The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier, 1815-1891

Nationality: French
Date of Birth: 1815.02.21
Place of Birth: Lyon
Date of Death: 1891.01.31
Place of Death: Paris


Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier was a history and genre painter, sculptor and illustrator. He had a son, Charles Meissonier (1844-1917), who was his pupil.


Meissonier studied briefly under Jules Potier and Léon Cogniet. He began his career as a wood-engraver and book illustrator, before specialising in small, detailed genre and military scenes, inspired by the work of seventeenth century Netherlandish painters, such as Gabriel Metsu and Gerard ter Borch, and French painters, such as Jean-Simon Chardin and Jean-Baptiste Greuze. He was also influenced by contemporary set and costume design.

Meissonier's works were extremely well received and were praised by critics such as Théophile Gautier. However, his success brought criticism from the younger generation of artists and writers including Honoré de Balzac, Charles Baudelaire, Edgar Degas, de Goncourt brothers, Edouard Manet and Emile Zola. Meissonier was controversially among the jury that excluded Gustave Courbet from the Salon of 1872.

In 1876, and again in 1891, Meissonier was elected President of the Académie des Beaux-Arts, and in 1889 he became President of the jury of the Parisian Exposition Universelle. He was the first artist to receive the Grand-croix in the Légion d'honneur in 1889. In 1890 he founded the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts with Puvis de Chavannes.


Hungerford, Constance Cain, 'Ernest Meissonier', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 18 February 2004).