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Jules César Denis Van Loo, called César Van Loo

French, 1743 - 1821

Van Loo, Jules César Denis; Van Loo, César; Vanloo, called César Vanloo, Jules César Denis; Vanloo, Jules César Denis; Vanloo, César; Loo, called César van Loo, Jules César Denis van; Loo, Jules César Denis van; Loo, César van

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The landscape painter and occasional portraitist César Van Loo represents the fourth and last generation of an illustrious dynasty of painters and draftsmen founded by the Dutch artist Jacob Van Loo (1684-1745), a native of Sluis in the Netherlandish province of Zeeland who settled in France in 1660. César was born in Paris in 1743 to Jacob's grandson, the history painter Carle Van Loo (1705-1765), who eventually became First Painter to King Louis XV and director of the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture. His mother was Carle's Italian-born wife, the opera singer Cristina Somis (1704-1785). He was the nephew of Jean Baptiste Van Loo (1707-1771) and cousin of Louis Michel (1707-1771), François (1708-1732), and Charles Amédée Philippe Van Loo (1719-1795), all painters of some distinction.

A pupil of his father, he competed several times for the Prix de Rome, which he never won. However, through his family's connections he was granted a stipend that allowed him to study for a time in Italy. In 1784, he was elected to membership in the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture upon presentation of two diploma pictures in the manner of Joseph Vernet (1714-1789), stormy and moonlit landscapes (the latter is preserved in the Musée du Louvre, Paris). Thereafter, he exhibited regularly at the Salons held biennially in the Louvre. In 1789, he was appointed an auxiliary to the rector of the Académie.

In 1791, César Van Loo emigrated to Turin, where, like his father and his uncle Jean Baptiste, he worked for the Piedmontese court. In northern Italy his work was strongly influenced by the wintery landscapes of Francesco Foschi (1710-1780), and by the end of the 1790s he was specializing in snow scenes. In 1799, he sent to the Paris Salon a work usually considered to be his masterpiece, Snow Effects on the Ruins of a Gothic Church with a Bridge in the Distance (Musée et domaine nationaux du Château de Fontainebleau), which was awarded a monetary prize and was acquired by the French state.

As a portraitist, César Van Loo is best known for his likeness of Ignace Frédéric de Mirbeck, secretary to Louis XVI (Caen, Musée des Beaux-Arts).

[Joseph Baillio, in French Paintings of the Fifteenth through the Eighteenth Century, The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue, Washington, D.C., 2009: 426.]

Artist Bibliography

French Painting 1774–1830: The Age of Revolution. Exh. cat. Galeries nationales du Grand Palais; Detroit Institute of Arts; and Metropolitan Museum of Art, Detroit, 1975: 647-649.
Conisbee, Philip, et al. French Paintings of the Fifteenth through the Eighteenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 2009: 426.

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