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Joseph Ducreux - French Artist From Art History

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Historical Artist - Joseph Ducreux (1735 - 1802)

Joseph Ducreux studied with his father before moving to Paris in 1760 to train under the pastelist, Maurice-Quentin de La Tour. He specialized in portraiture and was also influenced by Jean-Baptiste Greuze’s oil painting technique. In 1769, he received a commission to travel to Vienna and paint a miniature portrait of Louis XVI’s wife, Marie-Antionette. Impressed by his skill, Ducreux was made a baron and the First Painter to the Queen. In the 1870’s, he began painting self-portraits. He avoided the French Revolution by moving to London where he began making engravings of his self-portraits. Ducreux returned to Paris in 1793 and made the acquaintance of Jacques-Louis David. Ducreux specialized in portrait painting, and his early portraits were done in pastel, and include those done of the connoisseurs Pierre-Jean Mariette, the Comte de Caylus and Ange-Laurent de la Live de July. Ducreux also made several well-known self-portraits in the late 1780s, including one in which he painted himself in the middle of a large yawn (which currently hangs in the Getty Center), and another of himself guffawing and pointing at the viewer. As evidenced by these self-portraits, Ducreux attempted to break free from the constraints of traditional portraiture. Interested in physiognomy, which is based on the belief that the study and judgment of a person's outer appearance, primarily the face, reflects their character or personality, Ducreux attempted to capture the personality of his subjects –as well as his own- through his warm and individualistic works.

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