Pierre Cécile Puvis de Chavannes

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Pierre Cécile Puvis de Chavannes

Birthdate: (73)
Birthplace: Lyon, Rhône, Rhone-Alpes, France
Death: October 24, 1898 (73)
Paris, Paris, Île-de-France, France
Place of Burial: Neuilly-sur-Seine, Hauts-de-Seine, Île-de-France, France
Immediate Family:

Son of César Puvis de Chavannes and Marguerite Puvis de Chavannes
Husband of Marie Cantacuzène
Brother of Joséphine Jordan; Marie-Antoinette Vincent de Vaugelas and Julien Marguerite Edouard Puvis de Chavannes

Occupation: Artiste Peintre, membre de l'Institut
Managed by: Samuel Austin - Le Maux
Last Updated:

About Pierre Cécile Puvis de Chavannes

Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (14 December 1824 – 24 October 1898) was a French painter best known for his mural painting, who came to be known as 'the painter for France'.[1] He became the co-founder and president of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, and his work influenced many other artists, notably Robert Genin. Puvis de Chavannes was a prominent painter in the early Third Republic. Émile Zola described his work as "an art made of reason, passion, and will".[2]


Puvis de Chavannes was born Pierre-Cécile Puvis in a suburb of Lyon, France. He was the son of a mining engineer. Being descended from an old noble family of Burgundy, he later added the ancestral 'de Chavannes' to his name. Throughout his life, however, he spurned his Lyon origins, preferring to identify himself with the 'strong' blood of the Burgundians, where his father originated.[3] Puvis de Chavannes was educated at the Amiens College and at the Lycée Henri IV in Paris. He intended to follow his father's profession until a serious illness compelled him to convalesce at Mâcon with his brother and sister-in-law in 1844 and 1845, interrupting his studies. A journey to Italy opened his mind to fresh ideas, and on his return to Paris in 1846 he announced his intention to become a painter. He studied first under Eugène Delacroix, but only very briefly, as Delacroix closed his studio shortly afterwards due to ill health. He studied subsequently under Henri Scheffer and then Thomas Couture.[4][5] His training was not classical as he found that he preferred to work alone. He took a large studio near the Gare de Lyon and attended anatomy classes at the Académie des Beaux Arts.[6] It was not until a number of years later, when the government of France acquired one of his works, that he gained wide recognition.

Puvis de Chavannes made his Salon debut in 1850 with Dead Christ, Negro Boy, The Reading Lesson, and Portrait of a Man.

In Montmartre, he had an affair with one of his models, Suzanne Valadon, who would become one of the leading artists of the day as well as the mother, teacher, and mentor of Maurice Utrillo. From 1856, he was in a relationship with the Romanian princess, Marie Cantacuzène. The couple were together for 40 years, and were married before their deaths in 1898.[7]


Puvis de Chavannes' work is seen as symbolist in nature, even though he studied with some of the romanticists, and he is credited with influencing an entire generation of painters and sculptors, particularly the works of the Modernists. One of his protégés was Georges de Feure.

Mural work

Puvis de Chavannes is best known for his mural painting, and came to be known as 'the painter for France.' His first commission was for his brother's chateau, Le Brouchy, a medieval-style structure near Cuiseaux in Saône-et-Loire. The principal decorations take the four seasons as their theme.[8] His first public commissions came early in the 1860s, with work at the Musée de Picardie at Amiens. The first four works were Concordia (1861), Bellum (1861), Le Travail (Work; 1863) and Le Repos (Rest; 1863).

The regions

Over the course of his career, Puvis received a substantial number of commissions for works to be carried out in public and private institutions throughout France. His early work at the Musée de Picardie had helped him to develop his classicizing style, and the decorative aesthetic of his mural works.

Among his public works are the later cycles completed at Amiens (Ave Picardia Nutrix, 1865), at Marseille, at Lyon and at Poitiers. Of particular importance is the cycle at the Palais de Beaux Arts in Lyon, which includes three significant works, filling the wall space in the main staircase. From left to right, the works are Antique Vision (1884), The Wood Dear to the Arts and the Muses (1884), and Christian Inspiration (1884). Paris

Puvis' career was tied up with a complicated debate that had been ongoing since the beginning of the Third Republic (1870), and at the end of the violence of the Paris Commune. The question at stake was the identity of France and the meaning of 'Frenchness'. Royalists felt that the revolution of 1789 had been an immense disaster and that France had been thrown off course, while the Republicans felt that the Revolution had allowed France to revert to its true course. Consequently, works that were to be displayed in public spaces, such as murals, had the important task of fulfilling the ideology of the commissioning party. Many scholars of Puvis's works have noted that his success as a 'painter for France' was largely due to his ability to create works which were agreeable to the many ideologies in existence at this time.

His first Parisian commission was for a cycle at the church of Saint Genevieve, which is now the secular Pantheon, begun in 1874. His two subjects were L'Education de Sainte Geneviève and La Vie Pastoral de Sainte Geneviève. This commission was followed by works at the Sorbonne, namely the enormous hemicycle, The Sacred Grove or L'Ancienne Sorbonne amongst the muses in the Grand Amphitheater of the Sorbonne.

His final commission in this trinity of Republican commissions was the crowning glory of Puvis's career, the works Summer and Winter, at the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) in Paris.

Many of these works are characterized by their nod to classical art, visible in the careful balanced compositions, and the subject matter is frequently a direct reference to visions of Hellenistic Greece, particularly in the case of Antique Vision.

Works on canvas

Puvis de Chavannes was president and co-founder in 1890 of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts (National Society of Fine Arts) founded in Paris. It became the dominant salon of art at the time and held exhibitions of contemporary art that was selected only by a jury composed of the officers of the Société.

Those who translated best the spirit of the work of Pierre-Cécile Puvis de Chavannes' in their own creations were, in Germany, the painter Ludwig von Hofmann[9] and in France, Auguste Rodin.[10][full citation needed]

His easel paintings also may be found in many American and European galleries. Some of these paintings are,

   Death and the Maiden
   The Dream
   The Poor Fisherman, 1881, oil on canvas
   The Meditation
   Mary Magdalene at Saint Baume
   Saint Genoveva
   Young Girls at the Seaside, 1887, oil on canvas
   Mad Woman at the Edge of the Sea
   Hope (nude)
   Kneeling nude woman, viewed from back
   The Sacred Grove

Puvis de Chavannes prize

Beginning in 1926, The Prix Puvis de Chavannes (Puvis de Chavannes prize) was awarded by the National Society of Fine Arts (Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts). The Prix Puvis de Chavannes is the retrospective exhibition in Paris of the main works of the artist awarded the prize that year. During the twentieth century, this exhibition was located at the Grand Palais or the Musée d'Art Moderne.

The most famous painters who have been awarded the prize are, 1941: Wilhem Van Hasselt, 1944: Jean Gabriel Domergue, 1948: Joseph Pinchon, 1952: Tristan Klingsor, 1955: Georges Delplanque, 1957: Albert Decaris, 1958: Jean Picard Le Doux, 1963: Maurice Boitel,[11] 1966: Pierre Gaillardot, 1968: Pierre-Henry, 1969: Louis Vuillermoz, 1970: Daniel du Janerand, 1971: Jean-Pierre Alaux; 1975: Jean Monneret; 1987: André Hambourg; 1991: Gaston Sébire; 1993: Jean Cluseau-Lanauve; 2006: Paul Collomb .[12]


About Pierre Cécile Puvis de Chavannes (Français)

Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, né à Lyon le 14 décembre 1824 et mort à Paris le 24 octobre 1898, est un peintre français, considéré comme une figure majeure de la peinture française du XIXe siècle.


Après des études de rhétorique et de philosophie au lycée Henri-IV de Paris, il fait un premier voyage en Italie, puis commence à étudier la peinture auprès de Henry Scheffer. Il fait ensuite un deuxième séjour en Italie et étudie brièvement auprès d'Eugène Delacroix, puis dans l'atelier de Thomas Couture. Il est marqué par les grandes peintures murales de Théodore Chassériau, exécutées pour l'escalier de la Cour des comptes entre 1844 et 1848 (détruites en 1871). Il ne trouve véritablement sa voie qu'à l'âge de trente ans en réalisant le décor de la salle à manger de la résidence campagnarde de son frère (Les Quatre Saisons, Le Retour de l'enfant prodigue).

Ses débuts au Salon sont difficiles. Il est plusieurs fois refusé et quand enfin il expose, il est sévèrement critiqué. Puis, en 1861, il remporte un premier succès avec La Guerre et La Paix. La première est achetée par l'État français. Puvis offre la seconde, complétée en 1863 par Le Repos et Le Travail, et en 1865 par Ave Picardie nutrix, puis quinze ans plus tard par Ludus pro Patria. Ce décor exceptionnel sur le plan thématique et stylistique est représentatif du traitement novateur que Puvis apporte au genre allégorique dont il devient à la fin du XIXe siècle le plus brillant représentant. À son petit atelier de Pigalle, il ajoute rapidement un plus grand, à Neuilly. Il vit avenue de Villiers, auprès de la princesse roumaine Marie Cantacuzène (1820- juillet 1898), qu'il rencontre en 1856N 1, sans doute dans l'atelier du peintre Théodore Chassériau dont elle est l'amie. Elle a une influence considérable sur lui, devenant sa compagne, sa collaboratrice, son inspiratrice. Il en fait en 1883 un portrait, aujourd'hui visible au musée des beaux-arts de Lyon. Elle lui sert également de modèle pour la Salomé de la Décollation de Saint-Jean-Baptiste, pour Radegonde de l'hôtel de ville de Poitiers, et pour la Sainte-Geneviève du Panthéon de Paris.

Puvis de Chavannes réalise de grands décors muraux : au palais Longchamp à Marseille (1867-1869), à l'hôtel de ville de Poitiers (1870- 1875), à l'hôtel de ville de Paris (1887-1894), à la Bibliothèque publique de Boston (1881-1896). À ceux-ci s'ajoutent trois ensembles exceptionnels, celui du Panthéon de Paris, où il traite de la vie de Sainte Geneviève (1874-1878) et (1893-1898) ; le décor de l'escalier du musée des beaux-arts de Lyon (1884-1886) avec le Bois sacré cher aux Arts et aux Muses complété par Vision antique, Inspiration chrétienne et deux figures représentant le Rhône et la Saône ; et enfin le grand décor de l'amphithéâtre de la Sorbonne à Paris (1886-1889), qui développe le thème du Bois sacré. Chacun de ces décors donne lieu à des études, copies, répliques, cartons préparatoires qui popularisent l'œuvre de Puvis en particulier à l'étranger.

Par cette œuvre décorative immense, mais aussi avec des tableaux de chevalet d'un symbolisme novateur, il conquiert l'admiration d'une génération entière, influençant non seulement les idéalistes tels que Odilon Redon, Henri Martin, Alphonse Osbert, Alexandre Séon, Émile-René Ménard ou Ary Renan, mais aussi les Nabis, Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat, Maurice Denis, et même le jeune Pablo Picasso dont nombre d'œuvres de jeunesse lui sont redevables.

En 1890, il refonde avec Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier, Carolus-Duran, Félix Bracquemond, Jules Dalou et Auguste Rodin la Société nationale des beaux-arts, dont il est successivement vice-président et président, à la suite de la mort de Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier.

Il est nommé chevalier de la Légion d'honneur en 1867, officier en 1877, puis commandeur en 1889. Il obtint la médaille d'honneur en 1882.

Il meurt le 24 octobre 1898 à 18 heures, trois mois après le décès de sa femme Marie Cantacuzène. Il est enterré au cimetière ancien de Neuilly-sur-Seine.

La seule autorité reconnue par les ayants droit pour l'authentification des œuvres est le « comité Pierre Puvis de Chavannes »


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Pierre Cécile Puvis de Chavannes's Timeline

December 12, 1824
Lyon, Rhône, Rhone-Alpes, France
October 24, 1898
Age 73
Paris, Paris, Île-de-France, France
Neuilly-sur-Seine, Hauts-de-Seine, Île-de-France, France