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|Artist Details : Jean Louis Ernest Meissonier|
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Jean Louis Ernest Meissonier
Jean Louis Ernest Meissonier Born in Lyons on 20th February, 1813, he served for a short period in a chemist shop but his interest in art quickly became apparent to his parents who arranged for him to enter the studios of various artists. He first exhibited at the Salon in 1835 and became a regular exhibitor throughout the 1840's and 1850's showing various non-military scenes. However, these pictures were enough to establish his reputation and he was invited by Napoleon 111 to join the Imperial Staff on the expedition to Italy in 1859. Inspired by what he witnesses, Meissonier began to paint military scenes from the war such as The Emperor at Solferino, which was shown at the 1864 Salon, and The Emperor and his staff. Six years later, France went to war with Prussia and the emperor once again turned to Meissonier for his services. While initially accepting the offer, the artist soon became discouraged by the growing defeats of the army and declined to become further involved but not before narrowly escaping being besieged in Metz. It was at this time that he developed his penchant for Napoleonic subjects as a way of glorifying France's military past in the wake of the disastrous defeat in 1871 and the subsequent horrors of the Paris Commune. Inspired by the first Napoleon, Meissonier developed the idea of creating a cycle of pictures dramatising the great soldier from his rise to his fall. The five pictures would each depict a moment in the emperor's life during the years 1796, 1807, 1810, 1814 and 1815, but in fact only three canvases were finished. In his picture, 1807, the artist depicted a moment during the final phase of the battle of Friedland when the Emperor and his staff reviewed the 12th Regiment of Cuirassiers as they charged past. For 1814, he arranged for horses to be marched back and forth in snow and mud so that he could sketch - and became quite ill in the process. In the picture, a grim-faced Napoleon leads his disheveled troops in retreat to avoid confrontation with the enemy. These pictures established him as perhaps one of the greatest military painters France had ever seen and he was a major source of inspiration to Detaille and de Neuville before he died in Paris on 31st January, 1891.
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