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Louvre Museum Presents Girodet (1767-1824)
Anne-Louis Girodet, Portrait of Jean-Baptiste Belley, Deputy of San Domingo. 1797. Oil on canvas. Musée national des Châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon © RMN / G. Blot.
PARIS, FRANCE.-The Louvre Museum presents Girodet (1767-1824), on view through January 2, 2006. Upon the initiative of the Cleveland Museum of Art, this exhibition was coorganized by the Louvre and the Réunion des Musées Nationaux, in collaboration with the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, with the exceptional participation of the Girodet Museum, Montargis. This exhibition was made possible through the support of the American Friends of the Louvre and the support of France Info, i>TELE and Zurban as media partners.

Anne-Louis Girodet was a painter of genius, but also a rebel bent on confounding expectations. His predilection for the bizarre, his ambiguous eroticism, his literary sophistication, not to mention the mysteries surrounding his life and relations have remained a source of fascination or bewilderment. However, this artist stands as one of the most significant painters of the French school, and his contribution to the history of painting is on a par with that of his mentor Jacques-Louis David, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres or Théodore Géricault. The Louvre pays tribute to this still little-known artist with a major monographic exhibition, the first of its kind on an international scale.

Girodet was rediscovered almost forty years ago as a result of an exhibition organized in Montargis to celebrate the two hundreth anniversary of his birth (1967). Since this date, our perspective on this artist has been enriched, notably through the large number of doctoral theses, particularly in the United States, England, Italy, France and Germany, devoted to his life and work. It is therefore only fitting that the Louvre organize a Girodet retrospective.

This exhibition brings together one hundred paintings and drawings, from the collections of the Louvre, supplemented by numerous loans from museums in France, especially the Girodet Museum in Montargis, and abroad. At the conclusion of its run at the Louvre, this exhibition will travel to Chicago, New York and Montreal:Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, 11 February - 30 April 2006, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 22 May - 27 August 2006, Montreal, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 12 October 2006 - 21 January 2007.

This exhibition recognizes the prodigious talent of Girodet who, more than any other artist active at the end of the 18th century, forged a new aesthetic sensibility for history painting. It also reveals a virtuoso of unmatched draughtsmanship and a portrait artist proficient in the application of the psychological theories of leading eighteenth-century thinkers, such as Rousseau and Lavater. Among the works shown are The Sleep of Endymion (1793), Portrait of Jean-Baptiste Belley (1797), Ossian and His Warriors Receiving the Ghosts of French Heroes (1801), The Burial of Atala (1808), Portrait of Chateaubriand (1808), and Revolt at Cairo (1810), masterpieces of a particularly prolific period, which reached its zenith under the Empire, not the least of the many paradoxes surrounding the life and work of this artist famously opposed to Napoleonic authoritarianism. The chronological approach adopted for the exhibition underscores the departures from convention and contrasts evident in the work of Girodet, as well as the significance of the historical context, a period of political and social upheavals marked by the French Revolution, the execution of a king, the emergence and the reign of an emperor, and which culminated in the return of the Bourbons to the throne.

Girodet created a style very much his own, combining intellectual refinement and sensuality. For many commentators, his paintings exemplify the early infancy of French romanticism, a status ascribed in literature to the works of Chateaubriand. Girodet’s painting style reflected in no small measure the turmoil in French society, at a time when France was undergoing one of the most pivotal transitions in its history. And yet, his art is not directly inspired by political events. Rather than giving expression to republican civic virtues or serving imperial nationalism, his most political works paradoxically seek to embody an aesthetic ideal breaking down the boundaries between poetry and painting.

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