(La Bassée 1761 - Paris 1845)
Portrait of a young woman in a crimson dress
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 woodcarver, our artist is largely self-taught. This trait may come as a surprise on the part of a painter whose paintings often show sophisticated construction and refined execution. He began to paint early and received his first commissions at the age of eleven. At thirteen and a half, he freed himself from his father's 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 which would have earned him up to three hundred commissions. 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 will settle in Paris which he will not leave 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 representations: genre scenes and portraits. Boilly remained a small-format painter all his life, working for an essentially bourgeois environment. Author of more or less licentious scenes at his beginnings before the Revolution, he evolved into representations of the daily life of his time. He painted his contemporaries better than any other, mixing genres with extraordinary brilliance. The use of trompe-l'œil and grisaille allow him to demonstrate his virtuosity but he also excels in caricature. Louis-Léopold Boilly is known today for these small characteristic portraits, always done in the same way, on well-primed canvases, stretched over small frames with keys and ornamented with massive frames. These works produced for all the bourgeoisie and the French aristocracy after 1790 are nowadays highly prized for their character and the lively appearance transcribed by Boilly. The realism of the flesh and fabrics still impresses to this day, as in our portrait, particularly well drawn and attractive.