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 Gustave Moreau  (1826 - 1898)

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About: Gustave Moreau
 

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Lived/Active: France      Known for: mystical, allegorical and romantic painting

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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.

Gustave Moreau was born in 1826 in Paris, France. He was in contact in his youth with Delacroix, if not actually his pupil. He was also greatly influenced by Chasseriau. Moreau traveled to Italy in 1841 and in 1857-59, but resided primarily in Paris.

Moreau was the darling of the Decadents, representing everything that is mysterious, mythical, unhealthy and half-glimpsed. But if Moreau's reveries on biblical and classical themes thrilled the Decadents, they repulsed a public attuned to a robust academic realism. Moreau was twice rejected when he competed for the prestigious Prix de Rome and during his life he was treated harshly by the critics. Moreau then withdrew from public view and formed a plan to leave his house to the nation as a museum after his death. Having private means, he had no need to compromise in his art.

Young painters flocked to Moreau and he had a sharp eye for talent. The career of Henri Matisse began when Moreau invited him to join his studio. Another pupil was the intense and lonely Georges Rouault.

Although Moreau lived briefly the life of a Paris dandy and befriended such fellow artists as Edgar Degas (who painted his portrait). Eventually he stopped, led an increasingly reclusive existence with his mother and his mistress, who lived in a nearby apartment and was known by a few of his friends. He liked to go to concerts and claimed he could sing Wagner's operas from beginning to end. He was beset by exotic phantoms, consumed by dreams of morbid beauty. In passionate pursuit of these visions, he poured forth a flood of art: 800 oil paintings, 350 watercolors, 7000 sketches in the course of fifty years.

Toward the end of his life he taught at the Ecole National des Beaux-Arts. His oil paintings intimidated him, sometimes taking the artist years to paint and often left unfinished. His watercolors flowed spontaneously off his brush, by way of contrast. He died in Paris in 1898.


Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

Sources include:
Edmund White in ARTnews, January 1988
Catalogue of the Timken Art Gallery
Life or Look Magazine(?)
Time Magazine, July 21, 1961

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