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Philippe de Champaigne (1602-74)

( Originally Published 1955 )

French painter of Flemish origin. Born in Brussels, Champaigne worked with two little-known Flemings and a landscapist, Fouquiere, before coming permanently to Paris at the age of nineteen. Although his best paintings reveal a basic Flemish objectivity, and he was resident at the Luxembourg in the days of Marie de' Medici, Champaigne shows no traces of the style of Rubens. Rather, he tempers his Flemish exactitude with the detached abstraction of Poussin, his friend and one-time associate. Champaigne has been called "the painter of Port Royal" because of his many associations with that important lay convent. The simplicity and pious quietism of certain of his religious works has led to the comparison of his style with the Jansenist self-denial of the convent. However, this mood is to be found in other French painters of the period, and Champaigne also painted for the Jesuits and for Cardinal Richelieu (who terminated the order). Both his daughters entered Port Royal and one of Champaigne's most effective paintings of the austere type is a votive portrait of the abbess and his daughter Catherine (Louvre), celebrating Catherine's miraculous cure by the abbess. Champaigne's eclectic, decorative style can be seen in the Presentation (Brussels), which derives from Italian formulas. Perhaps his greatest merit is to be found in his portraits, which were much celebrated in his day. The van Dyck tradition is seen in this work, but Champaigne adds a personal touch of serious scutiny, e.g., his portraits of Richelieu and of Robert Arnaud. Famous among his paintings was the Vow of Louis XIII (Museum Caen), a bit of Baroque pastiche.

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