Gabriel Jacques de Saint-Aubin

Dates1724 - 1780
BornParis, France
DiedParis, France

Gabriel Jacques de Saint-Aubin died almost destitute, and he was little known in his time. His passion was chronicling daily Parisian life. He earned his meager living as an engraver and made gouaches and pastels, but he never stopped trying for a painting career. Saint-Aubin studied with a genre painter and then with François Boucher, whose facility and ease of style influenced his work. After three painful failures in the Prix de Rome competition, Saint-Aubin contented himself with exhibiting and teaching at the Académie de Saint-Luc rather than the more prestigious Académie Royale.

Saint-Aubin's enchanted genre scenes are often imbued with sweetness and elegance; their refined colors create a poetic mood. He often tempered his works with a moral tone, alluding to fleeting time and the vanity of worldly pleasures. His expressive drawings were later recognized as some of the era's finest, as great as those of Jean-Antoine Watteau. Saint-Aubin is best known for his illustrations and tiny drawings in the margins of sales catalogues and his own Salon livrets, or guidebooks. He could capture a scene in few strokes and seldom forgot the humor in life.