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Jean-Baptiste Le Prince

Draughtsman, painter and commercial artist

Born
1734 in Metz
Died
1781 in Saint-Denis-du-Port

8 Works by Jean-Baptiste Le Prince

Biography

As a prototypical 'petit maître', Le Prince contributed in his own way to Paris art of the 1760s and 1770s. His training under François Boucher and his impressions from five years (1758-63) at the court of the czars in Moscow and St Petersburg shaped his pictorial ideas. The artist returned from Russia with a wealth of motifs that he rendered in paintings and still more often in drawings and graphics up to the end of his life. Le Prince greatly satisfied the fondness of the Parisian public for exotica, in that he could further enrich 'chinoiseries' with 'russeries'. These reached a high point in 1767 in the six cartoons of the 'leux russes' for the tapestry manufactory in Beauvais. Despite this fashion success, however brief, Le Prince was violently attacked by art critics, especially Diderot: "Tout est croqué, nulle image. Tout est ébauché et faible."

Le Prince achieved greater success and recognition in another field. To disseminate his washed brush drawings, he developed a technique that allowed him to work with colour plates in addition to the linear engraving, so as to create areas of colour and achieve the graduated effect of washing. The invention of this 'manière de lavis' and the aquatint was of major importance to graphics in the last quarter of the eighteenth century.

Contemporary criticism of Le Prince's drawings - "son dessin n'est pas correct" (Diderot) - seems trivial from today's point of view given the charm of these sheets in their seemingly naive description of Russian ways or their genre scenes reminiscent of Boucher.

Up to the end of his artistic career, cut short by illness after 1777, Le Prince continued to be a representative of amusing, innocuous subject matter, ignoring the fact that art had long since set itself different goals and the public imposed different expectations on it.

Persons connected to Jean-Baptiste Le Prince