(b. 1729, Colleville, d. 1765, Paris)
French painter (also spelt Deshayes). He first trained with his father, Jean-Dominique Deshays, an obscure painter in Rouen. After a brief period at Jean-Baptiste Descamps's Ecole Gratuite de Dessin, he entered the studio in Paris of Hyacinthe Collin de Vermont c. 1740. There he acquired the foundations of the mastery of drawing for which he later became celebrated.
In late 1749 he moved to the studio of Jean Restout II, who was, like Collin de Vermont, a pupil of Jean Jouvenet, and whose work continued the grand tradition of French history painting. It was from Restout that Deshays learnt the importance of dramatic composition and strong colouring in large religious paintings. While he was in Restout's studio, Deshays entered the Prix de Rome competition, winning second prize in 1750 with Laban Giving his Daughter in Marriage to Jacob, and the first prize in 1751 with Job on the Dung-hill (both untraced). Before going to Rome, Deshays spent the obligatory three years at the Ecole des Eleves Protégés; from its director Carle Van Loo he learnt a more fashionable facility and tempered the severity inherited from Jouvenet with a more appealing manner. During this period he undertook a number of commissions for religious paintings (all untraced), including two vast canvases, a Visitation and an Annunciation, for the monastery of the Visitation at Rouen. He completed his artistic education with four years at the Académie de France in Rome under its director, Charles-Joseph Natoire. During this time he made a great many copies of works by Raphael and the Bolognese masters Domenichino, Guercino and the Carracci.
Deshays returned to Paris in 1758, married the elder daughter of Boucher, and was made a full member of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in 1759. The artist exhibited at only four official Salons, all to extraordinary acclaim.
Deshays's rich imagination and powers of expression were inspired by the great history painters of the seventeenth century, Eustache Le Sueur, Charles Le Brun, Rubens, and the Carracci. The majority of his ceuvre is made up of religious and mythological compositions, conceived in the grand French decorative tradition.