Antoine-Jean Gros

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Antoine-Jean Gros
Antoine Jean Gros par Gerard.jpg
Antoine-Jean Gros at age 20, c. 1791
Born16 March 1771 (1771-03-16)
Died25 June 1835 (1835-06-26) (aged 64)
near Meudon, France
Education Collège Mazarin
Known for Painting

Antoine-Jean Gros (French pronunciation:  [ɑ̃twanʒɑ̃ gʁo] ; 16 March 1771 25 June 1835), titled as Baron Gros in 1824, [1] was a French painter. [2] His work was in the genres of history and neoclassical painting.

History painting genre in painting defined by historical matter

History painting is a genre in painting defined by its subject matter rather than artistic style. History paintings usually depict a moment in a narrative story, rather than a specific and static subject, as in a portrait. The term is derived from the wider senses of the word historia in Latin and Italian, meaning "story" or "narrative", and essentially means "story painting". Most history paintings are not of scenes from history, especially paintings from before about 1850.

Neoclassicism Western art movements that draw inspiration from the "classical" art and culture of Ancient Greece or Ancient Rome

Neoclassicism is the name given to Western movements in the decorative and visual arts, literature, theatre, music, and architecture that draw inspiration from the "classical" art and culture of classical antiquity. Neoclassicism was born largely thanks to the writings of Johann Joachim Winckelmann, at the time of the rediscovery of Pompeii and Herculaneum, but its popularity spread all over Europe as a generation of European art students finished their Grand Tour and returned from Italy to their home countries with newly rediscovered Greco-Roman ideals. The main Neoclassical movement coincided with the 18th-century Age of Enlightenment, and continued into the early 19th century, laterally competing with Romanticism. In architecture, the style continued throughout the 19th, 20th and up to the 21st century.


Gros studied under Jacques-Louis David in Paris and began an independent artistic career during the French Revolution. Forced to leave France, he moved to Genoa and witnessed the nearby Battle of Arcole (1796). Inspired by an event during the battle, he produced a portrait of the French commander, Napoleon Bonaparte, then a newly promoted general. The portrait brought Gros to public attention and gained the patronage of Napoleon.

Jacques-Louis David French painter

Jacques-Louis David was a French painter in the Neoclassical style, considered to be the preeminent painter of the era. In the 1780s his cerebral brand of history painting marked a change in taste away from Rococo frivolity toward classical austerity and severity and heightened feeling, harmonizing with the moral climate of the final years of the Ancien Régime.

French Revolution Revolution in France, 1789 to 1798

The French Revolution was a period of far-reaching social and political upheaval in France and its colonies beginning in 1789. The Revolution overthrew the monarchy, established a republic, catalyzed violent periods of political turmoil, and finally culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon who brought many of its principles to areas he conquered in Western Europe and beyond. Inspired by liberal and radical ideas, the Revolution profoundly altered the course of modern history, triggering the global decline of absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and liberal democracies. Through the Revolutionary Wars, it unleashed a wave of global conflicts that extended from the Caribbean to the Middle East. Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in human history.

Genoa Comune in Liguria, Italy

Genoa is the capital of the Italian region of Liguria and the sixth-largest city in Italy. In 2015, 594,733 people lived within the city's administrative limits. As of the 2011 Italian census, the Province of Genoa, which in 2015 became the Metropolitan City of Genoa, counted 855,834 resident persons. Over 1.5 million people live in the wider metropolitan area stretching along the Italian Riviera.

After travelling with Napoleon's army for several years, he returned to Paris in 1799. Gros produced several large paintings of battles and other events in Napoleon's life. These were mostly in a neoclassical style, but Napoléon on the Battlefield of Eylau adopted a more realistic portrayal of the horrors of war. Gros also painted portraits of officers in the French army and members of French high society. After the fall of Napoleon, he shifted his artistic focus and produced more history paintings, which art historians regard as less impressive than his earlier work.

<i>Napoléon on the Battlefield of Eylau</i> painting by Antoine-Jean Gros

Napoléon on the Battlefield of Eylau is an oil painting of 1808 by French Romantic painter Antoine-Jean Gros. Completed during the winter of 1807–1808, the work became an icon of the emerging style of French Romanticism. It depicts a moment from the aftermath of the bloody Battle of Eylau in which Napoléon Bonaparte surveys the battlefield where his Grande Armée secured a costly victory against the Russians. Although Napoleon on the Battlefield of Eylau retains elements of history painting, it is by far Gros's most realistic work depicting Napoleon and breaks from the subtlety of Neoclassicism. The painting's influence can be seen in the works of artists like Théodore Géricault and Eugène Delacroix.

Early life and training

Equestrian portrait of prince Boris Yusupov, 1809 Antoine-Jean Gros - Equestrian portrait of prince Boris Yusupov - Google Art Project.jpg
Equestrian portrait of prince Boris Yusupov, 1809

Born in Paris, Gros began to learn to draw at the age of six from his father, Jean-Antoine Gros, [3] who was a miniature painter, and showed himself as a gifted artist. His mother, Pierrette-Madeleine-Cécile Durand, was also a painter. [4] Towards the close of 1785, Gros, by his own choice, entered the studio of Jacques-Louis David, which he frequented assiduously, continuing at the same time to follow the classes of the Collège Mazarin. [5]

Paris Capital of France

Paris is the capital and most populous city of France, with an area of 105 square kilometres and an official estimated population of 2,140,526 residents as of 1 January 2019. Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of Europe's major centres of finance, diplomacy, commerce, fashion, science, and the arts. The City of Paris is the centre and seat of government of the Île-de-France, or Paris Region, which has an estimated official 2019 population of 12,213,364, or about 18 percent of the population of France. The Paris Region had a GDP of €709 billion in 2017. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit Worldwide Cost of Living Survey in 2018, Paris was the second most expensive city in the world, after Singapore, and ahead of Zürich, Hong Kong, Oslo and Geneva. Another source ranked Paris as most expensive, on a par with Singapore and Hong Kong, in 2018.

Jean-Antoine Gros (1740–1786) was a French painter, father of Antoine-Jean Gros.

Portrait miniature very small painting

A portrait miniature is a miniature portrait painting, usually executed in gouache, watercolor, or enamel. Portrait miniatures developed out of the techniques of the miniatures in illuminated manuscripts, and were popular among 16th-century elites, mainly in England and France, and spread across the rest of Europe from the middle of the 18th century, remaining highly popular until the development of daguerreotypes and photography in the mid-19th century. They were usually intimate gifts given within the family, or by hopeful males in courtship, but some rulers, such as James I of England, gave large numbers as diplomatic or political gifts. They were especially likely to be painted when a family member was going to be absent for significant periods, whether a husband or son going to war or emigrating, or a daughter getting married.

The death of his father, whose circumstances had been embarrassed by the French Revolution, threw Gros upon his own resources in 1791. He now devoted himself wholly to his profession, and he competed (unsuccessfully) in 1792 for the grand prix. Around this time, however, on the recommendation of the École des Beaux Arts, he was employed on the execution of portraits of the members of the National Convention, but disturbed by the development of the Revolution, Gros left France in 1793 for Italy. [5]

National Convention Single-chamber assembly in France from 21 September 1792 to 26 October 1795

The National Convention was the first government of the French Revolution, following the two-year National Constituent Assembly and the one-year Legislative Assembly. Created after the great insurrection of 10 August 1792, it was the first French government organized as a republic, abandoning the monarchy altogether. The Convention sat as a single-chamber assembly from 20 September 1792 to 26 October 1795.

Genoa and Bonaparte

Bonaparte at the pont d'Arcole, 1796 1801 Antoine-Jean Gros - Bonaparte on the Bridge at Arcole.jpg
Bonaparte at the pont d'Arcole, 1796

He supported himself at Genoa by the same means, producing a great quantity of miniatures and fixés. He visited Florence, but returned to Genoa where he made the acquaintance of Joséphine de Beauharnais. He followed her to Milan, where he was well received by her husband, Napoleon Bonaparte. [5]

Florence Capital and most populous city of the Italian region of Tuscany

Florence is a city in central Italy and the capital city of the Tuscany region. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with 383,084 inhabitants in 2013, and over 1,520,000 in its metropolitan area.

Milan Italian city

Milan is a city in northern Italy, capital of Lombardy, and the second-most populous city in Italy after Rome, with the city proper having a population of 1,395,274 while its metropolitan city has a population of 3,255,773. Its continuously built-up urban area has a population estimated to be about 5,270,000 over 1,891 square kilometres. The wider Milan metropolitan area, known as Greater Milan, is a polycentric metropolitan region that extends over central Lombardy and eastern Piedmont and which counts an estimated total population of 7.5 million, making it by far the largest metropolitan area in Italy and the 54th largest in the world. Milan served as capital of the Western Roman Empire from 286 to 402 and the Duchy of Milan during the medieval period and early modern age.

On 15 November 1796, Gros was present with the army near Arcola when Bonaparte planted the French tricolor on the bridge. Gros seized on this incident, and showed by his treatment of it (entitled Bonaparte at the pont d'Arcole ) that he had found his vocation. Bonaparte at once gave him the post of inspecteur aux revues, which enabled him to follow the army, and in 1797 nominated him to the commission charged with selecting the spoils which should enrich the Louvre. [5]


Battle of Abukir, 25 juillet 1799, 1806 Antoine-Jean Gros - Bataille d'Aboukir, 25 juillet 1799 - Google Art Project.jpg
Battle of Abukir, 25 juillet 1799, 1806

In 1799, having escaped from the besieged city of Genoa, Gros made his way to Paris, and in the beginning of 1801 took up his quarters in the Capucins. His esquisse of the Battle of Nazareth (now in the Musée de Nantes) gained the prize offered in 1802 by the consuls, but was not carried out, owing it is said to the jealousy of Jean-Andoche Junot felt by Napoleon; but he indemnified Gros by commissioning him to paint his own visit to the pest-house of Jaffa. Les Pestiférés de Jaffa (Louvre) was followed by The Battle of Aboukir, 1806 (Versailles), and The Battle of Eylau, 1808 (Louvre). [6] According to the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, "these three subjects – the popular leader facing the pestilence unmoved, challenging the splendid instant of victory, heart-sick with the bitter cost of a hard-won field – gave Gros his chief title to fame." [5]

Britannica further remarks that as long as the military element remained bound up with French national life, Gros received from it a fresh and energetic inspiration which carried him to the very heart of the events which he depicted; but as the army and its general separated from the people, Gros, called on to illustrate episodes representative only of the fulfilment of personal ambition, ceased to find the nourishment necessary to his genius, and the defect of his artistic position became evident. Trained in the sect of the Classicists, he was shackled by their rules, even when by his naturalistic treatment of types, and appeal to picturesque effect in color and tone, he seemed to run counter to them. [5]

Salon of 1804

Napoleon Visiting the Plague Victims of Jaffa, 1804 Antoine-Jean Gros - Bonaparte visitant les pestiferes de Jaffa.jpg
Napoleon Visiting the Plague Victims of Jaffa, 1804
Napoleon at the Pyramids in 1798, 1810 Baron Antoine-Jean Gros-Battle Pyramids 1810.jpg
Napoleon at the Pyramids in 1798, 1810
Lieutenant Charles Legrand, c. 1810 Frz-Gardekuerassier.png
Lieutenant Charles Legrand, c. 1810

At the Salon of 1804, Gros debuted his painting Bonaparte Visiting the Plague Victims of Jaffa. The painting launched his career as a successful painter. It depicts Bonaparte in Jaffa visiting soldiers infected with the bubonic plague. He is portrayed reaching out to one of the sick, unfazed by the illness.

While Bonaparte did actually visit the pesthouse, later, as his army prepared to withdraw from Syria, he ordered the poisoning (with laudanum) of about fifty of his plague-infected men. [7] The painting was commissioned as damage control when word spread of his actions. The painting is in the neoclassical style, though it shows elements such as the lighting and a taste for the exotic that are precursors to the upcoming Romantic ideals.

Later life and death

In 1810, his Madrid and Napoleon at the Pyramids (Versailles) show that his star had deserted him. His Francis I and Charles V, 1812 (Louvre), had considerable success, but the decoration of the dome of St. Genevieve (begun in 1811 and completed in 1824) is the only work of Gros's later years which shows his early force and vigour, as well as his skill. The "Departure of Louis XVIII" (Versailles), the Embarkation of Madame d'Angoulême (Bordeaux), the plafond of the Egyptian room in the Louvre, and finally his Hercules and Diomedes, exhibited in 1835, testify only that Gros's efforts – in accordance with the frequent counsels of his old master David – to stem the rising tide of Romanticism only damaged his once brilliant reputation. [5]

Again citing the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, "Exasperated by criticism and the consciousness of failure, Gros sought refuge in the gros[ser] pleasures of life." On 25 June 1835, he was found drowned on the shores of the Seine at Meudon, near Sèvres. From a paper which he had placed in his hat, it became known that "tired of life, and betrayed by last faculties which rendered it bearable, he had resolved to end it." [5]


Gros was made a member of the Legion of Honour on 22 October 1808 by Napoleon, [8] after the Salon of 1808, at which he had exhibited the Battle of Eylau. [6] The number of Gros's pupils was very great and was considerably augmented when, in 1815, David quit Paris and gave over his own classes to him. [5]

Under the Bourbon Restoration, Gros became a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts, [9] a professor at the École des Beaux-Arts, and a member of the Order of Saint Michael. He was granted the title of baron in 1824 by King Charles X of France. [1]

Gros had also been an inspiration to Eugène Delacroix, especially with his work in lithography. The two both worked in the same time period, and both did portraits of Napoleon. However, at one point, Gros had referred to Delacroix's Chios and Missolonghi as "a massacre of art".

G. Dargenty produced a book titled: Les Artistes Celebres ("Famous Artists"), Le Baron Gros, GILBERT WOOD & Co., London.

M. Delcluze gave a brief notice of his life in Louis David et son temps ("Louis David and his times"), and Julius Meyer's Geschichte der modernen französischen Malerei ("History of Modern French Painting") contains what Britannica cites as an excellent criticism on his works. [5]


Antoine Jean Gros, Autoportrait, 1795.jpg Autoportrait1795 Palace of Versailles
Antoine-Jean Gros - Madame Pasteur.jpg Madame Pasteur1795–1796 The Louvre
Portrait of Madame Bruyere179679 × 65 cm Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery
1801 Antoine-Jean Gros - Bonaparte on the Bridge at Arcole.jpg Bonaparte at the Pont d'Arcole 1796130 × 94 cm Palace of Versailles
The Death of Timophanes179844.4 × 57.6 cm The Louvre
Antoine-Jean Gros 009.jpg Portrait of Christine Boyerc. 1800214 × 134 cm The Louvre
Antoine-Jean Gros 010.jpg The Battle of Nazareth1801136.1 x 196.4 cm Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes
Antoine-Jean Gros - Sappho at Leucate - WGA10704.jpg Sappho at Leucate1801122 × 100 cmMusée Baron Gérard, Bayeux
Gros - First Consul Bonaparte.png First Consul Bonaparte1802205 × 127 cm Musée de la Légion d'honneur
Antoine-Jean Gros - Bonaparte visitant les pestiferes de Jaffa.jpg Bonaparte Visiting the Plague Victims of Jaffa 1804715 × 523 cm The Louvre
Gros - Gerard-Christophe-Michel Duroc, duc de Frioul (1772-1813).jpg Gérard-Christophe-Michel Duroc, duc de Frioul (1772-1813)1805218 × 142 cm Palace of Versailles
Antoine-Jean Gros - Bataille d'Aboukir, 25 juillet 1799 - Google Art Project.jpg Battle of Aboukir, July 25, 17991806578 × 968 cm Palace of Versailles
Antoine-Jean Gros - Napoleon on the Battlefield of Eylau - Google Art Project.jpg Battle of Eylau, February 9, 1807 1807104.9 × 145.1 cm The Louvre
Pierre Zimmermann.jpg Portrait of the French composer Pierre Zimmermann1808118.5 × 91 cm Palace of Versailles
Equestrian Portrait of Jerome Bonaparte.jpg Equestrian portrait of Jérôme Bonapartec. 1808321 × 265 cm Palace of Versailles
Antoine-Jean Gros - Equestrian portrait of prince Boris Yusupov - Google Art Project.jpg Equestrian portrait of Prince Boris Yusupov1809321 × 266 cm Pushkin Museum
Baron Antoine-Jean Gros-Battle Pyramids 1810.jpg Battle of the Pyramids1810389 × 311 cm Palace of Versailles
Antoine-Jean Gros - Capitulation de Madrid, le 4 decembre 1808.jpg Napoleon accepts the surrender of Madrid, 4 December 18081810361 × 500 cm Museum of French History
Antoine-Jean Gros 003.jpg The Horse of Mustapha Pashac. 181089 × 175 cm Musée des Beaux-Arts et d'archéologie de Besançon
General Claude Juste Alexandre Legrand.jpg Portrait of General Claude Legrandc. 1810245 × 172 cm Palace of Versailles
Gros, Antoine-Jean - Portrait du second lieutenant Charles Legrand - 1809-1810.jpg Portrait of Second Lieutenant Charles Legrandc. 1810249 × 162 cm Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Apotheose de st Genevieve 3.jpg The Apotheosis of Saint Genevieve1811–1824 Panthéon de Paris
François I and Charles V Visiting the Church of Saint-Denis1812 The Louvre
Murat by Gros.jpg Equestrian portrait of Joachim Murat181289 × 175 cm Musée des Beaux-Arts et d'archéologie de Besançon
Gros-General Lariboisiere and his son.jpg General Baston de Lariboisière and his son Ferdinandc. 1815 Musée de l'Armée
Gros - Portrait du comte Honore de La Riboisiere (1788-1868).jpg Honoré-Charles Baston de Lariboisière181573 × 59 cmPrivate collection
Departure of Louis XVIII from the Palace of the Tuileries on the Night of 20 March 18151817405 × 525 cm Palace of Versailles
Antoine-Jean Gros 004.jpg Embarkation of Madame d'Angoulême1819326 × 504 cm Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux
Gros - Jean-Antoine Chaptal.png Count Jean-Antoine Chaptal1824 Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux
Musee du Louvre 149.jpg The Genius of France Giving Life to the Arts and Protecting Humanityc. 1827 The Louvre
Antoine-Jean-Gros Hercule et Diomede.jpg Hercules and Diomedes1835426 × 324 cm Musée des Augustins
Pierre Daru.jpg Portrait of Pierre Daru19th century216 × 142 cm Palace of Versailles

See also


  1. 1 2 "Antoine-Jean Gros | An Introduction to 19th Century Art" . Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  2. "Ministère de la culture - Baron Gros" . Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  3. The Napoleon Series
  4. Profile of Pierrette-Madeleine-Cécile Durand at the Dictionary of Pastellists Before 1800.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Gros, Antoine Jean, Baron". Encyclopædia Britannica . 12 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 615.
  6. 1 2 Prendergast, Christopher. (1997). Napoleon and History Painting: Antoine-Jean Gros's La Bataille d'Eylau. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN   0-19-817402-0
  7. Peterson, Robert K. D.; "Insects, Disease, and Military History: The Napoleonic Campaigns and Historical Perception"; American Entomologist 41:147-160. (1995) "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 2015-03-26.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) retvd 3 26 15
  8. "Ministère de la culture - Base Léonore" . Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  9. "Ministère de la culture" . Retrieved 12 June 2017.

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