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Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Desmarais

1756 - 1813

"The figure of Paris, by Mr. Desmarest [sic], is true in tone, but also; the shadows are weak and the background, with too many details, destroys the effect of the figure." – Report of the commissaires of the French Academy in Paris, examining the works submitted by French students in Rome. Read on 6 December 1788.

Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Desmarais was a French Neoclassical painter who spent most of his career in Italy. He favoured historical subjects and a strongly academic style. The artist Jakob Philipp Hackert (1737-1807) noted that Desmarais' penchant for tragic and macabre themes had earned him the nickname "pittore della budella" (painter of entrails).

Desmarais was born in Paris in 1756; little is known of his early years. In 1781, he entered the workshop of Gabriel-François Doyen (1726-1806), a professor at the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture. He applied for the prestigious Prix de Rome in 1783 and in 1784, but without success. He was finally awarded the prize in 1785. Although he actually came in second that year, he was accorded the first prize reserved from 1783 (when no prize was given). Despite some contestation from other students, Desmarais received his sponsorship and came to study at the French Academy in Rome in September of 1786.

The full-length classical nude, The Shepherd Paris, was Desmarais' académie (submission piece) for 1787, displaying his ability to depict the human form to academic standards. This work has formerly been attributed to Jean-Germain Drouais (1763-1788), a contemporary of Desmarais' who also painted in the Neoclassical style. After a successful stint at the French Academy in Rome, Desmarais chose to remain in the Eternal City. He was prevented from returning to France due to the outbreak of the French Revolution, and would spend the rest of his career in Italy. He became an influential teacher in Florence, training several students who would go on to become quite prominent. He later served as professor of drawing at the academy of arts in Carrara, also acting as its vice-president.

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Birth name

Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Desmarais

Born

Born in Paris, France, 1756

Died

Died Italy: Carrara, 29 April 1813

Nationality

French

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