Pubblicato il 07/06/17e aggiornato il

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Léon Perrault | Genre / Academic painter



Painter of genre*, history, religion and portrait stands in peril of not being remembered as distinctively as his successes might merit. For our part, we may narrow this great artist’s claims at once by rejecting his religious painting, and we may be inclined to go on and deny him the title of historical painter, so that, although we shall have paintings of religious subjects and of historical subjects to consider, we shall in truth be considering them as work of a painter of genre* and portrait.








Assuredly, we are not alone in judging Léon Perrault not to be, in the legitimate sense, a religious painter; but in the matter of history, opinions may be divided. In symbolic genre, on the other hand, he is unmatched, and in portrait so masterly, that his place in those arts is fixed forever.

Léon-Jean-Basile Perrault was born in Poitiers, France on June 20, 1832 to a very poor family. As a young boy, he dreamed of ways to produce income to free his family from the pains of poverty. His foolish youthful dreams and impossible schemes to ease and escape the pain would bring young Léon Perrault to make the decision to pursue an artistic career.
At the age of 14, Perrault began taking drawing courses being offered in his hometown. His incredible talent for drawing was eventually spotted by a local painter who would hire this fourteen-year-old boy to help restore the paintings and murals in the churches and the ancient cathedral of Saint Radegonde in the Poitiers.



In 1851, Perrault would take part in a drawing competition and was awarded first place. The drawing was purchased by the state for their collection.
Two years later, he would travel to Paris on a 600-franc pension provided by the town of Poitiers.
With a letter of introduction, Léon Perrault was welcomed into the home and atelier of Francois Edouard Picot (1786-1868) where he would begin his formal art training.
Perrault would continue his studies at the Beaux-Arts Academy, in William A. Bouguereau’s (1825-1905) atelier and at the Académie Julian.
The initial years of academic studies and training under the watchful eye of Picot and Bouguereau would profoundly influence Perrault and his interest in allegorical and religious subjects.
He would debut in the Paris Salon of 1860 with “Vieillard et les Trois Jeunes Hommes”, inspired by a fable in La Fontaine. The painting now hangs in the Poitiers Museum. Perrault would become an important figure and regular exhibitor at the salons of Paris.
He continued to exhibit religious, allegorical, historical military battle scenes. Perrault had enormous success with his “Christ au tombeau” and “la Descente de Croix” at the Salon of 1863 and was awarded metals in 1864, 1876 and 1878.
Of his most successful military scenes, “Le Mobillisé” was an epic scene inspired by the valiant defense of an important episode during the Amérique war. When “Le Mobillisé” was finally exhibited at the Musée Châteaudun, it gave the grandsons of the men who had fought the battle an idea of their bravery. His acceptance as an accomplished military painter would lead to several collaborative works with the studio of Horace Vernet (1789-1863).
Most noted of these collaborative efforts done between 1862-1864 are:
Attaque de constantine: le colonnes d'assault se mettent en mouvement le 13 octobre 1837 (collab. w/studio, after H. Vernet)”, “Combat de l'habra” (collab. w/studio; after Horace Vernet”, “Siège de constantine: le ennemi repussé des hauteurs de coudat-ati (collab. w/studio; no.262)” and “L'assault final de constantine (collab. w/studio; no. 602”.



We have now discussed his religious and allegorical subjects. We have approached his historical and military paintings. All of these works show extreme brilliants, elegant drawing and grace, which reminds one of Pierre-Paul Prud'hon (1758-1823) but few artists have ever challenged his symbolic genre. 
Léon Basile Perrault, as few artists before him, was able to bring passion, integrity and honesty to his paintings. His own childhood was tethered to the pains of poverty. His children speak through their eyes and whisper from their tender souls of innocence, joy, disparity and warmth. 
Perrault’s paintings were a brave departure from the doe-eyed peasant children of his friend and teacher, William Adolph Bouguereau*. They aren’t expressing sorrow but the reality of life through subtle expressions that gently reveal the subject’s inner thoughts, strength, youthful maturity, hope, dreams, and responsibility toward life and family.
Perrault first began to exhibit his symbolic genre paintings of young women and peasant children at the Salon of 1864. 
The critics were overwhelmed by the passion, beauty and honesty rarely seen in genre subjects. He would continue to exhibit his popular symbolic genre paintings at the Salons in Paris receiving acclaim for all continents.
In 1868, Léon Basile Perrault would be invited to exhibit “Give for My Little Chapel" at the Boston Athenaeum and in 1873, he was appointed to represent France as "diplôme d'honneur" to Vienna, Philadelphia (U.S.) and London.
In 1887, he was awarded* Frances's highest honor and knighted as Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur. This prestigious honor was followed by a Bronze metal in the 1889 Exhibition Universal and Silver medal at 1900 Exhibition Universal.
Perrault died in Royan, France in 1908, and was buried in the Montparnasse cemetery. 
After his death, the village of Poitiers commissioned a monument in his honor. | © Catalogue Raisonne´
















Léon-Jean-Basile Perrault (Poitiers, 16 giugno 1832 - Royan, 6 agosto 1908) è stato un pittore Francese*.

Nacque da una famiglia modesta: il padre, Henri, era sarto. Entrò a 10 anni nella scuola di disegno di Poitiers, allora diretta dai fratelli Hivonnait, dove rimase fino a 14 anni quando, dovendo contribuire al mantenimento della famiglia, trovò un lavoro presso un decoratore, con il quale collaborò ai restauri degli affreschi della locale chiesa di Sainte Radegonde. A 19 anni riuscì a ottenere una borsa comunale di 600 franchi per poter studiare a Parigi nella prestigiosa Ecole des Beaux-Arts, dove fu allievo di Picot e poi William Bouguereau*.
Dopo diversi vani tentativi al concorso del Prix de Rome, nel 1861 Léon Perrault venne ammesso al Salon con Le vieillard et les trois jeunes hommes (Il vecchio e tre giovani), ottenendo una menzione d'onore. Fu l'inizio della carriera, e in 46 anni sarà sempre presente al Salon, tranne quattro volte.
Nel 1866 Napoleone III acquistò la sua tela La nichée (La nidiata), soggetto di pittura infantile, che lo spingerà a proseguire in questi temi.
Oltre a vedersi acquistate altre opere dallo Stato, Léon Perrault sarà ricompensato da diversi premi dalla giuria del Salon: nel 1876, il suo San Giovanni il precursore gli fece ottenere una medaglia di seconda classe, che ottenne ancora nel 1878; nel 1881 ottenne diplomi d'onore a Vienna, a Filadelfia e a Londra.
Il suo successo si espresse anche con il conferimento di una importante commissione dal Ministero della pubblica Istruzione per la decorazione della Salle des Mariages dell'Hôtel de Ville di Poitiers.
L'Esposizione universale di Parigi del 1889 gli offrì una medaglia di bronzo e quella del 1900 una d'argento.
Nel 1887 fu decorato con la Légion d'honneur.
Léon Perrault, pittore accademico di successo, abita ora nel pieno centro di Parigi, in boulevard Lannes 43, nel XVI arrondissement e conduce un'agiata vita borghese.
La grande Casa d'arte Goupil and Co. riproduce le sue opere e la sua fama supera le frontiere: è richiesto in Inghilterra e negli Stati Uniti, ma egli viene descritto come un lavoratore che non ha dimenticato le sue origini.
La rivista statunitense The Century scriveva di lui che «questo gentiluomo francese raffinato [...] e di modi cortesi, forte e vigoroso, lavorando con serietà [...] passa 10 ore al giorno lavorando nel suo atelier».
Si dice che fosse anche un padre di famiglia esemplare. Sposato con Marie-Louise (1840-1920), ebbe due figli, Emile ed Henri, e quattro figlie, delle quali una morirà a soli nove anni, nel 1880, e un'altra sposerà il pittore Fréderic Cabane.
I suoi unici allievi saranno proprio i figli Henri, che sarà pittore ma poi si dedicherà all'illustrazione e diventerà conservatore del Museo comunale di Poitiers, ed Emile, che diventerà uno scultore di animali.
Sofferente di cuore da due anni, Léon Perrault morì nel 1908 a Royan, la stazione balneare dove aveva una seconda casa, nella quale si era ritirato da qualche anno e dove riceveva amici ed artisti, in particolare il suo maestro ed amico Bouguereau*.
Léon Perrault è sepolto, con la moglie e una figlia nel cimitero di Passy.
Nell'ottobre del 1910, la città di Poitiers gli eresse un monumento, ma oggi il pittore è dimenticato dalla critica, come tanti pittori accademici, anche se suoi dipinti appaiono ancora nelle Case d'asta, acquistati da collezionisti privati, soprattutto statunitensi. | © Wikipedia





























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