Antoine-Jean Gros


 French Neoclassical  Painter

Artistically and Stylistically Influenced by the Following Painters - Francois Boucher, Francois Gerard, Raphael, Michelangelo,  and Antonio Canova

Education - learned the basics of painting in his fathers studio and later studied under Jacques-Louis David

Cause of Death - suicide, he tied a stone around his neck and drowned himself.

Antoine-Jean Gros was born in Paris on March 16, 1771 into a family of painters who specialized in miniatures. From an early age he proved himself to be an artistic prodigy and by the age of  fourteen was employed in workshop of Jacques-Louis David.  At the height of the French Revolution his father was accused of royalist sympathies and his possessions were confiscated by the state.  Overcome with dishonor the elder Gros took to his bed and refused all food drink. Dying within a few weeks.  Young Antoine feared for his own life hastily fled to Italy. While in Florence he became captivated by the work of renaissance masters Raphael and Michelangelo.
In 1796 Gros was introduced to Josephine de Beauharnais who introduced him to her husband Napoleon Bonaparte. According to art historian, S. Spooner "Napoleon was not only a true lover of art, but an excellent connoisseur. He did more to elevate the arts and sciences in France than all the monarchs together who had preceded him. It was a part of his policy to honor and reward every man of genius, no matter what his origin, and thus to develop the intellect of his country. He foresaw the advantage of making Paris the great centre of art; therefore he did not hesitate to transport from the countries he conquered, the most renowned and valuable works of ancient and modern times."
  Bonaparte commissioned the struggling painter to produce several large historical paintings highlighting his military exploits. His greatest  masterpiece, Napoleon Visiting the Plague-Stricken in Jaffa, is considered a masterwork of propaganda. Gros portrayed the ruthless Napoleon as a compassionate, concerned leader.  From then on the artist was employed as Napoleon's chief propagandist artist
After the fall and exile of Napoleon, Gros drifted into a life of reckless debauchery and drink.  One beautiful Spring day In 1835, his glory days long gone, Gros donned the tattered uniform and medals Napoleon had awarded him and then tied a rock around his neck and cast himself upon the waves.  Leaving behind a suicide note which read "Tired of life, and betrayed by last faculties which rendered it bearable, he had resolved to end it." Some time later fisherman found his bloated corpse, his face half eaten away by sea turtles.
Description and the Founding of the Neoclassic Art Movement

"The Art of The French Revolution"

The period is called neoclassical because its artists looked back to the art and culture of classical Greece and Rome.  The spread of Neoclassical Art was primarily inspired by recent roman archeological excavations, including Pompeii and by gay art historian Johann Joachim Winckelmann. Winckelmann touted the homoeroticism of Greco-Roman art, writing explicit descriptions of erotic nude male sculptures from Classical Antiquity thereby encouraging an interest in Greek antiquities. According to Winckelmanns biographer, Walter Pater, "his affinity with Hellenism was not merely intellectual, that the subtler threads of temperament were inwoven in it, is proved by his romantic, fervent friendships with young men. He has known, he says, many young men more beautiful than Guido’s archangel. These friendships, bringing him into contact with the pride of human form, and staining the thoughts with its bloom, perfected his reconciliation to the spirit of Greek sculpture.

Neoclassical art is characterized by its classical form and structure, clarity, and to an degree, realism. French Neoclassism painters emphasis's patriotism, as well as a sense of civility and honorableness. The movement was particularly connected with the beliefs of the French Revolution and was seen as anti-aristocratic. The fantasy-based aristocratic art of the
Rococo seemed an insult upon the rights of men and was vilified by critics and the general public.  In an age of sweeping revolution and transformation Neoclassicism became the art of change.

Key Painters of the Neoclassical Period

James Barry Irish, 1741-1806
Antonio Canova Italian, 1757-1822
Jacques-Louis David French, 1748-1825
Jules Elie Delaunay French, 1828-1891
Francois Gerard French, 1770-1837
Antoine-Jean Gros  French, 1771-1835
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres French, 1780-1867
Angelica Kauffmann Swiss, 1741-1807
Rembrandt Peale American, 1778-1860
Bertel Thorvaldsen Danish, 1770-1844
John Trumbull American, 1756-1843
Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun   French, 1755-1842

Benjamin  West American, 1738-1820

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