Puvis de


Puvis de Chavannes, Pierre (1824-98) was a French painter, who became the president and co-founder of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts and whose work influenced many other artists. He was the foremost French mural painter of the second half of the 19th century.

Puvis de Chavannes had only modest success early in his career, but he went on to achieve an enormous reputation, and he was universally respected even by artists of very different aims and outlook from his own. Gauguin, Seurat, and Toulouse-Lautrec were among his professed admirers. His simplified forms, respect for the flatness of the picture surface, rhythmic line, and use of non-naturalistic color to evoke the mood of the painting appealed to both the Post-Impressionists and the Symbolists.

He was born Pierre-Cécile Puvis de Chavannes in Lyon, Rhône, France, the son of a mining engineer, descendant of an old noble family of Burgundy. Pierre Puvis was educated at the Lyons College and at the Lycée Henri IV in Paris, and was intended to follow his father's profession when a serious illness interrupted his studies. A journey to Italy opened his mind to fresh ideas, and on his return to Paris in 1844 he announced his intention of becoming a painter, and went to study first under Eugène Delacroix, Henri Scheffer, and then under Thomas Couture. It was not until a number of years later, when the government of France acquired one of his works, that he gained wide recognition.

In Montmartre, he had an affair with one of his models, Suzanne Valadon, who would become one of the leading artists of the day as well as the mother, teacher, and mentor of Maurice Utrillo.

His work is seen as symbolist in nature, even though he studied with some of the romanticists, and he is credited with influencing an entire generation of painters and sculptors. One of his protégés was Georges de Feure.

Puvis de Chavannes is noted for painting murals, several of which may be seen at the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) in Paris, the Sorbonne, and the Paris Panthéon, and at Poitiers, as well as at the Boston Public Library in the United States. His paintings were done on canvas and then affixed to the walls, but their pale colors imitated the effect of fresco

Puvis de Chavannes was president and co-founder in 1890 of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts (National Society of Fine Arts) founded in Paris. It became the dominant salon of art at the time and held exhibitions of contemporary art that was selected only by a jury composed of the officers of the Société.


"The Poor Fisherman" (1881) Oil on canvas, 155 x 192.5 cm - 51 x 63 3/4 in. Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France.



"The Dream" (1883) Oil on canvas, 82 × 102 cm - 32.3 x 40.4 in. Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.



"The White Rocks" (1869-72) Oil on canvas, 60 × 72.5 cm - 23.6 x 28.5 in. Collection of Sir Alfred Breit, Blessington, Ireland.



"Mary Magdalene at St. Baume" (1869) Oil on canvas, 37 x 54 cm - 14.57 x 21.26 in. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.



"The Birds" Oil on canvas.



"Young Girls on the Edge of the Sea" (1879) Oil on canvas, 61 × 46 cm - 24 × 18.1 in. Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France.



"Christian Inspiration" (between 1887 and 1888) Oil on paper mounted on canvas, 130 x 105 cm - 51.2 x 41.3 in. National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C., USA.



"Death and the Maiden" (1872) Oil on canvas, 146 × 107 cm - 57.5 x 42.1 in. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA.

Text source: 'Wikipedia' (www.wikipedia.org) & 'Webmuseum' (www.ibiblio.org/wm).

Related Artists:

Related Term: Symbolism.


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