PILS, Isidore-Alexandre-Augustin
(b. 1813, Paris, d. 1875, Douarnenez)


French painter. The son of the painter François Pils (1785-1867), at the age of 15 he entered the studio of Guillaume Lethière, where he remained until the latter's death in 1832. He then moved to that of François-Edouard Picot, the two men rapidly becoming friends. On Picot's recommendation in 1834 Pils was commissioned to restore the paintings in the Galerie Henri II at Fontainebleau. While working there he produced several pictures of the interior of the palace and the surrounding area.

He then returned to Paris and to Picot's studio, intending to compete for the Prix de Rome, but hampered by illness and a stay in hospital he won only the second Grand Prix (1837). However, he fulfilled his ambition in the following year with St Peter Healing a Lame Man at the Gate of the Temple (1838; École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris). He arrived at the Académie de France in Rome, at that time directed by Ingres, in January 1839. The poor health, particularly tuberculosis, that afflicted him throughout his life again frustrated his plans, and from July to September 1839 he convalesced in Ischia. On his way back to Rome he visited Pompeii and made studies from the antique vases and bronzes there. Despite continued bouts of illness and periods of rest, he managed to study art works in Naples, Florence and Venice but had little success with his own painting, which was poorly received both by his instructors and by Picot.

Pils's earlier paintings have religious themes. In 1849 he completed his most famous work, Rouget de L'Isle Singing La Marseillaise, which now resides at the Musée historique de Strasbourg. After experiences travelling with French troops through the Crimea, his themes took on military and nationalistic subjects. He later produced many military scenes during the siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.

Pils was appointed professor of painting at the École des Beaux-Arts in 1863 but left the same year for two years in Algeria. In 1868 he was elected to seat #14 of the Académie des Beaux-Arts.

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