November 29, 2009

The Art of Pierre Paul Prud'hon

Pierre-Paul Prud’hon (1758 – 1823) or in english, Proudhon was a draughtsman and a portrait painter, who become one of Napoleon’s favorite artists. He trained in Dijon and then completed his studies in Italy where he became influenced by the work of Leonardo da Vinci and Correggio. Unfortunately he led a depressed after his wife gradually went insane and his mistress committed suicide in his studio.


(Prud’hon, Pierre-Paul. Justice and Divine Vengeance Pursuing Crime. c. 1808. oil on canvas. J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.)

Proudhon gained a string of commissions from Napoleon of which his most celebrated painting was Justice and Divine Vengeance Pursuing Crime, a lurid narrative produced for the Palais de Justice. Proudhon also painted Napoleon’s wife, Josephine on the grounds of her home, the Chateau of Malmaison.


(Prud’hon, Pierre-Paul. The Empress Josephine. c. 1805. oil on canvas. Louvre, Paris.)

His use of complementary tones on the empress’s dress ensures that the main subject of the painting resonates with vibrant color, while the setting around her is dark and oppressive. The painting was commissioned shortly after she had been crowned empress, although this triumph was spoiled by her personal misfortune. Napoleon was already thinking of divorcing her because she was infertile.


(Prud’hon, Pierre-Paul. Portrait of the King of Rome. c. 1811. oil on canvas . Louvre, Paris.)

Proudhon’s style is characterized by a dark and disquieting Romanticism mixed with Neo-classism in a softer lyrical form. His subject matter usually revolved around the typical Neo-classical subject matter from Greek mythology, but his pictures display a slightly neurotic taste for emotionalism, which may reflect the unhappiness of his own life.


(Prud’hon, Pierre-Paul. Nude Viewed from Behind. c. 1810. black chalk with white highlights on blue paper. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.)

Proudhon’s classic Greek beauties are gorgeous. His figures are characterized by the extraordinary design of his lighting on the delicate poses that he chose. Many art students have and still study his figures today and his work is much appreciated here!

Enjoy! :)

Reference: King, R. Art. New York: Dk Publishing. 2008.

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