HOUDON, Jean-Antoine
(b. 1741, Versailles, d. 1828, Paris)

Robert Fulton

c. 1803
Plaster, height 68,5 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Houdon made over 150 portrait busts of the great men and women of his age, combining psychological perception with analytical reason to bring out the individual character of each sitter. His portraits of important Americans remain definitive. He portrayed Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson in Paris and visited the young United States to prepare for his marble statue of George Washington, now in Richmond. Robert Fulton, an inventor, artist, and engineer best known for having proved the commercial practicality of the steamboat, lived in Paris on and off from 1797 before returning to America in 1806. He made his first steamboat test on the Seine in 1803; he also invented a submarine, the Nautilus, while still in France, although he was unable to get support from the French or American governments for its development.

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