GREUZE, Jean-Baptiste
(b. 1725, Tournus, d. 1805, Paris)


Self-portrait, 1785

French painter. He had a great success at the 1755 Salon with his Father Reading the Bible to his Children (Louvre, Paris) and went on to win enormous popularity with similar sentimental and melodramatic genre scenes. His work was praised by Diderot as 'morality in paint' and as representing the highest ideal of painting in his day. He also wished to succeed as a history painter, but his Septimius Severus Reproaching Caracalla (Louvre, 1769) was rejected by the Salon, causing him acute embarrassment. Much of Greuze's later work consisted of titillating pictures of young girls, which contain thinly veiled sexual allusions under their surface appearance of mawkish innocence; The Broken Pitcher (Louvre) for example, alludes to lost virginity.

With the swing of taste towards Neoclassicism his work went out of fashion and he sank into obscurity at the Revolution in 1789. At the very end of his career he received a commission to paint a portrait of Napoleon (1804-50, Versailles), but he died in poverty. His huge output is particularly well represented in the Louvre, the Wallace Collection in London, the Musée Fabre in Montpellier, and in the museum dedicated to him in Tournus, his native town.