DROUAIS, Jean-Germain
(b. 1763, Paris, d. 1788, Roma)

Biography

French painter, part of a family of painters. His father, Francois Hubert Drouais, and his grandfather, Hubert Drouais, were well-known portrait painters; and it was from his father that he received his first artistic instruction. In 1778 enrolled at the Académie Royale, becoming a pupil of Nicolas-Guy Brenet. Around 1781 he entered Jacques-Louis David's studio as one of his first pupils. The following year, though not officially entered for the competition, he painted that year's Prix de Rome subject, the Return of the Prodigal Son (Paris, St Roch), presumably as a trial for his own edification. The picture has a friezelike composition and reveals both the influence of Jean-François Peyron and David as well as debts to Poussin and Italian 17th-century sources.

In 1783 Drouais reached the Prix de Rome final with the Resurrection of the Son of the Widow of Nain (Le Mans, Musée Tessé) but was eliminated from the competition in extraordinary circumstances: impatient to know his master's opinion, Drouais cut a section off the canvas and smuggled it out of the competition rooms. David acknowledged it to be the best thing his favourite pupil had yet done, but by his hasty action Drouais had disqualified himself. However, the following year he won the prize, and great acclaim, with the Woman of Canaan at the Feet of Christ (Paris, Louvre), an extremely accomplished piece influenced by Poussin's work and David's Belisarius (Lille, Musée des Beaux-Arts). He was carried shoulder high by his fellow-students through the streets to his mothers house, and a place was afterwards found for his picture in the Louvre.

His success making him only the more eager to perfect himself in his art, he accompanied David to Rome, where he worked even more assiduously than in Paris. He was most strongly influenced by the remains of ancient art and by the works of Raphael. Goethe, who was at Rome at the time it was finished, has recorded the deep impression made by his Marius at Minturno, which he characterizes as in some respects superior to the work of, David, his master. The last picture which he completed was his Philoctetus on the Island of Lemnos. He died on the 15th of July 1788. A monument to his memory was erected by his fellow-students in the church of Santa Maria in the Via Lata.