Thomas Couture

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Thomas Couture

70 artworks

French Academic Classical painter, teacher, history painter and portraitist

Born 12/21/1815 - Died 3/30/1879

Born in Senlis (Oise, Picardy, France)

Died in Villiers-le-Bel (Val-d'Oise, Ile-de-France, France)

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The Romans of the Decadence


Oil on canvas

466 x 773 cms | 183 1/4 x 304 1/4 ins

Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France

The Thorny Path


Oil on canvas

130.8 x 190.5 cms | 51 1/4 x 75 ins

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, United States

Credit: Brian Shapiro

The Duel after the Masked Ball


Oil on canvas

24.3 x 32.5 cms | 9 1/2 x 12 3/4 ins

Wallace Collection, London, United Kingdom

Credit: Brian Shapiro

Pierrot the Politician

c. 1857

Oil on canvas

119 x 155 cms | 46 3/4 x 61 ins

Wallace Collection, London, United Kingdom


La Joueur de Cormeuse

The Player of Cormeuse


Oil on canvas

146 x 113.7 cms | 57 1/4 x 44 3/4 ins

National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin 2, Ireland

Jeune Femme Cousant

Young Woman Sewing

c. 1870

Oil on canvas

92.7 x 73.7 cms | 36 1/2 x 29 ins

Private collection, ,

Credit: Brian Shapiro

The Miser

c. 1876

Oil on canvas

81.3 x 65.4 cms | 32 x 25 1/2 ins

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, United States

Le Baiser de Judas

The Kiss of Judas

Oil on canvas

Private collection, ,

The Little Confectioner

c. 1878

Oil on canvas

65.7 x 54.8 cms | 25 3/4 x 21 1/2 ins

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, United States

Credit: Brian Shapiro

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THOMAS COUTURE (1815-1879) was an influential French history painter and teacher.

He was born at Senlis Oise, France and at age 11, Thomas Couture's family moved to Paris where he would study at the industrial arts school (École des Arts et Métiers) and later at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He failed the prestigious Prix de Rome competition at the École six times, but he felt the problem was with the École, not himself. Couture finally did win the prize in 1837.

In 1840, he began exhibiting historical and genre pictures at the Paris Salon, earning several medals for his works, in particular for his 1847 masterpiece, Romans in the Decadence of the Empire, now in the Luxembourg. Shortly after his this success, Couture opened an independent atelier meant to challenge the Ecole des Beaux-Arts by turning out the best new history painters.

Couture's innovative technique gained much attention and he received Government and Church commissions for murals during the late 1840s through the 1850s, and obtained several medals. However, he never completed the first two commissions, while the third met with mixed criticism. Upset by the unfavorable reception of his murals, in 1860 he left Paris for a time returning to his hometown of Senlis where he continued to teach young artists who came to him. In 1867 he thumbed his nose at the academic establishment by publishing a book on his own ideas and working methods.

During his lifetime, Couture taught such later luminaries of the art world as Edouard Manet, Henri Fantin-Latour, and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes.

Asked by a publisher to do an autobiography, Thomas Couture responded with words that are even more appropriate today: "Biography is the exaltation of personality --- and personality is the scourge of our time."

Thomas Couture died at Villiers-le-Bel, Île-de-France and was interred in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, France.

  • Entries on the artist in the 1911 Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica and the Wikipedia.

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