Friday, March 20, 2015

Leon Bonnat

Roman Girl at a Fountain
oil on canvas
170.2 × 100.3 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA

Leon Bonnat (1833-1922) was a notable French portrait painter and teacher of several well-known artists. He was born at Bayonne, France and was educated,  sponsored by the city of Bayonne, in Spain under Madrazo at Madrid. His long series of portraits shows the influence of Velazquez and the Spanish realists.

In 1869 he won a medal of honor at Paris, where he became one of the leading artists of his day. In 1888 he became professor of painting at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, and he became its director in 1905. He was an influential teacher, his students included Thomas Eakins, Gustave Caillebotte, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and he ran a busy studio for more than three decades. The writers Emile Zola and Theophile Gautier were among Bonnat's supporters. Gautier hailed him as "the antithesis of Bouguereau," because of the stark naturalism and lack of surface finish that characterize Bonnat's work.

He painted about 200 portraits, most of them featuring photographically accurate draftsmanship and subdued colouring. His vivid portrait-painting is his most characteristic work. His excellent and wide-ranging art collection is part of the Bonnat Museum in Bayonne.