Jean Baptiste Greuze
Jean Baptiste Greuze painting in Rococo and Neo-classicism style.
Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725-1805)
Jean Baptiste Greuze was born in Tournus in 1725, sixth son of a master tiler. Legend has it that the young Greuze convinced his father of his natural aptitude for painting when he showed him a pen-and-ink drawing of Saint James, which his father mistook for an engraving. Greuze was sent to Lyon to study with the commercially successful portrait painter Charles Grandon (1691-1762). Sometime before 1755, Greuze left Lyon for Paris, where he went to pursue his studies at the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture. Very little is known of Greuze’s early years in Paris.
At first, he studied drawing at the Académie under Charles Joseph Natoire (1700-1777), although this master of the rococo style seems to have had little effect on Greuze’s stylistic development.
Greuze’s earliest support came from two established academicians-Louis de Silvestre (1675-1760, named director of the Académie in 1752) and the sculptor Jean Baptiste Pigalle (1714-1785). The story of his successful acceptance to the ranks of the Académie foreshadows the painter’s later defiance of academic protocol. Disgruntled by his disadvantageous placement in the drawing studio, Greuze demanded a better seat, even though he had not participated in the competitions by which the hierarchy of placement was normally determined.
He was challenged to present an array of his works for evaluation. Silvestre, by then the director, found Greuze’s offering so perfect that he was accepted on the spot and named associate member on June 28, 1755. That same year, Greuze’s first Salon success included A Father Reading the Bible to His Family (France, private collection), The Blindman Deceived (Moscow, State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts), A Child, Who Has Fallen Asleep on Top of His Book (Montpellier, Musée Fabre), and Portrait of Louis de Silvestre (Munich, Alte Pinakothek).