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Pierre Puvis de Chavannes

 

Puvis de Chavannes (1824–1898) is known as a forerunner of Symbolism. His work was admired for its simple elegant style, clear composition and restrained use of colour. Many works express a timeless harmony between man and nature. Major public murals created the basis for Puvis de Chavannes’ reputation.

Born in Lyon on, de Chavannes came from a wealthy bourgeois background. He trained for a short time at the Faculté de Droit in Paris, but in 1846 abandoned law to travel in Italy, where he developed an interest in art. Towards the end of 1848 he spent two weeks in the studio of Eugène Delacroix, then trained for a few months under Thomas Couture, who had great influence on his development.

His first public commission was in 1864 from the Musée Napoleon (now the Musée de Picardie, Amiens), for Ave Picardia Nutrix. Thereafter he exhibited regularly at the Salon and was a frequent member of the Salon jury. His most important decorative schemes were for the amphitheatre of the Sorbonne, the Hôtel de Ville and the Panthéon in Paris. Apart from his decorative schemes he produced a number of easel paintings, including most famously The Poor Fisherman, (Musée d’Orsay, Paris, 1881). Regarded as a precursor of Symbolism, Puvis de Chavannes had a profound impact on the work of such later artists as Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat, Maurice Denis and Pablo Picasso.