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  Jean-Antoine Houdon  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Jean-Antoine Houdon
 
 

Jean-Antoine Houdon by Rembrandt Peale
 
 
Jean-Antoine Houdon, (born March 20, 1741, Versailles, France—died July 15, 1828, Paris), French sculptor whose religious and mythological works are definitive expressions of the 18th-century Rococo style of sculpture. Elements of classicism and naturalism are also evident in his work, and the vividness with which he expressed both physiognomy and character places him among history’s greatest portrait sculptors.
 
Houdon began sculpting at age nine and underwent the long training prescribed by the Académie Royale. In 1761 he won the Prix de Rome, and while in Rome (1764–68) he established his reputation with a large marble statue of St. Bruno (1767) and an anatomical study of a flayed man, L’Écorché (1767), which brought him immediate fame and served later as the basis for replicas widely used for instruction.

In 1770, two years after his return to Paris, he presented a reclining figure, Morpheus (marble version, 1777), as his reception piece for membership in the Académie Royale. He earned his livelihood, however, through portraiture; his sitters included Denis Diderot, Empress Catherine the Great of Russia, and Benjamin Franklin.

Houdon created four different busts of Voltaire in addition to the renowned seated figure at the Comédie-Française, for which the sculptor made first studies shortly before the death of the aged philosopher in 1778. Five weeks later, on hearing of the death of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Houdon hastened to the philosopher’s home at Ermenonville and took a cast of the dead man’s face, from which he developed the bronze bust that is now in the Louvre. In 1785 Houdon crossed the Atlantic to carry out a commission for a statue of George Washington.

 
 

Jean-Antoine Houdon at work in his atelier, 1804, by Louis-Léopold Boilly, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris.
 
 
Several weeks spent at Washington’s home at Mount Vernon were sufficient for him to complete his studies, which he took back to France. The marble statue, signed and dated 1788, was set up in the Virginia state capitol at Richmond in 1796.

Houdon modeled his sculptures in clay, although subsequent versions might be of marble, bronze, or plaster. A skilled technician in all of these mediums, Houdon either took full charge of repetitions or limited himself to finishing touches upon his assistants’ work. He preferred retaining the toolmarks in his sculptures rather than polishing them out, choosing to suggest a sense of freshness in execution that accorded with his concern for a characteristic pose and for the effect of a direct and vivid glance.

Encyclopædia Britannica

 
 
 
 


Bust of Anne-Ange Houdon
c. 1791
Plaster
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston





Louise Brongniart
1777
Terracotta, height 35 cm
Musйe du Louvre, Paris






Bust of Alexandre Brongniart
1777
Marble, height 39 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington





Bust of a Child
1791
Plaster, height 40 cm
Musйe du Louvre, Paris





Bust of the Comtesse de Sabran
c. 1785
Marble
Neues Palais, Potsdam






Bust of the Artist's Wife
c. 1770
Marble
Musйe du Louvre, Paris






Antoine Louis Le Fиvre de Caumartin
1779
Marble
Musйe Jaquemart-Andrй, Paris






Diana
c. 1776
Marble
Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon






Diana
c. 1776
Marble
Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon






Denis Diderot
1771
Terracotta, height 83 cm
Musйe du Louvre, Paris





Bust of Diderot
1771
Marble
Seymour Collection, Nem Haven






General Dumouriez
1792
Terracotta
Musйe des Beaux-Arts, Angers






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






Bust of Thomas Jefferson
1789
Marble, height 78 cm
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston






Portrait of Joseph Jйrфme Lalande
1802
Marble
Musйe du Louvre, Paris






Bust of Mirabeau
1800
Marble
Château de Versailles, Versailles






Bust of Napoleon
1806
Marble
Musйe des Beaux-Arts, Dijon






Peasant Girl of Frascati
1774
Marble, height 96 cm
Musйe Cognacq-Jay, Paris






Alexandre Brogniart



 



Louise Brogniart




Madame de Sйrilly
1782
Marble, height 62 cm
Wallace Collection, London






St Bruno
1766-67
Marble, height 315 cm
Santa Maria degli Angeli, Rome






Voltaire Seated
1781
Terra-cotta, height 120 cm
Musйe Fabre, Montpellier







Voltaire Seated (detail)
1781
Terra-cotta, height 120 cm
Musйe Fabre, Montpellier







Voltaire Seated
1781
Terra-cotta, height 120 cm
Musйe Fabre, Montpellier








Voltaire



 

Voltaire





Diana




 



The Comtesse Du Cayla






Girl from Frascati






Bust of George Washington
1784
Marble
Mount Vernon, Virginia





George Washington
1788
Marble, lifesize
State Capitol, Richmond, Virginia





Bust of George Washington
1789-1808
Marble
Musйe du Louvre, Paris






Summer
1785
Marble, height 155 cm
Musйe Fabre, Montpellier



 



Bust of a girl



 



La Frileuse





Winter (The Cold Girl)
1783
Marble, height 145 cm
Musйe Fabre, Montpellier





Winter (The Cold Girl)
1783
Marble, height 145 cm
Musйe Fabre, Montpellier

 
 
 

 
 
 
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