French Rococo Era Painter, 1725-1805
French painter and draughtsman. He was named an associate member of the Academie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, Paris, in 1755 on the strength of a group of paintings that included genre scenes, portraits and studies of expressive heads (tetes d'expression). These remained the essential subjects of his art for the next 50 years, except for a brief, concentrated and unsuccessful experiment with history painting in the late 1760s, which was to affect his later genre painting deeply. Though his art has often been compared with that of Jean-Simeon Chardin in particular and interpreted within the context of NEO-CLASSICISM in general, it stands so strikingly apart from the currents of its time that Greuze's accomplishments are best described, as they often were by the artist's contemporaries, as unique. He was greatly admired by connoisseurs, critics and the general public throughout most of his life. His pictures were in the collections of such noted connoisseurs as Ange-Laurent de La Live de Jully, Claude-Henri Watelet and Etienne-Franeois, Duc de Choiseul. For a long period he was in particular favour with the critic Denis Diderot, who wrote about him in the Salon reviews that he published in Melchior Grimm's privately circulated Correspondance litt?raire. His reputation declined towards the end of his life and through the early part of the 19th century, to be revived after 1850, when 18th-century painting returned to favour, by such critics as Theophile Thore, Arsene Houssaye and, most notably, Edmond and Jules de Goncourt in their book L'Art du dix-huitieme siecle. By the end of the century Greuze's work, especially his many variations on the Head of a Girl, fetched record prices, and his Broken Pitcher (Paris, Louvre) was one of the most popular paintings in the Louvre.