Louis-Jean-François Lagrenée was born in Paris on December 30, 1724. A student of Carlo Van Loo, Lagrenée is a painter of pure French Rococo with beautiful skin tones and bright, sumptuous colors that are pleasing to the eye. In fact, Lagrenée is one of the most erotic painters of his day, rivaling even Boucher. It is his Classical DNA that makes him more interesting than other Rococo artists however because he combines solid anatomy and figures with expressive composition and unabashed color. His colors are purely emotional.
A familiar theme in painting, Amor and Psyche above in the hands of Lagrenée becomes a sensual moment. Look at how Psyche gazes into his eyes, touching his cheek with her hand. Lagrenée is setting the scene for a passionate kiss that will take place only in our minds. Here Lagrenée reinterprets this mythology into an allegory of young love, with Cupid as a young man who has met the woman of his dreams. The way in which Lagrenée paints his wings also indicates a sense of triumph and resoluteness, something more than the deceitfulness of mere arrows. The feelings are mutual here. The use of yellow and blue here create a sense of calm and happiness.
Diana and Endymion, 1776
Lagrenée creates a study from life of a foreshortened pale Endymion that catches the eye of goddess Diana, who falls in love with the mortal shepherd. In Lagrenée's version, however, Diana is gazing straight at his crotch while touching her breast with her left hand and holding a long bow in the other. Needless to say the sexual innuendo here is about as obvious as it could possibly get without jumping his bones right then and there. It is amusing that Lagrenée would take such a tongue-in-cheek view of this mythological tale and reinterpret it into a display of female lust for sleeping men. At any rate Lagrenée's skin tones and drapery are superb here, and the unusual diagonal composition give her a sense of superiority over him, in every sense of the word.
The Abduction of Deianeira by the Centaur Nessus, 1755
This action-packed scene of Greek mythology has an incredible design to the composition. Lagrenée creates a crooked C arrangement of the figures with highly dramatic anatomy and light. The centaur Nessus is running off with Deianeira, the wife of Heracles, who is off in the distance looking mighty upset as he is about to fire a poison arrow at Nessus. I'm not sure who the man is grasping at the tail of Nessus...I can only assume it is Neptune, which is painted in absolutely flawless detail in his legs and feet. The dominant blue palette in this painting adds an unusually sombre atmosphere to this harrowing event, and again Lagrenée paints his main figure in yellow drapery. Lagrenée proves here he isn't just a painter of pretty girls and boys. This is a triumph of painting.
Mars & Venus: "Allegory of Peace", 1770
An utterly beautiful painting, sensual and rich with texture and skin...Lagrenée, in contrast to Diana and Endymion, creates a theme of allegory with Venus as a beautiful sleeping woman and Mars caught by her beauty. The difference here is that Mars is getting ready to abandon her for war, but stops a moment to admire her. Look closely at this sample and see how Lagrenée painted her pillows in thick greyish, green-yellow strokes. This time there is no yellow drapery; they are both swathed in the same red robe. The skin is also painted brilliantly...note the green scumbling on the shadow side of her belly, and the use of pinks to add life to her predominant yellow tones. And note the brushwork on Mars: you can see the raw umber underneath his shadows. The shadow on his arm holding the curtain has green undertones also. Lagrenée seems to be also commenting on adultery here, in the way that he is anxious to not stay. It is pure poetry here.
Allegory on the Death of the Dauphin, 1765
Lagrenée's eye for drama and beauty is splendid here. Note the X composition of the figures. He creates a sense of space by staggering the placement of the figures here, and the use of color is heightened to increase the drama. Although this is very patriotic and nationalistic, the use of light and shadow here is definitely worth studying along with the juxtaposition of color.
Pygmalion and Galatea, 1781
A very Classical interpretation of this ancient myth, it is a myth of every artist's fantasy and a beautiful story. Here Galatea gazes warmly into her creator's eyes, who fawns over his breathing statue come to life. It is also an allegory of an artist staying true to himself and rewarded for his hard work, and for this Lagrenée proves he can breathe life into mythology and humanity itself.