Jean-Paul Laurens Biography1838-1921
French Academic Classicism Painter
He was a pupil of Léon Cogniet and Alexandre Bida, and one of the last major exponents of the French Academic style. Strongly anti-clerical and republican, his work was often on historical and religious themes, through which he sought to convey a message of opposition to monarchical and clerical oppression. His erudition and technical mastery were much admired in his time, but in later years his hyper-realistic technique, coupled to a highly theatrical mise-en-scène, came to be regarded as overly didactic and even involuntarily comical.
Laurens was commissioned to paint numerous public works by the French Third Republic, including the steel vault of the Paris city hall, the monumental series on the life of Saint Genevieve in the apse of the Panthéon, the decorated ceiling of the Odéon Theater, and the hall of distinguished citizens at the Toulouse capitol. He also provided illustrations for Augustin Thierry's Récits des temps mérovingiens ("Accounts of Merovingian Times").
Laurens was a professor at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he taught André Dunoyer de Segonzac and George Barbier. Two of his sons, Paul Albert Laurens (1870-1934) et Jean-Pierre Laurens (1875-1932), became painters and teachers at the Académie Julian.