French painting (and a little sculpture), 1630-1860

Big Concept


• The Baroque painter Poussin is sometimes seen as the forefather of French Neoclassicism.

• Expresses admiration for the ideals of the Roman Republic.

-Roman Senate; Republican Government

-Authority through military leadership, determination


-Often set in “Arcadia,” an idealized landscape consisting of nature and Classical art/architecture.

-Emphasize lavish details, representations of wealth

Nicolas Poussin
Cephalus and Aurora , 1630
Oil on canvas 96.9 x 131.3 cm
National Gallery, London

Style: Poussin painted during the Baroque period, but he is sometimes described as a Neoclassical painter. At the very least, he is widely seen as a forerunner to the Neoclassical painters of the 18th century.

Subject matter: Aurora, the goddess of the dawn, falls in love with Cephalus, an Athenian, who resists her advances and remains loyal to his wife, Procris. The putto (Cupid-like figure) holds up Procris’ picture.

Et in Arcadia Ego

Compare: Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne


Nicolas Poussin
The Adoration of the Golden Calf, 1633-36
Oil on canvas 153.4 x 211.8 cm
National Gallery, London

Georges de la Tour, Adoration of the Shepherds

Jean-Antoine Watteau Mezzetin, 1717-1719
Oil on canvas 55.3 x 43.2 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Style: Rococo

Commentary from other websites:

“Mezzetin, a stock comic character of the Italian commedia dell’arte, became an established performer on the Paris stage. Various players were engraved in his costume, which by about 1680 comprised a jacket and knee-britches, often of red and white vertical stripes, a floppy hat, a ruff, and a short cape. Mezzetin was by turns interfering, devious, and lovelorn, but not languorous.” – Collection database, Metropolitan Museum of Art

“When we get past the beauty of those clothes, and the silly rosettes and the funny hat, we encounter a strong male animal – and a creature in pain. Look at the nervous passion of his fingers as they play the guitar; the vigorous shoulders turned away in longing; the bull neck flushed; and the five o’clock shadow on the big red face. It takes time to look past the vivid physicalities of the scene and register the personal sorrow.” – Text on the painting by Sister Wendy, at the Artchive


Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin
The Copper Drinking Fountain c. 1734
Oil on wood 28.5 x 23 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Early in his career, Chardin became popular for his still-life and nature paintings, which followed the Dutch tradition. The French Academy, on the other hand, placed much greater value on history paintings and other figural works, and once accepted in to the academy, he often turned his hand toward domestic scenes and portraits. Several scholars have observed that some of the objects in Chardin’s are like human beings, commanding space within the pictures as though they had distinct personalities.

Because of the time period in which he painted, his works are sometimes labeled “Rococo,” but he worked in a direct, simple style that very much contradicted the decorative emphasis of Rococo paintings. Where Rococo painters like Watteau and Fragonard a child playfulness, but Chardin’s play was grounded in the dry humor of a knowing adult.


Jean-Baptiste Chardin Self-Portrait 1771
Pastel 46 x 38 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris


Francois Boucher The Toilet of Venus 1751
Oil on Canvas 108 × 85 cm (42.52 × 33.46 in)
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Style: Rococo

The Toilette of Venus was commissioned, along with several other paintings from Boucher, by Louis XV’s mistress, Madame de Pompadour for the bathroom of her country chateau Think wealth, luxury, silk, satin, sensuality, seduction.


Jean-Honoré Fragonard The Swing 1767
Oil on Canvas 83 x 65 cm
Wallace Collection, London

Style: Late Rococo

Content: That’s a bishop pushing the swing, and the guy lying on the ground, looking up the lady’s skirt is the French nobleman who commissioned the painting. According to legend, the whole painting was the nobleman’s idea. He took the concept first to a prominent history painter, who turned him down and sent him to Fragonard.


Jean-Antoine Houdon Bust of Benjamin Franklin 1778
Marble H. without base 17 1/2 in. (44.5 cm).
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Style: Neoclassical

Photo by wallgy

Jean-Antoine Houdon Voltaire Seated 1781
Terra-cotta height 120 cm
Musée Fabre, Montpellier

Style: Neoclassical

Angelica Kauffmann
Venus Persuades Helen to Fall in Love with Paris 1790
Oil on canvas 102 x 127.5 cm
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia

Style: Neoclassicism

Cornelia Presenting Her Children as Her Treasures, or Mother of the Gracchi, ca. 1785. Oil on canvas, 3′ 4″ x 4′ 2″. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond.

Jacques-Louis David
The Oath of the Horatii 1784
Oil on Canvas 330 x 425 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Style: Neoclassical

Jacques-Louis David The Death of Marat 1793
Oil on Canvas 162 x 128 cm
Musée Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels

Style: Neoclassical

Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun
Self-Portrait in a Straw Hat after 1782
Oil on Canvas 97.8 × 70.5 cm (38.50 × 27.76 in)
National Gallery, London

Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun
Marie Antoinette 1783
Oil on Canvas h: 131 cm; w: 87 cm
Chateau de Versailles, Versailles, France

Jean Auguste Ingres
The Valpinçon Bather 1806
Oil on Canvas 146 cm × 97.5 cm (57 in × 38.4 in)
Musee du Louvre, Paris

The Surrealist Version

The Barbie Version

The Barbie Version of the Surrealist Version

Jean Auguste Ingres
Une Odalisque (aka La Grande Odalisque) 1814
Oil on Canvas 91 x 162 cm
Musée du Louvre

Jean Auguste Ingres
Madame Moitessier 1851
Oil on Canvas 147 x 100 cm (57 7/8 x 39 3/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Théodore Gericault
The Raft of the Medusa 1819
Oil on Canvas 491 x 716 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Jean-Baptiste Corot
View from the Farnese Gardens, Rome 1826
Oil on canvas 25.1 x 40.6 cm (9 7/8 x 16 in.)
The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

Jean-Baptiste Corot
La Toilette (Landscape with Figures), 1859
Oil on canvas 70 1/2 x 36 1/4 in.
Private Collection, Paris

Eugene Delacroix
Death of Sardanapalus (La Mort de Sardanapale) 1827
Oil on Canvas 392 x 496 cm or 12′ 1″ x 16′ …
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Styles: Orientalism, Romanticism

The French poet Baudelaire identified Delacroix as the “The last of the great artists of the Renaissance and the first modern.” Although Delacroix painted more than 200 years after the period we now call the Renaissance, Baudelaire saw him as the final descendent in a creative lineage that began with Michaelangelo.

Eugene Delacroix
Liberty Leading the People 1831
Oil on Canvas H. 2.6 m; W. 3.25 m
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Styles: Neoclassicism, Romanticism

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *