Following successful shows in London and New York, this Cologne exhibition of drawings and paintings from intitutional and private collections provides a comprehensive overview of Puvis de Chacannes' Oeuvre. The exhibition was curated by the art historian Louise d'Argencourt, a former curator from the National Gallery of Canada, and Bertrand Puvis de Chavannes, the artist's grandnephew and president of the Comité Puvis de Chavannes.
Pierre Puvis de Chavannes was born in 1824 in Lyon as the youngest of four children. His wealthy family, originally from Burgundy, had planned a career in the civil service for their son, but the death of his mother and a protracted illness meant that Pierre had to break off his studies. As a convalescent, he travelled to Italy. There he discovered Giotto and Piero della Francesca, and decided to devote his life to art. On his return to Paris in 1948(1848?) he began his apprenticeship in the studios of Henri Scheffer, Eugène Delacroix and Thomas Couture. Puvis avoided the conventional artistic studies and concentrated on anatomical studies at the École des Beaux-Arts. He began to produce sketches from works in the Louvre, which he continued to develop in his studio. His interest in heroic scenarios and the classical language of symbols led to the creation of mural paintings. During his 40-year-long career, Puvis developed his personal palette of subtle matt whitish colours, which render strength and harmony to his figures.
By the time Puvis died at the age of 73, his art had already made an significant influence on painters such as Cézanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Seurat and Matisse, who publically acknowledged the progressive character of Puvis' work. The same can be said of Picasso, whose blue period witnesses the strong influence of Puvis' technique.