Pierre Puvis de Chavannes was born Pierre-Cécile Puvis on 14 December 1824, in Lyon. He studied at the Lycée Henri IV in Paris, intending to follow in his father’s footsteps as an engineer, though a trip to Italy in 1946 inspired him to take up painting. He studied in the ateliers of Henry Scheffer, Eugène Delacroix, and Thomas Couture during the late 1940s. In 1850, Puvis de Chavannes exhibited for the first time at the Paris Salon, though each of his submissions between 1952 and 1959 were rejected. In 1855, he completed a mural for his brother’s château in Brouchy, Saône-et-Loire. Throughout the 1850s, Puvis de Chavannes would show occasionally in group salons and société exhibitions around France but it wasn’t until the French State bought his work Concordia, 1860, in 1861 that his reputation began to grow.
Puvis de Chavannes developed a Symbolist style characterised by simplified forms, soft lines, and flat, fresco-like tones, which he used to depict allegorical scenes and idealised themes from antiquity. He was particularly respected as a muralist, and completed numerous public and private commissions over the course of his life, including: a decorative scheme for the Musée d’Amiens (1861-82); a series of murals depicting the life of St. Geneviève in the Panthéon, Paris (1876); decorative cycle for the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon (1886); the grand amphithéâtre de la Sorbonne, Paris (1887-89); decorative murals for the Hôtel de Ville de Paris (1894). Puvis de Chavannes was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris, in 1887, and had a solo exhibition with Durand-Ruel in New York in 1894. Puvis de Chavannes died on 27 October 1898, in Paris.
Puvis de Chavannes’ work can be found in the following selected international collections: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; Phillips Collection, Washington D.C.; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena; the State Hermitage, St. Petersburg; Kunstmuseum Basel; Musée d’Orsay, Paris; Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon; the National Gallery, London; the Courtauld Institute of Art, London.
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