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Hugues Merle (French, 1823-1881)
The French academic painter Hugues Merle gained acclaim during his lifetime for his idealized depictions of family life and of historical and religious subjects. He was often associated with his friend and rival William-Adolphe Bouguereau; in fact, their shared dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel, urged Bouguereau to add to his pictorial repertoire Merle's interpretation of familial love, which had defined his most successful Salon entries during the 1840s through '60s. Whether imaging modern-day Madonnas with children, Susanna at her bath, or Mary Magdelene, Merle favored emotion-filled, often seductive, facial expressions and languid bodies to connote drama and pathos.
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