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Leon Jean Basile Perrault (French, 1832-1908)

Also known as:  Leon Bazile Perrault; Perrault, Leon Bazile; Perrault, Leon Jean Basile; Léon Bazile Perrault

A master painter in the same vein as his teachers, Edouard Picot and William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Leon Jean Bazile Perrault produced the full range of 19th-century academic subjects: religious, allegorical, and historical scenes and, his true passions, portraiture and genre painting. His impoverished childhood in Poitiers motivated him to pursue an art career in order to change his fortunes; at age nineteen, he won a regional drawing competition, which helped him secure a letter of introduction to Picot’s studio in Paris. Here, and later at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts with Bouguereau, Perrault sharpened his academic skills, exhibiting at the Paris Salon religious works such as Christ au tombeau and elaborate battle scenes, notably Le mobilize. Indeed, his acceptance as an accomplished military painter led to several collaborations with the studio of Horace Vernet during the 1860s.

However, it was his genre paintings of women and children that Perrault infused with particular integrity and honesty and which repeatedly impressed Salon critics. Departing from Bouguereau’s sentimental, doe-eyed peasants, Perrault’s subjects convey more complex emotions, born out of his own experience as a struggling youth: inner strength, maturity, hope, and responsibility to family. Perrault first exhibited these “symbolic” genre paintings at the Salon of 1864, and they became a staple of his oeuvre.

Knighted a Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur in 1887, Perrault received medals at the 1889 and 1900 Exhibitions Universalles. His paintings can be viewed at the Musee des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux; Musee Sainte-Croix, Poitiers; Kunstmuseum, Stuttgart; and Brooklyn Museum, among other notable institutions.

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