Antoine Jean Gros, “Madame Pasteur”, 1795-96, Oil on Canvas, 86 x 87 cm

Portraits
"Madame Pasteur" 1795-96

“Madame Pasteur” 1795-96

Antoine Jean Gros’ parents were miniature painters which may explain his interest in art from an early age and his father being his first teacher of art. He was born in Paris on March 16th in the year of 1771 and had an unfortunate death in 1835 when he committed suicide.  He had a profound effect on the rising generation of Romantic artists with his bold use of color and inspired especially Eugene Delacroix and Théodore Géricault. For Gros’ though, his inspiration came from Peter Paul Rubens and the Venetian artists. And although Gros was admired by the Romantics, he considered himself to have a style that was more neoclassical.

Gros also highly admired Napoleon and he became the subject of many of Gros’ paintings. Gros even became France’s most admired painter at the time after producing three heroic paintings of Napoleon.  Fortunate for Gros he had the opportunity to follow his hero Napoleon on his campaigns as well as help select works of art from Italy for the Louvre.  Because of his following of Napoleon, Gros was able to see the historic moment when Napoleon planted the French flag in Arcole, a huge moment for the artist. Before his success, Gros turned to portrait painting after suffering the death of his father and bankruptcy as well as losing the Prix de Rome competition.

39-19-16/40

(The portrait of Madame Pasteur a zoomed in detail of the necklace she is wearing)

In one of his portrait entitled “Madame Pasteur”  we see a young woman dressed in what appears to be a dress that she should not be seen in for the public’s viewing. However, this portrait was painted from 1795 to 1796; this was towards the end of the French Revolution and fashion at this time changed vastly. Women and men no longer wanted to appear as part of the French aristocracy and instead opted for clothing that was simple as compared to the hoop skirts and intricate details of clothing worn prior to this time. The idea of self and expressing oneself through what one wore also became a trend which is why clothing tended to favor the natural figure instead of tight corsets.

What intrigues the viewer most, especially this viewer is the facial expression seen on the young woman’s face. One viewer states that “the depiction of the young woman in this youthful work is imbued with a lighthearted grace that is 18th century in spirit” and she does indeed have a lighthearted look about her. The slight smile and the way her eyes seem almost to smile too make it seem as though the artist depicted her right before or after she giggled. The woman’s pose though seems as though it is neither open nor closed; as though she is a bit shy but also willing to engage. Although not much is known about the young lady, this portrait was commissioned by Alexandre Madeleine Pasteur, who may have been the woman herself.

Towards the end of his career, Gros’ was less admired and created paintings about ancient myths rather than paintings of Napoleon and he was criticized for this. Because of the criticism he received and possibly because of the pride he held for himself and his works of art, Gros could no longer take the negativity and drowned himself Siene River in France. I will leave off with this comment that Gros often made to his students:  “You are not sufficiently concerned with color, my dear sirs,” he told his pupils. “Yes, it’s color which gives poetry, life and charm-no painting can come to life without it.”

Works Cited

“Antoine-Jean, Baron Gros”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.

Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2015. Web. 10 Jan. 2015.

“Baron Antoine-Jean Gros (Getty Museum).” Baron Antoine-Jean Gros (Getty Museum). The J. Paul Getty Trust, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2015.

Cullen, Oriole. “Eighteenth-Century European Dress”. In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/eudr/hd_eudr.htm (October 2003)

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