Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier

The Campaign in France 1814 (Napoleon and his staff returning from Soissons after the Battle of Laon)
oil on wood
52 x 77 cm
Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France

Jean-Louis Ernest Meissonier (1815-1891) was a French Classicist painter and sculptor famous for his depictions of Napoleon, his armies and military themes. He was immense1y successful with his historical paintings and from the 1840s received the highest official honours, including the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour - he was the first painter to win this award. There are large collections of his work in the Musee d'Orsay and in the Wallace Collection, London. His landscapes are attractive descriptive exercises and impressed Delacroix. He became the highest paid painter in the second half of the century and his work commanded enormous prices.

He enjoyed great success in his lifetime, and was acclaimed both for his mastery of fine detail and assiduous craftsmanship. Like Alexandre Dumas, he excelled at depicting scenes of chivalry and masculine adventure against a backdrop of pre-Revolutionary and pre-industrial France, specialising in scenes from seventeenth and eighteenth-century life. It is said thet he had a personal enmity for Courbet.