Louis-Léopold BOILLY (La Bassée 1761 - Paris 1845)
Portrait of young woman
Oil on canvas, H. 22 cm; L. 17 cm
Louis-Léopold Boilly, born in La Bassée, in the north of France, on July 5, 1761 died in Paris on January 6, 1845. Son of a modest wood sculptor, our artist is largely self-taught. This trait can surprise on the part of a painter whose paintings often show a sophisticated construction and a refined execution. He started painting early and received his first orders at the age of eleven. He emancipated himself at thirteen and a half from paternal guardianship to benefit from the protection of one of his parents in Douai.
In 1779, noticed by the bishop of the city, he left for Arras where he acquired a reputation as a portrait painter who would have earned him up to three hundred orders. It seems that it was in Arras that he learned to paint trompe l'oeil and grisailles under the direction of the painter Dominique Doncre (1743-1820).
In 1785, he moved to Paris, which he never left until his death. He participated for the first time in the Salon in 1793 and exhibited there regularly until 1824. During the Terror, denounced to the Committee of Public Safety for having painted subjects going against morality, he narrowly escaped the guillotine , showing his Triumph of Marat, now kept at the Museum of Fine Arts in Lille, (inv 1290 bis).
His entire career has been devoted to two types of performance: genre scenes and portraits. Boilly remains a small painter all his life, working for an essentially bourgeois environment. Author of more or less licentious scenes at its beginnings before the Revolution, he evolves towards representations of the daily life of his time, He paints his contemporaries better than any other, mixing genres with extraordinary brilliance. The use of trompe l'oeil and greyness allow him to demonstrate his virtuosity but he also excels in caricature.
Louis-Léopold Boilly is known today for these characteristic little portraits, always produced in the same way, on well-prepared canvases, stretched on small key frames and adorned with massive frames. These works produced for all the bourgeoisie and the aristocracy of France after 1790 are today highly prized for their character and the lively appearance transcribed by Boilly. The realism of the flesh and tissue still impresses today, as in our portrait, which is particularly well drawn and attractive.