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A Swiss artist who painted in academic style, Charles Gleyre, whose
full name was Marc Gabriel Charles Gleyre, was born in Chevilly, Vaud
Canton in Switzerland. In 1843, he took over the studio of Paul
Delaroche, and as a painter and teacher had a number of prominent
students including Claude Monet, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley
and James Abbott McNeill Whistler.
When he was a child, his parents died, and he was raised by an uncle in
Lyon, France, where he was sent to a Lyon industrial
school. Then as a teen ager he went to Paris, studying art
for four years. This period was followed by four years in Italy
in "meditative inactivity" and friendship with Horace Vernet and
Louis-Leopold Robert. Then he spent six years wandering in
countries that included Greece, Egypt, Nubia and Syria. At Cairo,
he suffered ophthalmia, inflammation of the eye; and in Lebanon, he had
a severe attack of fever.
Feeling as though he had lost his health, he returned to Lyon, and
after recovery, went back to Paris. He set up a studio in the rue
de Université, and "began carefully to work out the ideas which had
been slowly shaping themselves in his mind." Painting decorative panels
of the goddess Diana, leaving her bath, and of a young nubian, he did
not receive any significant public attention. However, "the
painting by which he practically opened his artistic career was the Apocalyptic Vision of St John, sent to the Salon of 1840.
Subsequent paintings exhibited at the Paris Salon were Egyptian Temple (1840) and Evening
(1843). Although he was becoming successful through his
exhibition works, he basically retired from public appearances.
In 1845, he submitted Separation of the Apostles to the Salon and in 1849, Dance of the Bacchantes, but he other than those entries did little aggressively to further his artistic reputation.
"He spent the rest of his life in quiet devotion to his artistic
ideals, neither seeking the easy applause of the crowd, nor turning his
art into a means of aggrandizement and wealth. . . .Yet he
laboured steadily and was productive." In spite of keeping a low
profile artistically, he had much influence on his pupils, and had a
ready vehicle for teaching when Delaroche, when closing his studio,
advised his pupils to study with Gleyre. He refused to take any
fees from these students. However, he was an avid reader of
political journals and follower of political events, and his studio,
during the reign of Louis Philippe, became a gathering place for
liberal thinking persons.
On a visit to Alsace and Lorraqine, he died suddenly on 5 May 1874.
The Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th Edition
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