His artistic style was varied: far from being limited to the realism traditionally associated with Flemish painters, it developed from late Mannerism to the powerful lyricism of the Baroque. It was influenced as much by Rubens as by Vouet, culminating in an aesthetic vision of the world and of humanity that was based on an analytic view ofappearances and on psychological truth. He was perhaps the greatest portrait painter of 17th-century France. At the same time he was one of the principal instigators of the Classical tendency and a founder-member of theAcademie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture. His growing commitment to the Jansenist religious movement and the severe plainness of the works that it inspired has led to his being sometimes considered to typify Jansenist thinking, with its iconoclastic impulse, in spite of the opposing evidence of his other paintings. He should be seen as an example of the successful integration of foreign elements into French culture and as the representative of the most intellectual current of French painting.
Oil on canvas, 165 x 229 cm
Musee du Louvre, Paris
Still-Life with a Skull
Oil on panel, 28 x 37 cm
Musee de Tesse, Le Mans
Retrato de Hombre
born May 26, 1602, Brussels
died Aug. 12, 1674, Paris
portrait, historical, and religious painter of the French Baroque.
Trained in Brussels, Champaigne arrived in Paris in 1621 and was employed with the classical Baroque painter Nicolas Poussin on the decoration of the Luxembourg Palace, under the direction of Nicholas Duchesne. His career progressed rapidly under the patronage of the queen mother Marie de Medicis and the Cardinal de Richelieu, for whom he producedreligious paintings and portraits. Appointed painter royal to the queen mother, Champaigne succeeded Duchesne in that position in 1628. He became a professor at the Royal Academy (1653), later its rector, and produced many pieces for the palaces and churches of Paris.
Champaigne decorated a gallery in the Palais Royal for Richelieu and executed a masterful portrait of the powerful French figure (“Cardinal Richelieu”; c. 1635, Louvre, Paris). His strongest works are the natural and lifelike psychological portraits he produced of eminent contemporaries. Blending Flemish, French, and Italian elements, his work is characterized by a brilliant colour sense, a monumental conception of the figure, and a sober use of composition. His portrait style shows the influence of Peter Paul Rubens and Sir Anthony Van Dyck.
In 1643 Champaigne became involved with Jansenism, an ascetic sect, and he rejected previous Baroque techniques. His paintings became simplified and more austere, and his portraits, which often portray the sitter dressed in black, demonstrate his sensitivity toward and understanding of people. One of the masterpieces of his later period is “Ex Voto de 1662” (1662, Louvre), which depicts the miraculouscure of his daughter, a nun at the Jansenist convent of Port Royal. In his theory of art Champaigne emphasized drawing and was possibly the originator of the drawing-versus-colourcontroversy that embroiled the French Academy until well into the 18th century.
Triple Portrait of Richelieu c. 1640
Oil on canvas, 58 x 72 cm
National Gallery, London
Oil on canvas, 222 x 155 cm
Musee du Louvre, Paris