Sunday, August 16, 2015

Portraits by Maurice de la Tour


Maurice Quentin de la Tour (1704-1788) was a French portrait painter. His self portraits often showed himself confident and smiling, radiating charm and equanimity.

Overcoming his parents objections, he left home as a teenager to go to Paris to pursue his craft. His pastel portraits of noble and royal subjects were the delight of the Salon, because he portrayed his sitters as poised and intelligent.



His compositions were remarkably simple, with soft frontal lighting, serene colors, and well crafted surfaces. No one had painted such lifelike portraits in pastel before.



He was known for working quickly, never tiring his models, and charging reasonable prices. In 1750 he was appointed as the royal painter to King Louis XV.



More and more he painted the most exclusive society set in Paris. His prices went up and he became capricious and whimsical, refusing to paint anyone who didn't please him.


He became more and more eccentric in dealing with his models, insisting on never being interrupted—not even by the king himself, and requiring his models to be precisely punctual. He demanded absolute control over lighting, costume, and pose. If the sitter disobeyed, he would punish them by leaving the portrait unfinished.


By 1766 he began the regrettable practice of retouching and sometimes ruining his earlier works, and in his later years he suffered a nervous breakdown and mental illness.  But his loyal brother stuck with him and took care of him until the end. 
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7 comments:

Terry said...

How fascinating! I need to see if Omaha's Joslyn Art Museum has any of his work. And why hasn't there been a movie made about de la Tour yet? Somebody call Hugh Jackman...

Benny Vermeulen said...

Great idea Terry, was thinking the same thing about the movie.

Rich said...

Always a delight to revisit Maurice Quentin. What one can do with pastels; just stunning, also the fact how well preserved these fragile artworks have remained over the centuries.

Marque Todd said...

What I find most fascinating about this story is that he did the work in pastel. Many today claim that pastel has durability issues including color fading and the pastel falling of the paper. But wait...you didn't specify...were these in soft pastel or oil pastel?

Bill Marshall said...

Beautiful technique with kind of creepy results; perhaps revealing a clue to his unstable mental state.

Bill

Beth said...

Do you think his pastels would have contained lead?

Gavin said...

None of the faces look particularly stern, they're filled with light, smiling, and the eyes make them all seem quite approachable. It's quite refreshing to see something like this, and in pastel too.