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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson

Revolt of Cairo, 21 October 1798, 1810, Anne Louis Girodet.
I'm always a little surprised and dismayed when I come upon the work of an artist I should know, but have, in fact, never heard of. Very often the works of these artists are really quite good, not necessary top notch, but sufficiently adept to make me wonder why he or she is not better known today. In the case of one French painter from the nascent Romantic era of the early 19th-century the, most likely reason immediately pops up like a jack-in-the-box...the name: Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson. My, the French certainly do loved their hyphenated names.

Did I mention, Girodet loved to draw and paint self-portraits?
The first and most obvious question, given the name, would be, was the painter a man or a woman? He was male, born Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy in 1767. He grew up in the town of Montargis, located about 65 miles south of Paris on the Loing River. Today, it's a town of about 14,000 (undoubtedly far less than that in the artist's time). Why the French like to hyphenate given names is beyond me. Both of the boy's parents died when he was quite young. The care of his inheritance and education fell to his guardian, a doctor of "médecin-de-mesdames" (a women's doctor) named Trioson, who later adopted him. Girodet took the surname Trioson in 1812. Actually, the doctor is believed to have been the boy's biological father. The name, de Roussy, drives from an area of northeastern France near the German border, which was likely his mother's ancestral home (which accounts for the second hyphen). For our purposes, we'll stick to his birth name--Anne-Louis Girodet.
Joseph Recognized by his Brothers, 1789, Anne-Louis Girodet
Doctor Trioson Giving a
Geography Lesson to his Son,
Anne-Louis Girodet-Trioson,
As was (and still is) often the case, Girodet did not intend to become an artist. He first studied architecture then briefly tried a military career before starting drawing classes from a local artist around 1773. To his great good fortune, in 1883, his instructor encouraged Girodet to join the atelier of France's great history painter of the time, the Neoclassical artist Jacques-Louis David.  At the age of eighteen he was already one of David's most gifted pupils. In fact, Girodet won the Prix de Rome just six years later in 1789 for the composition Joseph Recognized by His Brothers (above) which allowed him a trip to Italy to study for the next five years. While in Rome, Girodet experienced the influence of Italian Renaissance masters Correggio and Leonardo da Vinci. Girodet's The Sleep of Endymion, (above) was painted during this period.

The Sleep of Endymion, 1793, Anne-Louis Girodet--
one of his most erotic works.
Portrait de Chateaubriand,
1808, Anne-Louis Girodet
Girodet left Rome for Naples, then later studied in Florence and Genoa before returned to France in 1795. At the Paris Salon of 1793 Girodet first exhibited his The Sleep of Endymion, which diverged from Neoclassical tradition and employed gentle nuances of illumination and color that anticipated the effects of Romantic art. This transitional style between Neo-classicism and Romanticism is seen in many of Girodet’s works, such as Ossian Meeting Shadows of French Heroes (below), from 1801, and The Burial of Atala (bottom), dating from 1808. Girodet's abandonment of the monumental style in favor of early Romantic themes, which were becoming very popular in France at the time, brought sharp criticism from his teacher, Jacques-Louis David.

Ossian Receiving the Ghosts of the Fallen French Heroes,
ca. 1801, Anne-Louis Girodet.
Charles Marie Bonaparte
(father of Napoléon),
1806, Anne Louis Girodet
Back in France, Girodet painted many portraits, including some of members of the Bonaparte family. In 1806, in competition with the Sabines of David, he exhibited his Scène of the Flood (below) which was awarded the decennial prize. In 1808 he produced the Funeral of Atala, a work which won immense popularity, by its fortunate choice of subject and its remarkable departure from the theatricality of Girodet's usual manner. He returned to his theatrical style in The Revolt of Cairo (top), from 1810. Girodet's portrait of Napoleon's father (left), from 1806, was likely the result of the grandiose Portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte in Coro-nation Robes, painted sometime after 1804.

Scene of the Flood, Anne-Louis Girodet
(rather dry looking for a flood).
Portrait of Jean-Baptiste Belley,
Deputy for Saint-Domingue,
1797, Anne-Louis Girodet
Thanks to Girodet, David, Gros, and other painters from the First Empire period, Napoleon Bonaparte (below) became the perfect embodiment of the Romantic era in French art. In 1812 Girodet inherited a fortune, and after that painted less. Increas-ingly he dedicated himself to illustrating books of Virgil, Racine, Bernardin de Saint Pierre and other authors, as well as writing poems and verses. In his forties his powers began to fail, and his habit of working at night weakened his constitution. In the Salon of 1812 Girodet exhibited only a Head of the Virgin, while in 1819 only his Pygmalion et Galatée, both of which showed a further decline of strength. Girodet died in Decem-ber 1824. At the sale of his personal effects following his death, some of his drawings realized enormous prices.

Girodet's Napoleon was more slender and taller than
that of other artists who painted the emporer. 

The Funeral of Atala,1808, Anna-Louis Girodet, one of his most popular paintings.


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