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Narcisse Diaz de la Peña


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(b Bordeaux, 21 Aug. 1807; d Menton, 18 Nov. 1876).

French painter, born of Spanish parents who had settled in France as political refugees. He began his career (c.1823) as a colourist in a porcelain factory and took up painting in the late 1820s, first exhibiting at the Salon in 1831. His early paintings included scènes galantes, imaginative oriental subjects, and still lifes, usually small in size and rich in colour and texture, but after meeting Théodore Rousseau in 1836 he became a member of the Barbizon School of landscape painters. Stylistically, however, he stood somewhat apart from his Barbizon colleagues: his liking for melodramatic lighting contrasts with the sense of quiet communion with nature that was typical of the group and his restless brushwork remained highly distinctive. Indeed, he never lost the Romantic leanings of his youth, and carried on painting mythological scenes (typically featuring nymphs) throughout his career. He achieved success earlier than most of his friends and was generous in helping younger painters by purchasing their work. Several of the Impressionists were influenced by him, notably Renoir, who said that meeting Diaz led him to lighten his palette.

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