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 François Pascal Simon Gérard  (1770 - 1837)

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Lived/Active: France/Italy      Known for: Portrait, allegorical painting

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Ad Code: 1
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
PORTRAIT OF LOUISE-ANTOINETTE-SCHOLASTIQUE GÉHÉNEUC, MARÉCHALE LANNES, DUCHESSE DE MONTEBELLO, WITH HER CHILDREN
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Francois Gerard was born in Rome in 1770 of a French father in the service of the Ambassador of France and an Italian mother. At the age of twelve he was brought to Paris. He first studied under Pajou, the sculptor, then under Brenet and finally, in 1786, he entered David's studio and became his favorite pupil. In 1789 he took Second prize for the Prix de Rome. After the death of his father in 1790 he returned to Rome but soon returned again to Paris, where he devoted himself to art avoiding revolutionary politics. Poverty compelled him to make illustrations for publishers at this time. David helped him to obtain a commission to illustrate editions of the works of Virgil and Racine.

He made an extraordinary marriage. His wife was his aunt, the younger sister of his mother. They were married during the French Revolution, perhaps, as was the fashion, to flaunt convention. They never had any children. The Revolution ended and Gerard rose to be First Painter of France. He spent thirty years painting members of the world of intellect and fashion.

Gerard exhibited at the Salon of 1795; he sold the work to Jean-Baptiste Isabey, who bought it to encourage the painter. In recognition of this Gerard painted a magnificent portrait of Isabey and his daughter. He entered the Salon of 1798 but decided to devote himself to portraiture. A skillful diplomat and a perfect courtier, he succeeded in winning the approval of Napoleon, who commissioned him to paint all the official portraits of the Bonaparte family, also court dignitaries and foreign princes. He was particularly gifted at female portraiture. After Napoleon's downfall, he became official painter to Louis XVIII.

It is through his portraits that he is most esteemed, and not for the large historical pictures at Versailles. His numerous drawings of the Imperial family and other persons are of great documentary importance, outside of their artistic merit which, however, declined after he assumed too much work, in later life, when he was overwhelmingly prosperous. His house became a resort of many celebrities because he had a large circle of friends. He did not keep an atelier for students but instead had many assistants. In 1819 he was made a baron.

Unfortunately, Gerard detested the society he painted. The moment he could escape from fashionable people he fled to his own rooms or to Montmartre and the companionship of painters. He knew he had the genius to be a great artist, but the taste of his patrons and his desire for success wasted his talent and embittered his life. His love of painting, however, was not affected.

Gerard died in Paris after a short illness on January 11, 1837. His works are found in a great number of French and other European museums.


Compiled and submitted August 2004 by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California

Sources include:
New York World's Fair 1940: "Masterpieces of Art, Catalogue"
"Phaidon Encyclopedia of Art and Artists"

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