By J, L. E, MEISSONIER (1815-1891)

At the age of 16, Meissonier exhibited in the Salon his picture " Dutch Burghers," also known as " The Visit to the Burgomaster," which was the first example in France of the microscopic painting in oils which afterwards made this artist so famous. While he was slaving at illustrations for the publishers to support himself, he contrived to find time to continue this style of work also, and rapidly achieved an unparalleled measure of success. It is no exaggeration to say that his pictures were raved about to such an extent that they became worth their weight in gold. Nobody commanded such high prices as he did, The sum of 10,000 pounds was paid him for his "Cuirassiers," and similar amounts were his normal charges when he reaped his great success. On the other hand, he spent immense sums in making preparations for his pictures. He bought horses, armour, and clothing, regardless of cost, and the models he hired were forced to wear their costumes in sun and rain to give them the natural appearance he wanted. When painting his great picture "1814," which shows Napoleon at the head of his staff riding along a snow-covered road, he prepared the scenery in the plain of Champagne, and then had the road specially laid out for him to paint it. Even then he waited for a fall of snow, and had the ground trampled upon by artillery, cavalry and infantry to make the scene realistic. Nothing was too much trouble for him, and his patience was inexhaustible, At least one of his pictures-" 1807 "- took ten years to complete. It is not surprising, in view of these facts, that although his paintings commanded such enormous prices he never became really rich, except in so far as he received what he asked, and achieved the full measure of his ambition.

" A Cavalier" is an example of the work which made him famous before he abandoned that style of picture in favour of scenes of French military history.

From the book "Famous Paintings" Volume 2 printed in 1913.

Large files of this public domain print are available at Stock Photos at Songs of Praise
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Online "Name the Painting"

Biography of Meissonier
at Wikipedia


painting by Meissonier (described in the article)

links at Art Cyclopedia

military prints

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Famous Paintings Volume 1
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Famous Paintings Volume 2
Art Gallery

Art Appreciation