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Paul Jacques-Aimé Baudry was born in La-Roche-sur-Yonne (Vendée), France, 1828. Like many young french artists from provinces, Paul Baudry went to Paris in 1844, using a grant from his municipality to pay his tuition fees.
Paul entered the school of Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1845, studying under Martin Drolling, a sound but second-rate artist. His talents, at first, were strictly academics, graceful and elegant, but somewhat lacking originality. In five successive attempts at the Prix de Rome, he rose up through the ranks of the finalists, winning the first prize which he shared with William Bouguereau in 1850.
Baudry commonly selected mythological or fanciful subjects. Only once did he attempt an historical picture but soon returned to the subject of which he was most successful, painting portraits of illustrious men of his day. Baudry was a well-established portrait painter, his subjects were usually graceful and elegant, but his critics proclaimed him to have lacked originality by frequently choosing mythological or fanciful subjects. To their dismay, Baudry crowned his reputation with mural decorations, producing over thirty works in ten years.
It wasn't until the 1850's, after being patronized by the French state that Paul began to undertake large decorative commissions. He lived in Rome for a year to study the great works and frescoes by Italian masters, Michelangelo, Carracci, Titian and Raphael, then moved to London to study the tapestries of Raphael. He then returned to Rome to study Tintoretto and Veronese before beginning his greatest achievement, the Paris Opera.
The decorative murals became the crowning glory of Baudry's reputation, all of which show much imagination and a high artistic gift for color. He is responsible for the frescoes in the Paris Cour de Cassation, the château of Chantilly, the hotel Fould and hôtel Paivabut, many private residences, and above all, in the decorations of the foyer of the Paris opera house.
When Baudry died in Paris, 1886, he was a member of the Institut de France. Two of his colleagues, Dubois and Marius-Jean Mercié, co-operating with his brother, Baudry the architect, erected a monument to him in Paris, 1890. The statue of Baudry at La Roche-sur-Yonne is by Jean-Léon Gérôme.
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Old Masters and New Essays in Art Criticism, Kenyon Cox, 2006
History of Painting, John Charles Van Dyke, 2007
Two exhibitions about Paul Baudry
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