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Louis de Boullogne

Born in Paris in 1657, Louis de Boullogne II was a French late Baroque-early Rococo painter. His father, sister and older brother were also painters, and having won the Prix de Rome he spent three years studying in Rome and Northern Italy before returning to Paris. His reception piece, Augustus closing the doors to the temple of Janus:

Auguste fait fermer les portes du Temple de Janus - Louis de Boullogne le Jeune
Auguste fait fermer les portes du Temple de Janus, 1681

made him an official member of the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture. An ambitious painting for a 24 year old, Boullogne reveals an effortless composition culled from all that he learned from his intensive studies in Italy. He uses strong vertical lines in the columns balanced with the implied horizontal lines of the figures, the foreground figures adding space and three-dimensonality. Note the standing figure in green stepping onto the marble base adds a sense of naturalism to an otherwise Classical painting, while the muscular figure on the far left has a strong Baroque sensibility. According to the legend, the doors in the Temple of Janus were only closed during peace times and open during war.

Diane et ses compagnes se reposant après la chasse - Louis de Boullogne
Diane et ses compagnes se reposant après la chasse, 1707

Here Boullogne displays a fully sensuous Rococo style with no male figures at all in the painting. Although very Classical, especially Diana the central figure, Boullogne creates an idyllic fantasy with a very warm palette amidst a subtle interplay of light and shadow. Note below the etude for the two women at far left:

Etude pour deux jeunes femmes endormies

Boullogne's grace and naturalism is even more beautiful with his technique of chalk and white against a colored paper. His shading of white is particularly unique here in that most artists use the dark to heighten the shadows while using white only to emphasize highlights, whereas here he uses the background tone of the paper as a middletone or dark, and the whites are fully rendered.

Below are some samples of his incredible facility of the human form and personality of subject, most of which are in the Louvre’s Department of Prints and Drawings:

Etude de femme nue, vue de dos

Jeune homme tenant devant lui une corbeille,1715

Etude de jeune homme recevant des fruits

Buste de jeune homme

La chasse de Diane, ca. 1707

Another painting using Diana the Hunter as a theme, note the strong sense of dynamism and movement compared to the previous example above. Diana is still the central figure, but all surrounding figures seem to move toward her while she gracefully moves to the right of the composition. Below we see the contrast of triangles along a horizontal axis:

It is easy to see how Boullogne would leave a mark on future painters, even the Impressionists, for his use of color and his sensitive drawings of both male and female nudes. Boullogne was a true French poet whose work, both in chalk and paint, remind us of the great talent during the 17-18th centuries that helped make France into the cultural phenomenon well into the 20th century.

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