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PIERRE CECILE PUVIS DE CHAVANNES (182...

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Originally appearing in Volume V22, Page 674 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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PIERRE CECILE PUVIS DE CHAVANNES (1824-1898), French painter, was born at Lyons on the 14th of December 1824. His father was a mining engineer, the descendant of an old family of Burgundy. Pierre Puvis was educated at the Lyons College and at the Lycee Henri IV. in Paris, and was intended to follow his father's profession when a serious illness interrupted his studies. A journey to Italy opened his mind to fresh ideas, and on his return to France he announced his intention of becoming a painter, and went to study first under Henri Scheffer, and then under Couture. On leaving this master in 1852 he established himself in a studio in the Place Pigalle (which he did not give up till 1897), and there organized a sort of academy for a group of fellow students who wished to work from the living mode]. Puvis first exhibited in the Salon of. 185o a " Pieta," and in the same year he painted " Mademoiselle de Sombreuil Drinking a Glass of Blood to Save her Father," and " Jean Cavalier .by his Mother's Deathbed," besides an " Ecce Homo," now in the church of Champagnat (Saone-et-Loire). In 1852 and in the two follow- ing years Puvis's pictures were rejected by the Salon, and were sent to a private exhibition in the Galeries Bonne Nouvelle. The public laughed at his work as loudly as at that of Courbet, but the young painter was none the less warmly defended by Theophile Gautier and Theodore de Banville. For nine years Puvis was excluded from the Salons. In 1857 he had painted " Martyrdom of St Sebastian," " Meditation," " Village Firemen," " Julie," " Herodias," and " Saint Camilla " colossal monolith, part of some ancient monument, to add it to other architectural pieces; then the busy scene of a pottery; and finally artists painting in the open air. Puvis, as a rule, adhered to the presentment of the nude or of the lightest drapery; here, however, in response to some critical remarks, he has clad his figures exclusively in modern dress. After prolonged negotiations, begun so early as in 1891, with the trustees of the Boston Library, U.S.A., Puvis de Chavannes accepted a commission to paint nine large panels for that building, to he inserted in separate compartments, three facing the door, three to the right and three to the left. These pictures, begun in 1895, were finished in 1898. In these works of his latest period Puvis de Chavannes soars boldly above realistic vision. In the figures which people the walls with poetic images he endeavours to achieve originality of the embodying forms, and at the same time a plastic expression of ideas born of a mind whose conceptions grew ever loftier, while yet the artist would not abandon the severe study of nature. Such works as the great paintings at Amiens, Rouen, Marseilles, the Pantheon, the Sorbonne, and the Hotel de Ville are among the most important productions of French art in the 19th century. Puvis de Chavannes was president of the National Society of Fine Arts (the New Salon). His principal pupils and followers are Ary Renan (d. 1900), Baudouin, J. F. Auburtin and Cottet. See A. Michel, " Exposition de M. Puvis de Chavannes," Gazette des beaux-arts (i888); Marius Vachon, Puvis de Chavannes (1900); Buisson, " Puvis de Chavannes, Souvenirs Intimes," Gazette des eaux-arts (1899). (H. FR.)
End of Article: PIERRE CECILE PUVIS DE CHAVANNES (1824-1898)
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