" J’avais trempé mon pinceau dans mon cœur. "
- E. Munhill, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, p. 16. c 1769
Jean-Baptiste Greuze is famous for his scenes of family dramas, such as happy homecomings, marriage contracts, filial devotion, and the care of sick parents. Often the display of such emotions can be melodramatic, but the power of these images is undeniable.
Greuze showed early promise as a draftsman and he studied with a portrait painter in nearby Lyon. Around 1750, he moved to Paris and studied at the Royal Academy. He was supported by the director of the academy and was named associate member, for his genre paintings or scenes of everyday life. His exhibitions at the salon were very popular and he developed a wealthy clientele for his paintings, one of whom supported and accompanied him on a painting tour of Italy.
Greuze’s genre scenes had a distinct moral agenda and they were very popular with the public and high profile supporters like Diderot. Late in his career, his attempts to be accepted as a history painter were very poorly received. He reacted by dissociating himself from the Salon and refusing to exhibit with them for thirty years.