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The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Paul Delaroche, 1797-1856

Nationality: French
Date of Birth: 1797.07.17
Place of Birth: Paris
Date of Death: 1856.11.04
Place of Death: Paris

Identity:

Paul Delaroche, né Hippolyte Delaroche, was a painter and sculptor. He was the son of Gregoire-Hippolyte Delaroche. His brother Jules-Hippolyte studyied history painting with David.

Life:

Delaroche studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts under Louis-Etienne Watelet and then with Constant-Joseph Desbordes and Antoine-Jean Gros. He made his début at the Salon in 1822 with Christ Descended from the Cross (1822; Palais Royale, Chapelle, Paris) and Jehosheba Saving Joash (1822; Musée des Beaux-Arts et Archéologie, Troyes). He was a key figure in the school of history painting in France, becoming particularly well known for his theatrical and historically accurate paintings from English history, e.g. The Children of Edward: Edward V, King of England, and Richard, Duke of York, in the Tower of London (1831; Louvre, Paris). In 1832 he was elected a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts, and in 1833 he became a professor at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts where Thomas Couture and Jean-Léon Gérôme were among his students. The late 1830s were taken up painting his most famous work, The Hemicycle (Artists of all Ages), for the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Religious works and portraiture dominated his later career.

As a student of art in 1854/45 JW made copies from paintings by Delaroche. However, the comments he made in his maturity concerning the artist were on the whole unfavourable. On 21 February 1885, responding to Oscar Wilde's review of his 'Ten O'Clock Lecture', JW wrote: 'Nothing is more delicate, in the flattery of "the Poet" to "the Painter," than the naïveté of "the Poet," in the choice of his Painters - Benjamin West and Paul Delaroche' (#11405). Wilde replied to JW, 'By the aid of a biographical dictionary I discovered that there were once two painters, called Benjamin West and Paul Delaroche, who recklessly took to lecturing on Art'. He added 'As of their works nothing at all remains, I conclude that they explained themselves away' (#07057). Both letters were published in 'Tenderness in Tite Street', Pall Mall Gazette on 24 February 1885 and in the World on 25 February 1885. On a different occasion JW described Delaroche as an 'important mediocrity' (#07443).

Bibliography:

De Mirecourt, E., Les Contemporains No. 72: Paul Delaroche, Paris, 1856; De Mirecourt, E., Les Contemporains No. 119: Delaroche, Decamps, Paris, 1871; Ziff, N. D., Paul Delaroche: A Study in French Nineteenth Century History Painting, New York, 1977; Monneret, S., L'Impressionisme et son époque, Paris, 1978-79; Whiteley, Linda, 'Paul (Hippolyte) Delaroche', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, http://www.groveart.com (accessed 18 October 2002).