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French historical painter, born in Paris, 1619; died at the Gobelin tapestry works, 1690. This great designer, whose fertility was so wonderful, received his first instruction in art from his father, and at the age of eleven was placed in the studio of Vouet. There he attracted the notice of Poussin, and in 1642 accompanied him to Italy, remaining there four years. On his return, he was for a while at Lyons, and then settled down in Paris. His skill soon brought him before the notice of the eminent personages of his day, and he received an important commission from Fouquet, and painted a large picture for Queen Anne of Austria, in return gave him her portrait set in diamonds. Cardinal Mazarin introduced him to Louis XIV, and he speedily became a very popular person at court, and held almost unlimited sway over all artistic matters after the death of Le Sueur. He was intimately concerned in 1648 in the foundation of the Academy, and when the king, under the advice of Colbert, founded the Gobelin tapestry works in 1662, Lebrun was appointed director, and was styled "a person skilful and intelligent in the art of painting, to make designs for tapestry, sculpture, and other works, to see that they were correctly rendered, and to direct and overlook all the workmen employed". Lebrun was responsible for designing almost all the important cartoons for the early work of the Gobelin factory, but beyond that, he was responsible for decoration and for statues at Versailles, for a long series of allegorical paintings, and for decoration work at Sceaux, Versailles, and Marly. When Colbert died in 1683, Lebrun lost his great patron, and during the last few years of his life, he withdrew from court, and fell into a condition of melancholy which continued until the time of his death. He was a great scenic artist, inspired by grand ideas, a man of unceasing energy, with a fine colour sense, and good knowledge of decoration, but his work was somewhat heavy, and the influence he exercised over French art was not wholly to its advantage. In designing tapestry, his art was well employed, and he will be remembered more for his splendid designs for the Gobelin work than for his own paintings.
GEORGE CHARLES WILLIAMSON