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Simon Vouet

Jun - 11 - 2013

Vouet-autoportraitSimon Vouet (born Jan. 9, 1590, Paris, Fr.—died June 30, 1649, Paris) was a French painter and draftsman, who helped introduce the Italian Baroque style to France.Vouet formed his style in Italy, where he lived from 1612 to 1627. The use of dramatic contrasts of light and shade seen in such early works as his “Two Lovers” indicates that he began in Rome as a follower of Caravaggio. Works done after 1620, however, such as “St. Bruno” (1620) and “Cupid and Psyche” (1637), display more idealized figures, betraying the influence of Guido Reni, Guercino, and Domenichino, who painted in the classical Baroque style of the school of Bologna. Vouet’s “Time Vanquished” (1627) breaks with the tenebrism of Caravaggio, using the more evenly diffused white light that characterizes his later style.
Despite his success in Rome, Vouet suddenly returned to France in 1627, following pressing recommendations from the Duc de Béthunes and a summons from the King. A French contemporary, lacking the term “Baroque”, said, “In his time the art of painting began to be practiced here in a nobler and more beautiful way than ever before,” and the allegory of “Riches” demonstrates a new heroic sense of volumes, a breadth and confidence without decorative mannerisms.
Recalled to France by Louis XIII, Vouet dominated Paris, painting altarpieces and religious works for churches and illusionistic decorations for private

The Holy Family with the Infant Saint John the Baptist

The Holy Family with the Infant Saint John the Baptist, 1626.

home and public buildings, most of which have been destroyed. With Vouet, the French Baroque style was born. His classicizing, restrained, yet sensuous Baroque style incorporated Philippe de Champaigne’s cool color, Nicolas Poussin’s classical composition, and Venetian painting’s rich color. Vouet taught a generation of painters, including Eustache Le Sueur and Charles Le Brun. Yet, when he established the Académie Royale in 1648, Le Brun excluded Vouet, whom he considered a powerful rival.
Vouet’s religious paintings of the early 1630s, such as the “St. Charles Borromeo” (c. 1640), show a developed but restrained Baroque style. The “Madonna” (c. 1640) and the “Diana” (1637) illustrate his best-known style, characterized by soft, smooth, and idealized modeling, sensuousness of forms, use of bright colours, and a facile technique.

Resources on the Web:
The extensive history on Wikipedia
Simon Vouet – Artworks
The artist’s biography
A small biography of the artist and artwork
A small biography of the artist

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