Agasse, James Laurent (DNB00)

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AGASSE, JAMES LAURENT (d. 1846?), animal and landscape painter, was born at Geneva, and received his first instruction in the public art school of that city. Whilst still under twenty he went to Paris, in order that there, in the veterinary school, he might make himself fully acquainted with the anatomy of the horse and other animals. He seems to have subsequently returned to Switzerland. The ‘Tübinger Morgenblatt’ (1808, p. 876) says that ‘Agasse, the celebrated animal painter, now in England, owed his fortune to an accident. About eight years ago, he being then in Switzerland, a rich Englishman asked him to paint his favourite dog which had died. The Englishman was so pleased with his work that he took the painter to England with him.’ Nagler says that he was one of the most celebrated animal painters at the end of the last and the beginning of this century. In Meusel's ‘Neue Miscellaneen’ (viii. 1052 et seq.), a comparison is instituted between Agasse and Wouvermans, wholly in favour of the former. In that partial article much is said of his extreme devotion to art, of his marvellous knowledge of anatomy, of his special fondness for the English racehorses, and his excellence in depicting them. He appears first in our Academy catalogues in 1801 as the exhibitor of the ‘Portrait of a Horse,’ and continued to exhibit more or less until 1845—a fact inconsistent with Nagler's statement that he died ‘about’ 1806. In the catalogues his name is given as J. L. Agasse or Agassé. The number of times Agassé changed his address confirms Redgrave's assertion that ‘he lived poor and died poor.’ The writer of the panegyric already quoted says, however, that it was not for bread or for gain that he laboured, but that he was urged forward by the resistless force of natural genius. Altogether there is sufficient evidence that he was in his day a noteworthy painter, but no material for an unbroken record of his life.

[Nagler, Allgemeines Künstler-Lexicon, 1872, gives an account inter alia of his engraved works; Füssli, Neue Zusätze zu dem allgemeinen Künstler-Lexicon; Tübingen Morgenblatt, 1808, p. 876; Meusel, Neue Miscellaneen, viii. 1052; Fiorillo, Geschichte der Mahlerey, v. 841, speaks of Agasse and Charles Ansell as the most celebrated English animal painters; Redgrave's Dictionary.]

E. R.