Français, François-Louis (1814–1897)
Louis Français was a French painter, lithographer, and illustrator who became one of the most commercially successful landscape painters of the 19th century. A former pupil of Gigoux, he began his career by studying lithography and wood engraving, becoming a prolific illustrator and print-maker. His work as an illustrator is to be found in around forty books and numerous magazines from the late 1830s to the 1860s. Français also produced a large number of pen and ink drawings, enhanced by sepia, notable for their attention to detail and for their technical adroitness and conciseness.
Français is associated with the Barbizon School of painting, a movement to represent art in nature in a Romantic, Realist context. In 1836 whilst at Barbizon he met the landscape painter Camille Corot and began a ten-year association as a friend and acolyte. Français’s paintings possess some of the prominent features of the work of Corot in his use of tonal colours, loose brushwork, and an emphasis on softness of form. Français exhibited first at the Paris Salon in 1837 and regularly thereafter until his death in 1897. He lived from 1846 to 1849 in Italy, where he experimented with a brighter palette. His work developed neo-classical sentiments with mythical creatures appearing within a realist landscape. Whilst this bought him commercial success it alienated some critics who were harsh in their judgement of his work.
A well respected and decorated artist within France, he was also internationally well known during his lifetime exhibiting abroad in Geneva and London but following his death in 1897, his reputation declined and there are relatively few of his paintings on show in public galleries beyond France.