1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Girodet de Roussy, Anne Louis

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1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 12
Girodet de Roussy, Anne Louis
16757231911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 12 — Girodet de Roussy, Anne Louis

GIRODET DE ROUSSY, ANNE LOUIS (1767–1824), French painter, better known as Girodet-Trioson, was born at Montargis on the 5th of January 1767. He lost his parents in early youth, and the care of his fortune and education fell to the lot of his guardian, M. Trioson, “médecin de mesdames,” by whom he was in later life adopted. After some preliminary studies under a painter named Luquin, Girodet entered the school of David, and at the age of twenty-two he successfully competed for the Prix de Rome. At Rome he executed his “Hippocrate refusant les présents d’Artaxerxès” and “Endymion dormant” (Louvre), a work which was hailed with acclamation at the Salon of 1792. The peculiarities which mark Girodet’s position as the herald of the romantic movement are already evident in his “Endymion.” The firm-set forms, the grey cold colour, the hardness of the execution are proper to one trained in the school of David, but these characteristics harmonize ill with the literary, sentimental and picturesque suggestions which the painter has sought to render. The same incongruity marks Girodet’s “Danaë” and his “Quatre Saisons,” executed for the king of Spain (repeated for Compiègne), and shows itself to a ludicrous extent in his “Fingal” (St Petersburg, Leuchtenberg collection), executed for Napoleon I. in 1802. This work unites the defects of the classic and romantic schools, for Girodet’s imagination ardently and exclusively pursued the ideas excited by varied reading both of classic and of modern literature, and the impressions which he received from the external world afforded him little stimulus or check; he consequently retained the mannerisms of his master’s practice whilst rejecting all restraint on choice of subject. The credit lost by “Fingal” Girodet regained in 1806, when he exhibited “Scène de Déluge” (Louvre), to which (in competition with the “Sabines” of David) was awarded the decennial prize. This success was followed up in 1808 by the production of the “Reddition de Vienne” and “Atala au Tombeau”—a work which went far to deserve its immense popularity, by a happy choice of subject, and remarkable freedom from the theatricality of Girodet’s usual manner, which, however, soon came to the front again in his “Révolte de Caire” (1810). His powers now began to fail, and his habit of working at night and other excesses told upon his constitution; in the Salon of 1812 he exhibited only a “Tête de Vierge”; in 1819 “Pygmalion et Galatée” showed a still further decline of strength; and in 1824—the year in which he produced his portraits of Cathelineau and Bonchamps—Girodet died on the 9th of December.

He executed a vast quantity of illustrations, amongst which may be cited those to the Didot Virgil (1798) and to the Louvre Racine (1801–1805). Fifty-four of his designs for Anacreon were engraved by M. Chatillon. Girodet wasted much time on literary composition, his poem Le Peintre (a string of commonplaces), together with poor imitations of classical poets, and essays on Le Génie and La Grâce, were published after his death (1829), with a biographical notice by his friend M. Coupin de la Couperie; and M. Delécluze, in his Louis David et son temps, has also a brief life of Girodet.