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Charles Chaplin was one of France’s most famous artists during his lifetime as well as afterward. Born in Les Andelys, Eure, France in 1825 to an English father and a French mother, he waited nearly a lifetime to be naturalized although he lived and worked in France his whole life. He obtained citizenship a mere five years before his death. He achieved tremendous artistic success not only as a painter but also as a decorator, pastellist, engraver, etcher, lithographer and teacher. His work has been highly sought after since the beginning of his career although it is his later work that is considered more desirable because of its subject matter.
He began his education at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1840 under the instruction of Michel-Martin Drolling, whose famed students consist of Paul Baudry, Jean-Jacques Henner, and Jules Breton. In the mid 1840s he began exhibiting regularly at the Paris Salons and the Royal Academy in London and quickly became well recognized. His early work consists mainly of Realist landscapes. He soon thereafter abandoned this style to pursue his famed portraits of women, children, and animals. He rapidly gained popularity throughout Paris fist shocking then seducing audiences. His portraits of women were at first controversial as they were perceived as erotic and seductive and were even prohibited. The scandal died down later, as his work became highly regarded and was collected by Napoleon and l’imperatrice Eugene during the 1860s. His career was highly decorated with awards and medals. His greatest scholarly achievement perhaps came upon being elected to Chevalier de la Legion d’honneur and promoted to an officer only a few years later.
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