French, 1784 - 1869
A pupil of both Etienne-Barthélemie Garnier (1759-1849) and Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825), Georges Rouget became a prominent history painter who regularly exhibited at the Paris Salons between i8i2 and 1866. Winner of the second grand prize in the Rome Prize contest of 1803, he was awarded a gold medal at the Salon of 1814 and the Legion of Honor in 1822. Attuned to the changing political climates of the time, his work ranged rapidly from Bonapartist eulogistics (The Imperial Family Doing Homage to the Infant King of Rome, Salon of 1812) to scenes from classical mythology (Oedipus and Antigone, Salon of 1814) and to glorifications of the Catholic monarchy (Death of Saint Louis, Salon of 1817). He received many large government commissions, particularly of subjects from French national history for King Louis-Philippe's Galerie Historique at Versailles, of several of which he also furnished cartoons for the Gobelins tapestry works. In 1855 his Christian Martyrs Delivered to the Beasts won a first-class medal. His many portraits show him to have been a competent follower of David in matters of technique and style.
He is chiefly remembered for having been David's favorite studio assistant, who shared in the execution of several of his master's major works and painted repetitions of them, beginning with versions of Bonaparte Crossing the Alps at the Saint-Bernard in about 1803. Working under David's supervision, Rouget laid in the figures of the Coronation picture (1804-1808, Louvre), helped David with Leonidas at Thermapylae in 1812 (1814, Louvre), and seems to have had a hand in Napoleon in His Study (National Gallery of Art, 1961.9.15). During his master's exile in Brussels, Rouget in 1821-1822 completed the full-scale repetition of the Coronation begun earlier by David and later signed by him (Versailles). Weaknesses in David's later work have sometimes been blamed, perhaps unjustly, on Rouget's collaboration. [This is the artist's biography published in the NGA Systematic Catalogue]