Charles Le Brun France
2-24-1619 Paris, FRA – 2-22-1690 Paris, FRABack to Artist IndexView Artists Paintings
Charles Le Brun attracted the notice of Chancellor Séguier, who placed him at the age of eleven in the studio of Simon Vouet. He was also a pupil of François Perrier. At fifteen he received commissions from Cardinal Richelieu, in the execution of which he displayed an ability which obtained the generous commendations of Nicolas Poussin, in whose company Le Brun started for Rome in 1642.
In Rome he remained four years in the receipt of a pension due to the liberality of the chancellor. There he worked under Poussin, adapting the latter's theories of art.
On his return to Paris in 1646, Charles Le Brun found numerous patrons, of whom Superintendent Fouquet was the most important, for whom he painted a large portrait of Anne of Austria. Employed at Vaux-le-Vicomte, Le Brun ingratiated himself with Mazarin, then secretly pitting Colbert against Fouquet. Colbert also promptly recognized Le Brun's powers of organization, and attached him to his interests. Together they took control of the Academy of Painting and Sculpture (Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture, 1648), and the Academy of France at Rome (1666), and gave a new development to the industrial arts.
In 1660 they established the Gobelins, which at first was a great school for the manufacture, not of tapestries only, but of every class of furniture required in the royal palaces. Commanding the industrial arts through the Gobelins—of which he was director—and the whole artistic world through the Academy—in which he successively held every post—Charles Le Brun imprinted his own character on all that was produced in France during his lifetime. He was the originator of Louis XIV Style and gave a direction to the national tendencies which endured centuries after his death.
In 1663, he became director of the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture, where he laid the basis of academicism and became the all-powerful, peerless master of 17th-century French art. It was during this period that he dedicated a series of works to the history of Alexander The Great (The Battles of Alexander The Great), and he did not miss the opportunity to make a stronger connection between the magnificence of Alexander and that of the great King.
Charles Le Brun was also a fine portraitist and an excellent draughtsman, but he was not fond of portrait or landscape painting, which he felt to be a mere exercise in developing technical prowess. What mattered was scholarly composition, whose ultimate goal was to nourish the spirit. The fundamental basis on which the director of the Academy based his art was unquestionably to make his paintings speak, through a series of symbols, costumes and gestures that allowed him to select for his composition the narrative elements that gave his works a particular depth. For Le Brun, a painting represented a story one could read. Nearly all his compositions have been reproduced by celebrated engravers.
On 23 January 2013, artistic advisors for the Hôtel Ritz Paris, announced the discovery of The Sacrifice of Polyxena, an early work of Charles Le Brun . The picture, dated 1647, ornamented the Coco Chanel suite of the famous Parisian palace, and went unnoticed for over a century.
Art Movement: Baroque
Influences: Nicolas Poussin, Simon Vouet, François Perrier
Traveled: Italy, Belgium
Influenced: Ludovico Dorigny