Jean-Baptiste Greuze (French, 1725 - 1805)

Posted by Elizabeth Goodman on 11th Jul 2019

Jean-Baptiste Greuze (French, 1725 - 1805)

Jean Baptiste Greuze was a French artist. He was born in the year 1725 in his hometown Tornus France. He has his trainings under a great painter in Lyon France. After his training, he came into Paris around the year 1750 where he started to practice and further his training. While in Paris, Greuze attended the famous Academie Royale. 

He has his first remarkable salon debut in 1755 where his work Father Reading the Bible to His Children was applauded. It was one of the greatest paintings displayed in the salon that year. This great work was appreciated by the greatest painter of that era Diderot. He regarded this work as morality paint. He set his eyes to becoming a successful history painter, but his other work Septimius Severus Reproaching Caracalla was not accepted by the Salon in 1769. This was a setback for him because it caused him an embarrassment. He has to quarrel with almost everybody and this created enemy for him.

This rejection turned his head later as most of his paintings after that consisting of titillating paintings and most of them alluded to sexuality. His work tended towards neoclassical and it not surprised that the French revolution sank most of his works. One of the greatest works he did was the paintings of Napoleon, which he did 1804 to 1805. He died out of poverty.

Throughout his lifetime, he has carried out different paintings and most of the works are available at Wallace in London, Louvre, France, Musee Fabre in Montpellier, as well as the museum dedicated to his name in his native town Tournus.

Bright, clear, and lighter attitude prominent in French painting was evident in most of his work. It stands to his credit that Greuze was the painter who introduced the Dutch realism to the French portraiture. His works were exceptional in significant ways, it was his belief that there should be morality in the painting and that is why his works were related to life. His works embodied both the costumes and the details as well. Viewers would easily read meanings into his works.

His quest to enlist into the Academie as a history painter was rejected and this mainly due to ill will. He was only admitted at a lower cadre of the academy. This forced him to exit from public exhibitions. His reputation as a great painter was recognized when his paintings were widely distributed. His wife embezzled the proceeds from the work.

The height he attained was because of two things. First, was the quality of paintings he produced and secondly because of the character of subjects, which the great painter treated. He left a great legacy in the painting profession and his works were dramatized at his time. His neoclassical ideas and French revolution did great damage to his work. He was one of the most successful painters judging from the enormous proceeds he obtained from most of his work, which he extravagantly mismanaged. Because of the declining quality of his works and poverty, he died unnoticed in the year 1805.

View Jean-Baptiste Greuze Gallery