An italianate landscape with ruins and cattle
Jean Joseph Xavier Bidauld (1758-1846)

An italianate landscape with ruins and cattle, Ca. 1820

Oil on panel, H. 0.43 m; W. 0.66 m

Printed label on the reverse: Antiquités Curiosités / LEGAY PÈRE / rue Stanislas 26 Nancy.

Provenance: With Legay Père, Paris (according to a label on the reverse). Sale, Christie's London, 14th December 1984. Sale, Christie's, London, 4th April 1986 Private Collection, United Kingdom.

First apprenticed to his brother Jean-Pierre in Lyon, it was not until 1783 that he moved to Pairs and received painting lessons from the portraitist Rabillon. In Paris he received the support of a perfume seller and art dealer named Dulac, who engaged him to copy Dutch 17th Century paintings, particularly landscapes. In 1785 he was encouraged to go to Italy by his contemporaries and, bankrolled by Dulac, he travelled around Tuscany and the countryside around Rome and Naples. This experience was to prove invaluable to his artistic development and immensely influential on his painting.

In 1790 Bidauld returned to Paris and exhibited at the Salon for the first time a year later. He won a medal in 1812 and in 1823 was accorded the great honour of being the first landscape painter elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts. Two years later he received the Légion d’ Honneur. Corot was one of his greatest admirers, exclaiming once: “Bidauld! Ah! But gently, now, he wasn’t just anybody, he was at times truly a master, and one of the finest.” His work is characterised by a gentle silvery light that softens the greens and blues of the lush landscapes he portrays.

Bidauld became embroiled in some controversy late in his life as neo-classical painting fell out of favour and he found it difficult to adapt to changing styles. As a member of the Salon jury he was accused of blocking future generations of landscape painters, in particular Théodore Rousseau. He was roundly criticised in the press and fell from favour. He died in poverty despite being able to call Charles IV, Napoleon and Louis XVIII amongst his patrons.