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Laurent de La Hire

Painter, etcher and commercial artist

Born
1606 in Paris
Died
1656 in Paris
School
Baroque

6 Works by Laurent de La Hire

Biography

La Hire received his initial artistic training from his father, Etienne, a Parisian painter scarcely known today who patterned his own work and his son's teaching after the style of the school of Fontainebleau. Unlike his contemporaries Vouet or Perrier, La Hire never visited Italy. On the basis of a French Mannerist formal tradition and after further training in the atelier of Georges Lallemand around 1625, he developed a style of his own that has helped to form our present-day notion of Parisian art of the first half of the seventeenth century. His official career began with the commission for the two May pictures for Notre-Dame ('Peter Healing the Sick', 1635, and 'The Conversion of Paul', 1637). La Hire's special gift was most clearly demonstrated in large-format panel pictures on religious and secular subjects, in ceiling paintings, and in designs for tapestries, notably the St Stephen cycle for St. Etienne-du Mont. His clients tended to be clerics and high officials rather than members of the court - a social class with notions of culture that corresponded with his own interests: literature, music, mathematics. Based on his written statements, his numerous surviving works - thirty-five etchings in addition to paintings and drawings - it is possible to distinguish three phases in his artistic career. Until roughly 1625, his works are largely indebted to the style of Mannerism, evident in his drawings in a delicate crayon technique, with elongated figures and sometimes exaggerated gestures. Then until the first half of the 1640s, seemingly Baroque features make their appearance, characterised by increasing volumes, a structuring of figures and space filled with tension and bright colouring. Correspondingly, the drawings are accented with grey washes. The tendency towards harmonious regularity and a certain elegance already seen in this phase subsequently evolved into a more rigid neoclassicism. In the last phase of the 1650s, this was tempered by idyllic landscape elements. In the eighteenth century, the praise of Dezallier d'Argenville obviously refers to the neoclassicism typical of La Hire.

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