filippo Lippi and Lucrezia Buti. Declaration of love. 1822
Herodias
Herodias
Jeanne-Darc in prison
Jeanne-Darc in prison
Saint Veronica
Saint Veronica
School of Fine Arts semicircle, left side
School of Fine Arts semicircle, left side
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