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The Penitent Magdalen

The Dream of St Joseph

Georges De La Tour

(1593 - 1652)

A French painter of the 17th-century, Georges De La Tour was a master at capturing candle light. His extraordinary vision added a new dimension to painting by transforming light into a real color. His acute eye for detail, coupled with his ability to replicate the simplicity within a scene, was unmatched by any other artist of his time. A follower of Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro and tenebristic techniques, he helped pave the way for Impressionism.

Georges De La Tour was born on March 14, 1593, in Vic-sur-Seille (the independent province of Lorraine), in Northeastern France, the son of a baker. Not much is known about his youth, until he married Diane le Nerf in 1617, when he declared his profession as a painter in the marriage contract. The first of his ten children was born in 1619.

De La Tour moved to Lunéville in 1620, where he established himself as an artist, and specialized in religious and genre scenes. In 1639, he was given the title “Peintre Ordinaire du Roi” (Painter to the King) and resided in an apartment in the Louvre. The King, Louis XIII, had all works by other masters removed from his chambers and replaced them with works from George de la Tour. The artist became a master painter gaining important patrons such as Henry II of Lorraine, and the Duke de La Ferté.

With an uncompromising realist vision, Georges De La Tour sought to bare the soul of his subjects by simplifying form. The absence of background keeps the emphasis on the subject, and adds an air of mystery to the painting making it memorable. A transitional painting, ‘Job and His Wife’ (Épinal), is an early example of the artist’s nocturnal scenes.

Georges De La Tour's paintings of common men and women and religious subjects were created with sympathetic insight, and were both intense and powerful in their statement. Some of his more popular religious paintings include: ‘The Birth of Christ’, ‘The Adoration,’ and ‘Mary Magdalene’. In his later works, he reduced figures to simple, sculptural forms rendered in warm colors. One of his most common subjects during that time was that of the hurdy-gurdy player, a medieval stringed instrument played by turning a rosined wheel with a crank and depressing keys connected to tangents on the strings.

Georges De La Tour died in Lunéville on January 30th 1652, at 59 years of age. He remained totally forgotten until the early 20th century when he was rediscovered by a German scholar in 1915.

Movements associated with Georges De La Tour:
17th century, French artists

Art prints by Georges De La Tour
The Dream of St Joseph The Penitent Magdalen


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