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Joseph-Marie Vien


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(b Montpellier, 18 June 1716; d Paris, 27 Mar. 1809).

French painter. He won the Prix de Rome in 1743 and was in Rome from 1744 to 1750. At this time, excavations at Herculaneum and Pompeii were causing great excitement in the art world, and Vien's interest in the ancient Roman paintings that were unearthed helped him to gain a reputation (partly self-promoted) as a pioneer of the Neoclassical style. He was enthusiastic for the ideas of Winckelmann, but his classicism was of a very superficial kind: his most characteristic works are sentimental genre or allegorical pictures with pseudo-antique trappings (The Cupid Seller, 1763, Château de Fontainebleau). Nevertheless, he gauged the taste of the time well and had a career of exemplary success, becoming director of the French Academy in Rome (1775–81) and first painter to the king (1789). In spite of this royal appointment, he survived the Revolution and was ennobled by Napoleon in 1808. He had many pupils, of whom the most important was J.-L. David. His son, Joseph-Marie the Younger (1762–1848), was also a painter, mainly of portraits, as well as an accomplished engraver.

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