by Carle Van Loo
This person is associated with: Rococo
French painter, a leading artist of the Rococo style, and most famous member of an important dynasty of painters.
Due to the early death of his father, he was trained by his elder brother Jean-Baptiste, who took Carle with him and his sons when he was given a stipend to study in Rome in 1712. They worked in the workshop of Benedetto Luti and the sculptor Legros. Then, he followed his elder brother to Paris in 1720, where they restored the Francois I Gallery in the palace of Fontainebleau.
In 1721, he might have lost at the Prix de Rome as he made a work on the subject of that year (Manoah Making a Sacrifice to Have a Son, prize given to Natoire). He lost again in 1722 (no award given), but he won the prize in 1724 for Jacob Purifying his House before Leaving to Bethel (against Quillard). Due to the critical situation of the State finances, he only left France in 1727, accompanied by his future rival François Boucher (recipient of the prize of 1723) and his three nephews François, Amédée, and Louis-Michel - who had won the prize of 1725.
On the return to France in 1732, he made a stop in Piedmont after the accidental death of his nephew François. While in Turin, King Charles-Emmanuel III commissioned him a series of 11 works based on the story of the famous opera-piece Jerusalem Delivered for his Palazzo Reale. He also married there Christina Antonia Somis, a well-known opera singer.
His success in Italy had preceded him when he came back to Paris, and he was immediately admitted in the Academy on 30 July 1735. For the first time since Watteau, he was given the honour to choose the subject of his reception piece, which was Apollo Flaying Marsyas.
As one of the three most sought after artists in the country alongside Boucher and Natoire, Carle Van Loo was kept busy by many commissions from the wealthiest patrons of France and Europe. Among many other prestigious commands, he noteworthy made hunting scenes for Versailles and Fontainebleau, several portraits of the royal family, and a large Sacrifice of Iphigenia for Frederic II of Prussia, who later bought a famous Portrait of Mademoiselle Clairon as Medea, showing the singer in her most famous role at the Opera. For the royal mistress Madame de Pompadour, he painted four Allegories of the Liberal Arts, depicting baby artists working like adults, which caused sensation in the 1753 Salon and were numerously copied until the end of the century - including by Boucher. In turn imitating his rival, who was very successful with his "chinoiseries" (fantasy scenes of the Chinese court), Van Loo made several "turqueries" (on the Turkish court) which were woven in tapestries by the manufacture of the Gobelins.
Despite being regularly acclaimed in the Salon for his Rococo compositions, Carle Van Loo was nevertheless more conservative than his competitors. He painted relatively few nudes and maintained a substantial religious production. He especially made a fresco on the Assumption of St. Isidore while still in Rome, and decorated the Church Notre-Dame des Victoires in Paris with seven massive canvases telling the life of St Augustine (painted in 1754) - perhaps the most important religious commission of the century in France.
Bestowed with honours throughout his life, he easily climbed all the ranks of the Academy, being promoted adjunct professor on 7 July 1736, professor on 2 July 1737, adjunct rector on 9 May 1752, Rector on 6 July 1754, and finally Director of the Academy on 23 June 1763 until his death on 15 July 1765. In addition, he was appointed Director of the Ecole des Elèves Protégés in 1749, Knight of St Michel in 1751, and First Painter to the King in 1762.
He was the master to his son César, and many other students, including: Fragonard, Doyen, Lépicié, Lagrenée the Elder, Drouais and the Kasseler-Tischbein.