by Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson
This person is associated with: Neoclassicism
French neoclassical painter. Girodet learned the techniques of painting under David from 1784 onwards. As with his master, he failed on three occasions to gain the Prix de Rome before winning it at the fourth attempt. In 1786, his picture Coriolan Leaving his Family to go into Exile received good reviews from the critics, but the prize was cancelled since all the contenders came from David's workshop and their pieces were judged too similar. In 1787, his Nabuchodonosor Has Zedekiah's Children Killed before his Eyes was disqualified because he had brought some sketches outside the exam room (the prize was attributed to Fabre who had denounced him). He finished second in 1788 for The Death of Tatius (attributed to Garnier). Finally, Girodet won the contest in 1789 for Joseph Recognized by his Brothers (against Gérard). He went to Rome with Meynier who won the prize for 1786, which had been set again in 1789.
He was forced to move out of Rome in 1793 because of the war, and spent some time in several Italian cities, painting landscapes - similar to those of Gauffier.
On his return to France in 1795, he became a prominent exponent in the Salon and appeared to be the only painter able to challenge David - the Neoclassical giant. This impact became reality in 1810 when Girodet won the Decennial Prize - a special prize created by the Emperor - for his Scene of the Flood, beating David's Intervention of the Sabine women.
Girodet produced less after 1812 when he inherited considerable wealth; nevertheless, he still made several decorations in the Castle of Compiègne at the end of the Empire.
His style foreshadowed Romanticism as he painted with emotion and sensuality, such as Atalia or Endemyion, or in his famous portrait of Chateaubriand. Since his death, many art historians and critics have said that Girodet was gay, since his works frequently focus on male nudity, with some androgynous models, whereas the neoclassical rule was to paint muscular warriors.
A museum is specially dedicated to his oeuvre in his birth town of Montargis.