Reference Entry

Taunay, Nicolas Antoine

in Benezit Dictionary of Artists

ISBN: 9780199773787
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199899913 | DOI:
Taunay, Nicolas Antoine

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French, 18th – 19th century, male.

Born 10 February 1755, baptised in Paris; died 20 March 1830, in Paris.

Painter (gouache), miniaturist. History painting, religious subjects, military subjects, genre scenes, landscapes.

Nicolas Antoine Taunay came from a wealthy Parisian family who had been goldsmiths in Paris since the beginning of the 18th century. His father Pierre Antoine Taunay, an enamel painter at the Sèvres porcelain manufactory, received a royal stipend, which suggests that he was a craftsman of some note. Nicolas first worked under the history painter Brenet. He left that master to study under Francesco Casanova, the painter of battles who had himself been taught by Guardi in Venice. This arrangement was short-lived as Casanova was called to Russia by Catherine II. Taunay decided to complement his formal training with a more direct study of nature thereby developing his landscapist skills. To that end he left for Switzerland in the company of Demarne and other friends and spent some time practising landscapes and animals. Before this productive trip, Taunay had shown brilliant skill in his use of the brush and in his production of picturesque compositions. The Swiss landscape brought poetry to his work, which was more harmonious than that of his friend Demarne, Taunay's figures having more elegance, their poses more naturalness. Back in Paris he sought admission into the Académie Royale de Peinture and was approved. Monsieur d'Angevilliers obtained a royal grant for him to study in Rome along with the prize winners. In the three years he stayed there, the Italian influence did not extend much beyond the titles of his works; he carefully selected from the artistic wealth at his command what would best enhance his own talents. Between 1784 and 1787, back in Paris, he produced a vast and varied number of works: landscapes, views, monuments, subjects from history or legend, scenes from ancient or contemporary life. Such diversity of subject matter characterises the work of Taunay, who had a great capacity for work and a considerable output. Like many artists of that period he suffered financial hardship during the Revolution. He moved to the Petit-Montlouis in Montmorency, staying in the place where Jean-Jacques Rousseau had formerly lived. Drawn to new horizons as well as to the opportunity to restore his fortune, he accepted a commission in Brazil. Based in Rio de Janeiro, he made the best of this opportunity to work in an alien environment. He submitted works conceived in Brazil to the Paris Salon and these created such a stir as to earn him the Légion d'Honneur. In 1824 Taunay left Brazil in mourning after the death of his brother, the sculptor....

Reference Entry.  3065 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Painting ; Religious Art ; Christian Art ; 19th-Century Art ; 18th-Century Art

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