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La Tour, Maurice Quentin De

LA TOUR, MAURICE QUENTIN DE (1704-1788), French pastellist, was born at St Quentin on the sth of September 1704. After leaving Picardy for Paris in 1727 he entered the studio of Spoede an upright man, but a poor master, rector of the academy of St Luke, who still continued, in the teeth of the Royal Academy, the traditions of the old gild of the master painters of Paris. This possibly contributed to the adoption by La Tour of a line of work foreign to that imposed by an academical training; for pastels, though occasionally used, were not a principal and distinct branch of work until 1720, when Rosalba Camera brought them into fashion with the Parisian world. In 1737 La Tour exhibited the first of that splendid series of a hundred and fifty portraits which formed the glory of the Salon for the succeeding thirty-seven years. In 1 746 he was received into the academy; and in 1751, the following year to that in which he received the title of painter to the king, he was promoted by that body to the grade of councillor. His work had the rare merit of satisfying at once both the taste of his fashionable models and the judgment of his brother artists. His art, consummate of its kind, achieved the task of nattering his sitters, whilst hiding that flattery behind the just and striking likeness which, says Pierre Jean Mariette, he haidly ever missed. His portraits of Rousseau, of Voltaire, of Louis XV., of his queen, of the dauphin and dauphiness, are at once documents and masterpieces unsurpassed except by his life-size portrait of Madame de Pompadour, which, exhibited at the Salon of 1755, became the chief ornament of the cabinet of pastels in the Louvre. The museum of St Quentin also possesses a magnificent collection of works which at his death were in his own hands. La Tour retired to St Quentin at the age of 80, and there he died on the 18th of February 1788. The riches amassed during his long life were freely bestowed by him in great part before his death; he founded prizes at the school of fine arts in Paris and for the town of Amiens, and endowed St Quentin with a great number of useful and charitable institutions. He never married, but lived on terms of warm affection with his brother (who survived him, and left to the town the drawings now in the museum); and his relations to Mile Marie Fel (1713-1789), the celebrated singer, were distinguished by a strength and depth of feeling not common to the loves of the 18th century.

See, in addition to the general works on French art, C. Desmeze, M. Q. de La Tour, peintre du rot (1854) ; Champfleury, Les Peintres de Laon et de St Quentin (1855); and " La Tour " in the Collection des artistes celebres (1886); E. and J. de Goncourt, La Tour (1867); Guiffrey and M. Tourneux, Correspondance inedite de M. G. de la Tour (1885); Tourneux, La Tour, biographic critique (1904); and Patoux, L'CEuvre de M. Quentin de la Tour au musee de St Quentin (St Quentin, 1882).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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