Jules Joseph Lefèbvre France
3-14-1834 Tournan-en-Brie, FRA – 2-24-1912 Paris, FRABack to Artist IndexView Artists Paintings
Though Jules Joseph Lefèbvre father was only a baker, he nonetheless encouraged his son to pursue painting, sending him to study in Paris in 1852. There, Jules Joseph Lefèbvre became a pupil of Léon Cogniet and a year later started attending the École des Beaux Arts. His debut at the Paris Salon was in 1855. He then spent the next few years pursuing the coveted Prix de Rome. In 1859 he 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 he would find his individual artistic niche. Able to study the great Italian masters, Jules Joseph Lefèbvre was fascinated by the Mannerist painters, especially Andrea del Sarto. He copied his work avidly and demonstrated Andrea’s influence in his painting Boy Painting a Tragic Mask. It was also during this time that his interest in the female nude began, painting his first in 1863. 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.
He emerged from his depression and came back to Paris with a different approach to art and a change of interest in subject matter. He apparently became disenchanted with the traditional formulaic approach to painting, instead turning towards more precise rendering from life. In 1868 Jules Joseph Lefèbvre exhibited a Reclining Nude at the Salon, which unlike his last significant work, won him much praise. Two years later, his allegory of Truth became his first great success.
What followed in the decades to come were variations on Truth. His nudes became so famous that his only rival was considered to be Bouguereau. Unlike Bouguereau’s figures though, Jules Joseph Lefèbvre used a greater variety of models, which can be seen in his work.
In the 1870’s he became a teacher at the Academie Julien that trained women artists as well as men over a decade before they were also permitted into L’École des Beaux Arts. There he is said to have insisted to his students on absolute precision in life drawing. There he became the most admired and sought after teacher of American ex-patriots, who came to Paris to study. Among Jules Joseph Lefèbvre most famous American students, were Child Hassam, Frank Benson and Edmund Tarbell.
Art Movement: Academic
Influences: Léon Cogniet, Andrea del Sarto
Influenced: Child Hassam, Frank Benson, Edmund Tarbell, Fernand Khnopff, Kenyon Cox, Félix Vallotton, Ernst Friedrich von Liphart, Georges Rochegrosse, William Hart, Walter Lofthouse Dean