The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
Home > On-line Edition > Biography

Alexandre Cabanel, 1823-1889

Nationality: French
Date of Birth: 1823.09.28
Place of Birth: Montpellier
Date of Death: 1889.01.23
Place of Death: Paris


Alexandre Cabanel was a French painter, who in 1839 received a scholarship to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. There he worked under the tuition of François-Edouard Picot. Agony in the Garden (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Valenciennes) marked his debut in the Salon in 1843. In 1845 he won second place in the Prix de Rome for his Christ in the Praetorium (Ecole N. Sup. Beaux-Arts, Paris). Works such as Angel of the Evening (Musée Fabre, Montpellier) show the influence which his stay in Italy at the Ecole de Rome had on him. His chief patron at this time was Alfred Bruyas. On his return to Paris he received many distinguished decorative commissions including The Triumph of Flora for the Cabinet des Dessins in the Louvre. In 1855 he was awarded the Légion d'honneur and in 1863 he was elected to the Institut and nominated professor at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. His Birth of Venus (1862; Musée d'Orsay) was exhibited at the Salon in 1863 and subsequently bought by Napoleon III. He became an important portrait painter to the Napoleonic aristocracy. He won the Grande Médaille d'Honneur at the Salons of 1865, 1867 and 1878. He was an influential teacher who could count among his pupils Jules Bastien-Lepage, Edouard Debat-Ponsan, Edouard Théophile Blanchard, Henri Gervex and Lodewijk Royer. He was a regular figure on the Salon jury.


Meynell, A., 'Our Living Artists: Alexandre Cabanel', Magazine of Art, vol. 9, 1886, pp. 271-76; Lafenestre, G., 'Alexandre Cabanel', Gazette des Beaux-Arts, n.s. 3, vol. 1, 1889, pp. 265-80; Nougaret, J., Alexandre Cabanel: Sa vie, son oeuvre, dissertation, University of Montpellier, 1962; Alexandre Cabanel exhibition catalogue, Musée Fabre, Montpellier, 1975; Whiteley, John, 'Alexandre Cabanel', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 22 February 2002).