Eustache Le Sueur
The Baroque era was a high point of European art. During this era, artists from all over Europe flourished, embracing a highly-ornamental style which favoured mathematical and technical perfection over the artist’s expression. Like all countries in Europe at that time, France was swept up by the Baroque art style, creating an exciting and characteristic era in the history of art in France. French artists who followed the tenets of the Baroque school of art would usually paint religious themes and would decorate their paintings with highly ornamental lines and colors. Among the most famous French Baroque painters in the era is Eustache Le Sueur, one of the founders and first professors of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture.
Le Sueur, also spelt Lesueur, was born in Paris in on November 19th, 1617. His father was a woodworker and a sculptor, so young Le Sueur was introduced to the marvelous world of art since his childhood. At the tender age of 16, Le Sueur was sent to Simon Vouet’s workshop to start his apprenticeship under the master’s tutelage. His talent was quickly recognized, and soon found a certain degree of fame among his peers.
Unlike his peers, who would often turn to Rome for artistic inspiration, Eustache Le Sueur did not find much inspiration in the Eternal City. Instead, the bulk of his inspiration seems to stem from Vouet’s distinctive French Baroque style. That might also explain his fascination with churches and their environs. He also developed a love for order in this period, preferring the mathematical precision of the Baroque art style instead of the unruly one.
In the 1640s, Le Sueur took interest in another Baroque artist, Nicolas Poussin. It is even believed that he might have personally known Poussin himself! His interest in Poussin had had quite an influence on his art style, and he then developed new changes, gearing towards classicism, in his composition and modeling, but his characteristic delicate and tender colors remained unchanged. In 1648, Le Sueur became one of the twelve founding members of the newly-established Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, an institution which would prove to be extremely influential later on. In the last years of his life, he also examined works by Raphael, one of the four masters of the Renaissance era, exhaustively to incorporate some of his elements. He died in 1655 in Paris, his hometown.
Throughout his relatively short life, Le Sueur’s subject rarely changed. His religious themes in works such as The Sermon of Saint Paul at Ephesus and the famous 22-painting series of Life of St. Bruno were the centrepieces of his paintings. Le Sueur also left behind many tapestries which he completed in the early stage of his life, and some unfinished works as well. Le Sueur was a famous painter in his days, but he did not leave any direct successor. However, artists in later eras were indeed somewhat influenced by his religious themes and simplistic, fastidious art style characteristic of the French Baroque era.
Eustache Le Sueur (French, 1616 - 1655)
Marine Gods Paying Homage to Love, about 1636–1638, Oil on canvas
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles