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Sebastien Bourdon (1616-71)

( Originally Published 1955 )

French painter and engraver. Although essentially academic and conservative, Bourdon was a harbinger of the romantic breakdown of the classical tradition which was to come. Son of a glass painter of Montpellier. Bourdon worked with Barthelemys in Paris before going to Rome in 1635. In Rome he developed two styles. Through his contact with Poussin and Claude he absorbed the classical manner as demonstrated in his Discovery of Coral (Munich), which is based on a drawing by Poussin. He also learned from Peter van Laer to paint rollicking genre of "Bambocciata" in the latter's Dutch manner, and in some cases he shows a resemblance to the Le Nain brothers. The Gypsy Camp (Louvre) is of this type. On the basis of an anecdote that he copied a Lorrain landscape and sold it as his own. Bourdun has been called a mere plagiarist, but he was quite an independent artist, according to the eclectic standards of his day: Although he was a Protestant and was imprisoned by the Roman Inquisition"; Bourdon painted many religious subjects and was for a time court painter to Christina of Sweden. He had been active in the foundation of the Academy in 1648 and on his return from Sweden in 1654 he was made Rector and delivered a series of learned lectures. Bourdon was an ingratiating, if not forceful painter. rendering romantic and decorative the serious style of Poussin. He is most popular for his paintings of Dutch realistic vein and for his portraits. There is no known chronology of his two styles, which were apparently practiced simultaneously.

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