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National Gallery of Art, Louvre acquire refined drawings by obscure French Neoclassical artist

June 10, 2012

Jean-Claude Naigeon (1753-1832)
Timoleon and the People of Syracuse
Black Chalk – 28.5 x 39.2 cm
Washington, National Gallery of Art
Photo: Galerie Nathalie Motte Masselinck

Several institutions including  the National Gallery of Art and the Louvre have acquired drawings by a relatively obscure, but talented French Neoclassical artist named Jean-Claude Naigeon (1753-1832), according to the Art Tribune.  Paris-based Galerie Nathalie Motte Masselinck exhibited 46 works that came directly from the artist’s family – the first time all 46 had been publicly exhibited. According to the online exhibition catalogue:

Although [Naigeon’s] life is not well known and very few of his works are inventoried, he won the Rome prize from Burgundy in 1780, like Bénigne Gagnereaux (1776) and Pierre Paul Prud’hon (1784). This suggests that despite his relative obscurity he must have achieved some mastery in the arts of painting and drawing. Among the scant documentary evidence of Naigeon’s life are twenty-nine letters that he wrote to his teacher Francois Desvoge. This correspondence reveals a highly motivated young artist with a personality that is at once both lighthearted and strong willed; an artist completely invested in his work. Regarding Naigeon, the art historian Sylvain Laveissière, who copublished Naigeon’s letters, wrote of the artist “his oeuvre remains poorly known and may contain happy surprises.”

The “happy surprises” in this exhibition include works depicting historical, biblical and mythological passages and many views in and around Rome – including several from Tivoli, a stopping point for scores of artists over the centuries, and a place that remains a classic image of a ruin in a pastoral setting.

Jean-Claude Naigeon (1753-1832)
Study of a Prophet
Black and White Chalks – 58.5 x 44 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Photo: Galerie Nathalie Motte Masselinck

Jean-Claude Naigeon (1753-1832)
Orpheus Charming Pluto and Proserpina into Hell
Pen and Brown Ink, Grey Wash – 45 x 61.2 cm
Paris, Ecole nationale supérieur des beaux-arts
Photo: Galerie Nathalie Motte Masselinck

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