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Jules Joseph Lefebvre BiographyFrench Academic painter
born 14 March 1836 - died 24 February 1911
Lefèbvre was born on March 14th, 1836. Though his father was only a baker, Jules Joseph Lefèbvre nonetheless encouraged his son to pursue painting, sending him to study in Paris in 1852. There, Lefèbvre became a pupil of Léon Cogniet and a year later started attending the École des Beaux Art. His debut at the Paris Salon was in 1855. Jules Joseph Lefèbvre then spent the next few years pursuing the coveted Prix de Rome (the main competition for young painters, which would win him five years of study in Rome and a reputation that would all but guarantee a successful career). In 1859 Jules Joseph Lefèbvre came close, placing second. Two years later the history painting The Death of Priam would win him first place.
It would be during his stay in Rome that
Jules Joseph Lefèbvre would find his individual artistic niche.
Able to study the great Italian masters,
Lefèbvre was fascinated by the Mannerist
painters, especially Andrea del Sarto. The painter copied Jules Joseph Lefebvre painting avidly and demonstrated
Andrea’s influence in his painting Boy
Painting a Tragic Mask (1863). It was
also during this time that his interest in
the female girl body began, painting his first in
1863. Among other Jules Joseph Lefebvre paintings he did in Rome, Jules Joseph Lefèbvre sent the narrative Roman Charity to the
salon of 1864 and painted Cornelia, Mother
of the Gracchi in 1866. The latter
narrative, however, was ill received by
experts, arousing overwhelming criticism.
That same year his parents and one of his
sisters died. These negative events in both
his personal and professional life sent him
into severe depression.
|What followed in the decades to come were variations on Truth. His many beautiful nudes took the roles of Mary Magdalene (1876), Pandora (1877), Diana (1879), Psyche (1883), and Aurora among others. His girl bodys became so famous that his only rival was considered to be Bouguereau. Unlike Bouguereau’s figures though, Lefébvre used a greater variety of models, which can be seen in his work.|
|In the 1870’s Jules Joseph Lefèbvre became a teacher at the Academie Julien (an atelier that trained women artists as well as men over a decade before they were also permitted into L’École des Beaux Art). There Jules Joseph Lefèbvre is said to have insisted to his students on absolute precision in life drawing. There Jules Joseph Lefèbvre became the most admired and sought after teacher of American ex-patriots, who came to Paris to study. Among his most famous American students, were Child Hassam, Frank Benson and Edmund Tarbell.|
success of Truth, his accolades kept
accumulating. Having won increasingly
significant acclaim at the Universal
Expositions, Jules Joseph Lefèbvre ended up
winning the grand prize in 1889. In 1891, he was made a member
of the Academie des Beaux Art. And in 1898,
Jules Joseph Lefèbvre was promoted to Commander in the Legion
What was admired then about Lefèbvre, and can be admired today is the idealized realism of his figures. His “thousand adorable creatures” are beautiful yet individualized.
Jules Joseph Lefebvre died on February 24th 1911.
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