An artist's studio at the end of the 18th centurye century

An artist's studio at the end of the 18th century<sup>e</sup> century

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Title: Meeting of artists in Isabelle's studio.

Author : BOILLY Louis Léopold (1761 - 1845)

Creation date : 1799

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 71 - Width 110

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas

Storage location: Louvre Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palaissite web

Picture reference: 89EE1595 / INV 1290 bis

Meeting of artists in Isabelle's studio.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

Artistic life during the revolutionary period

The profound changes that took place during the French Revolution affected the field of the arts, giving rise to new institutions and paving the way for different artistic practices. Offering a glimpse of the genres and artistic trends in vogue, they reflected the new tastes of the clientele, while they allowed artists to integrate into bourgeois society by acquiring a certain financial autonomy.

Image Analysis

Group portrait in Isabelle's studio: a manifesto

It is precisely these two new trends that a famous painting by Louis-Léopold Boilly (1761-1845), entitled Meeting of artists in Isabelle's studio. Presented at the Salon of 1798, this painting was a great success, both for its iconography and its virtuoso technique. Dealing with a traditional and very fashionable theme at the time, the artist's studio, it represents, like a frieze, the painter Isabey (1767-1855), on the left, explaining to Gérard, seated, the theme of one of his paintings, while, all around, artists discuss various subjects. The realism and thoroughness with which Boilly painted the faces of the characters make it possible to identify most of them: painters like Girodet (the twenty-sixth from the left, seated in the foreground, facing the viewer), Drolling (the fifth, in the background), Prud'hon (the third, leaning behind the piano), and sculptors like Corbet (the fourth, between Drolling and Prud'hon) rub shoulders with architects like Percier and Fontaine (the fifteenth and sixteenth, discussing in the background) as musicians like Méhul (the first) or actors like Talma (the twenty-first seated, in the background). Paying homage to the eminent personalities of the art world of the time, this portrait gallery appears in many ways as a doubly innovative manifesto. On the one hand, the painter's realistic vision and meticulous aesthetic reflect an evolution from the pompous character of the neoclassicism in vogue, an evolution which thus announces romanticism, while the primacy granted to genre painters in the scene upsets the sacro -Holy hierarchy of genres, revealing the growing success of genre scenes and portraits to the detriment of the great idealizing history painting. Likewise, the decor of the Louvre workshop, due to Percier and Fontaine, is distinguished by its eclectic references to Antiquity (ornamentation in Etruscan taste, allegories) and to the Renaissance (profiles of Italian painters in the medallions) , thus voluntarily abandoning any exclusive reference to classical Antiquity. On the other hand, this canvas illustrates the role that the artist now plays in society: the sartorial refinement of the characters, their allure as well as the art of conversation that they practice with ease indicate that they have obtained a certain social recognition. Therefore, produced at a pivotal time, this painting not only constitutes a living testimony to the artistic and cultural life of the time, but also reflects the transition from the old social order to the new.


The artist's new social status under the Directory

This last aspect of Louis-Léopold Boilly’s work is fundamental to the extent that the original treatment of a conventional subject sheds innovative light on the aspirations of the artists of the time. Indeed, abundant in previous periods, the iconography of the workshops usually emphasized the artisanal character of the artist's work, through the representation of his tools or his easel, thus presenting the painter or sculptor as a manual worker, a simple doer. Conversely, Boilly chose to deviate from this aspect of the trade to give Isabelle's studio the appearance of an elegant and comfortable living room, tastefully decorated and in the middle of which sits a piano. Through the choice of such an iconography, he thus presents the artist as an intellectual and claims for him an essential place in society, equivalent to that of the humanist, the honest man or the philosopher for centuries. earlier. Visionary, this perspective foreshadows the aesthetic manifestos of realistic painters of the second half of the 19th century.e century, such The painter's studio: real allegory of Courbet (1855) or A workshop in Batignolles by Fantin-Latour (1870), in which the painter appears as a creator, master of his art and leader of a school.

  • artist workshops
  • Directory
  • painters
  • living room


Philippe BORDES and Régis MICHEL To arms and the arts! : the arts of the Revolution, 1789-1799 Paris, A.Biro, 1988. Jean-Jacques LEVEQUE Art and the French Revolution Neuchâtel, Ides and Calendes, 1987.Louis Boilly, 1761-1845 exhibition catalog, Paris, Musée Marmottan, Paris, Musée Marmottan, 1984 Boilly 1761-1845, A great French painter from the Revolution to the Restoration catalog of the exhibition, Lille, Museum of Fine Arts, 1988. Gérard MONNIER Art and its institutions in France Paris, Gallimard, 1995.Denis WORONOFF The Bourgeois Republic from Thermidor to Brumaire, 1794-1799 Paris, Seuil, coll. “Points Histoire”, 1972.

To cite this article

Charlotte DENOËL, "An artist's studio at the end of the 18th centurye century "

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