National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of David Johnston Pierre Paul Prud'hon (artist)
French, 1758 - 1823
David Johnston, 1808
oil on canvas
overall: 54.6 x 46.4 cm (21 1/2 x 18 1/4 in.) framed: 74.3 x 66.7 x 12.4 cm (29 1/4 x 26 1/4 x 4 7/8 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
1961.9.84
Not on View
From the Tour: 18th- and 19th-Century France — Neoclassicism
Object 5 of 7

David Johnston, who was painted at the age of nineteen, became a progressive industrialist in the ceramics business and served as mayor of Bordeaux. This portrait was produced while Prud'hon was at the height of his fame, in the same year that Napoleon awarded him the Legion of Honor. Unlike most other painters in France, Prud'hon did not fall under the influence of David's austere style. His work, by contrast, has the shadowy softness of Italian Renaissance painters Leonardo da Vinci and Correggio, whose works he studied. The firm lines and hard contours of color preferred by his comtemporaries throw their subjects into vivid relief, while Prud'hon's more gentle gradations of tone lend romantic, sometimes erotic ambiguity instead. Compare, for example, this portrait with the sharp intensity of Ingres' Monsieur Marcotte.

Prud'hon, his life marred by personal tragedy, was passionately admired by romantic artists of the following generation who saw in his work an alternative to the tyrannie davidienne, the dictates of a neoclassical style that eventually lapsed into rigid dogma.

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