Besnard, Paul Albert (1849-1934) by Scholes, Robert

Paul Albert Besnard (1849 – 1934)

Besnard’s father was a pupil of Ingres; his mother was a talented miniaturist. Besnard enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts where he studied under Jean François Brémond (1807–68) and Alexandre Cabanel. He had his first painting accepted by the Paris Salon when he was only 19. In 1874 he was awarded the Grand Prix de Rome. Upon his return from Italy, he married a sculptor, Charlotte Dubray. Although he received many official honors and was the last important academic painter, he also was attracted to Impressionism. Although trained in the Classical tradition, he began to adopt the Impressionist style about 1883. His Portrait de Mme Roger Jourdain, which he exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1886, established his reputation. By the time he was 30, he was well into a career that was crowned with many honors. He was named Director of the Villa Medici in Rome in 1914, and the Director of the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts in 1922. He was elected to the Académie des Beaux Arts and to the Académie Française. He was also awarded the Grand Croix de la Légion d’Honneur.

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