b. 1735 Nancy, France, d. 1802 Paris
Joseph Ducreux probably trained with his father, a painter in Nancy, before going to Paris in 1760, where he was the only student of pastelist Maurice-Quentin de La Tour. Like his successful mentor, Ducreux specialized in portraiture and made many self-portraits. He was also influenced by Jean-Baptiste Greuze's oil technique. In 1769 Ducreux was sent to Vienna to paint a miniature of Louis XVI's future wife, Marie-Antoinette. An instant success, he was made a baron and premier peintre de la reine (First Painter to the Queen). In the late 1780s, the irascible Ducreux painted "character" self-portraits, using his own face to study various expressions, then a popular field for artistic exploration. While in London avoiding the French Revolution, he engraved and published three of these expressive self-portraits and drew the last portrait ever made of Louis XVI. In 1793 Ducreux returned to Paris, where he became associated with Jacques-Louis David, who helped him continue an official career. Ducreux's rooms became a popular meeting place for artists and musicians, who often commissioned portraits from him; his friend composer Etienne Nicolas Méhul based the main character of an opera on him. Ducreux rarely signed his paintings, and many remain wrongly attributed to other artists.
French, before 1783