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 Maurice Quentin de La Tour  (1704 - 1788)

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Lived/Active: France      Known for: portrait painting

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Maurice Quentin De La Tour Saint is primarily known as Maurice Quentin de La Tour

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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.

At the age of twenty-three, after garnering a few commissions in London, Maurice Quentin de la Tour set himself up as a portraitist in Paris.  A native of Picardy, in 1727, he cannily proclaimed himself an English painter.  Pastel portraiture was all the rage, and de la Tour prudently devoted himself entirely to pastels.  He was summoned by Louis XV to Versailles, and along with other prominent painters of the day, was soon awarded quarters in the Louvre, which then served as a royally endowed artists' colony.  In 1750, Louis named him official court painter.  It was an age of spectacular superficiality, and he portrayed his clients as they wished to see themselves, without ignoring their unreal smiles and bored, malicious eyes.

De la Tour shared the cynical nationalism and lust for learning of his friends Voltaire and Rousseau.  He refused the order of St. Michael because of his egalitarian principles.  He delved into science, mathematics, politics, theology, philosophy and poetry and took up the study of Latin at fifty-five.  When he retired to the country, senile at eighty, he endowed homes for indigent mothers and passionately adopted a pantheism that sent him roaming the countryside, embracing and talking to the trees.  He died in 1788.

With his sitters, de La Tour was the most democratic of tyrants.  Portraits of the King's daughters were never finished, in order to punish them for failing to keep appointments.  He once threatened to walk out of his studio when the King tried to watch him sketching la Pompadour. "My talent," he proudly maintained, "belongs to me."

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

Time Magazine, July 14, 1967.

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