b. 1590 Paris, d. 1649 Paris
"In his time the art of painting began to be practiced here in a nobler and more beautiful way than ever before."
Thus wrote a contemporary about Simon Vouet. After years in Italy, Vouet catalyzed a reawakening of French art. Trained by his sign-painter father, the fourteen-year-old Vouet painted a portrait in England and accompanied France's ambassador to Constantinople in 1611. He lived in Italy from 1613 to 1627, mostly in Rome, but he also visited Venice, Naples, Bologna, and Genoa. Initially inspired by Caravaggio, Vouet also assimilated Italian Mannerism, Titian and Paolo Veronese's lyricism, and the art of the Carracci, Guercino, and Guido Reni. Famous and respected, he was president of Rome's Accademia di San Luca.
Recalled to France by Louis XIII, Vouet dominated Paris, painting altarpieces and religious works for churches and illusionistic decorations for private home and public buildings, most of which have been destroyed. With Vouet, the French Baroque style was born. His classicizing, restrained, yet sensuous Baroque style incorporated Philippe de Champaigne's cool color, Nicolas Poussin's classical composition, and Venetian painting's rich color. Vouet taught a generation of painters, including Eustache Le Sueur and Charles Le Brun. Yet, when he established the Académie Royale in 1648, Le Brun excluded Vouet, whom he considered a powerful rival.
Study of Female
Portrait of Richelieu
French, about 1632-1634
Venus and Adonis
French, about 1642