Pierre Cécile PUVIS de CHAVANNES
(Lyon, 1824 - Paris, 1898)
Black chalk on paper heightened with white chalk
Annotated and numbered lower left
31 x 15 cm
Between 1885 and 1890
Provenance: model’s family
From a family originating in Burgundy, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes was born in Lyon on December 14, 1824. He is the son of Marie Julien César Puvis (1785-1843), polytechnician and chief engineer of Mines in Lyon and of Marguerite Guyot de Pravieux (1795-184).
After studying literature and philosophy at the Parisian Lycée Henri IV which did not seem to be enough for him, Puvis then went to Italy for his first trip. On his return, he began to study painting with Henry Scheffer. Some time later he left for Italy for the second time. On his return he studied briefly with Eugène Delacroix and then in the studio of Thomas Couture.
Puvis first exhibited a Dead Christ in 1850. The work was not unanimous and despite several attempts to participate in subsequent Salons, it was regularly refused.
His beginnings as an artist were therefore arduous. Puvis was not exhibited again until 1859, and his first success did not come until 1861 with The War and The Peace, the first of which was bought by the state.
Leaving his small studio in Pigalle, Puvis settled down more comfortably in Neuilly, at the same time getting closer to Marie Cantacuzène (1820-1898), his collaborator, companion, and inspiration. He will end up marrying her very late in July 1897, a few months before their respective deaths.
Puvis greatly appreciated the large decor. Marked particularly by the large murals by Théodore Chassériau executed for the staircase of honor for the Court of Auditors (destroyed in 1871), he in turn produced several major wall decorations (Palais de Longchamp in Marseille, Town halls de Poitiers and Paris, Boston library and of course the Pantheon in Paris or the Sorbonne amphitheater).
Puvis brought to the allegorical genre an innovative stylistic treatment and thus became at the end of the 19th century a major representative of the modernism of the time. By his works of immense decoration and his easel paintings of a precursor symbolism, Puvis popularized his work and won the admiration of a part of the public, irremediably influencing several generations of artists such as the Symbolists or the Nabis, going as far as to the young Picasso.
In the company of his contemporaries Ernest Meissonier, Carolus-Duran, Félix Bracquemond, Jules Dalou and Auguste Rodin, Puvis participated in the founding in 1890 of the New National Society of Fine Arts.
Puvis was appointed Knight of the Legion of Honor in 1867, promoted to Officer in 1877 and Commander in 1889.
The artist died on October 24, 1898 at the age of seventy-three, three months after his wife and is buried in the old cemetery of Neuilly-sur-Seine (92).
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