Friend of Robespierre and favorite artist of the Napoleon family
Pierre Paul Prud’hon (born April 4, 1758 died February 16, 1823) is a French artist of the late XVIII early XIX centuries, an outstanding representative of the portrait and historical genres. Pierre Paul Prudhon was also a talented graphic artist and interior designer. His work combines signs of romanticism and neoclassicism, and most of the famous paintings today are kept in museums in Paris and Lyon. In the biography of the master, there are many interesting facts worthy of attention.
Pierre Paul Prudhon enjoyed great prestige in art circles. His work has been highly regarded by many artists and writers, including Stendhal, Eugène Delacroix, Jean-François Millet, Charles Baudelaire and Théodore Géricault.
Biography of Pierre Paul Prudhon
Pierre Prudhon was born on April 4, 1758 in the city of Cluny in eastern France. He was the youngest of seven children in the family of a stone carver, but unlike his brothers and sisters, he was fond of drawing from an early age. The boy’s abilities were noticed early by the parish priest, who assigned him to study with the monks of the local monastery.
At the age of 16, the young man became a student of the drawing school in Dijon and two years later he took part in the competition for the Rome Prize, organized by the authorities of the province of Burgundy, but could not win. Prudhon’s first mentor was François Devosge, who taught the talented student the basics of painting and sculpture. At the same time, Pierre had an influential patron baron de Joursanvault (le baron de Joursanvault).
In February 1778, at the age of less than 20, Pierre Prudhon married the daughter of a notary, Jeanne Penne. This marriage cannot be called happy for the artist, except that in it 9 days after the wedding, his son Jean was born, who later also became a successful artist and engraver. The patronage of Baron de Jourzanveau helped the young father enter the Royal Academy of Painting in Paris. While still a student, in 1781 Prudhon decided to slightly change his name and became Pierre Paul, imitating the great Rubens (Pierre Paul Rubens).
After completing his studies at the academy, the artist left for Dijon
He again took part in the competition for the Rome Prize. This time he won the competition and went to Italy with his friend Pierre Petitot. In Rome, Prudhon lived until 1788, and then returned to his homeland, where the political situation deteriorated catastrophically every day.
In the early 1790s, the artist had two more sons, but this period was extremely difficult for his family. Revolutionary terror reigned in the country and it was extremely problematic to make a living by painting pictures. Nevertheless, Pierre Paul Prudhon enthusiastically embraced the new order and even made friends with Robespierre (Maximilien de Robespierre). At the same time, the painter created several portraits and gained fame among the Parisian public, and also for the first time tried his hand at the genre of allegory.
At the end of July 1794, Robespierre was arrested and two days later executed, which forced the artist and his family to flee from Paris to the provinces. He settled in the east of France, in the small town of Rigny, and lived here for 2 years. By that time, the political passions in the capital had subsided, and Pierre Paul Prudhon was able to return to Paris, where he finally began a full-fledged career as a successful artist.
In 1798, the master received the first major order in the field of interior design. He was commissioned to decorate the interior of a new private hotel built on the outskirts of Paris. Unfortunately, this house was completely destroyed at the end of the 19th century during the next Franco-Prussian war.
The beginning of the 19th century was a turning point in the life and career of the painter.
In 1802 he settled at the Sorbonne, divorced his wife and met a new love. She was a young student Constance Mayer, who was 17 years younger than her teacher. Soon they began to live together in a civil marriage, raise children and paint pictures.
Until the fall of Napoleon’s empire, Prudhon’s career was very successful. He became a favorite artist of the Bonaparte family, painted beautiful portraits of the wives of the almighty ruler of France Josephine Beauharnais and Marie-Louise. In addition, Pierre Paul received the title of professor at the Academy of Arts and became a Knight of the Legion of Honor.
The overthrow and subsequent exile of Bonaparte to the island of Saint Helena marked the end of a happy era in the life of the master, although the new government respected the authoritative painter. Pierre Paul Prudhon lost interest in his favorite genre of allegory and switched to painting religious paintings.
In his declining years, he just wanted to live for his own pleasure, but fate saved the last ordeal for the master. In May 1821, after a serious quarrel and another refusal of the artist to marry, Constance Mayer committed suicide by cutting her throat with a razor. After this tragic event, the aging master of painting fell into a deep depression, from which he could not get out.
And yet he found the strength to organize an exhibition of the works of his beloved, after which, on February 16, 1823, Pierre Paul Prudhon died at the age of 64. At the famous Parisian cemetery Père Lachaise, the great French artist is buried in the same grave with his beloved Constance.
The most famous paintings by Pierre Paul Prudhon
The famous master of French painting has created many wonderful masterpieces during his life. And yet, the most famous paintings by Pierre Paul Prudhon are rightfully considered:
- Saint-Just (1793) is the only lifetime portrait of the famous French revolutionary. The artist fully shared the ideas of Saint-Just and masterfully captured the image of an outstanding contemporary on canvas for posterity.
- “Madame Anthony with Children” (1796) is a painting painted by the master as a token of gratitude to the family that sheltered him during his escape from Paris after the execution of Robespierre. A young mother with her two beloved children personifies quiet family happiness in an era of turbulent change.
- “Portrait of Josephine Beauharnais” (1805) is a work in which the artist presented Napoleon’s wife in the romantic image of a beautiful woman against the backdrop of a forest landscape.
- “Justice and Divine Retribution Pursuing Crime” (1808) is the master’s most famous allegory, illustrating the inevitability of punishment for criminals. The painter painted this picture for the criminal court of the Palais de Justice, commissioned by the Parisian prefect.
Pierre Paul Prudhon lived a rich and fruitful life as an outstanding master of the arts. His amazing allegories and magnificent portraits will forever remain in the memory of his descendants, which still arouse the admiration of museum visitors.