French artist Ary Scheffer blurred the lines of fashionable art to create an ever-evolving style of his own choosing. Born into a family of artists, he soon began his formal training and was rapidly propelled into the flourishing Parisian art scene.
At just 16, he was working with the brilliant French classicist Pierre-Narcisse Guérin at the École des Beaux-Arts while also being immersed in the emerging drama of the romantics.
Eugène Delacroix was a contemporary who also trained under Guérin and Scheffer knew him well. Imagine the conversations - Delacroix full of intensity, drama, and expressive brushwork - Scheffer excited by new ideas yet grounded by his formal teachings.
This contrast between the upright nature of neo-classical tastes and the modern thrust of the romantics underpinned Scheffer’s complex approach. On one hand, he could produce exquisite figures veneered with porcelain skin, while on the other he could inject a beguiling sense of sorrow that clutched at every heartstring.
He was rarely happy with his output - working every composition over and over again. An endless cycle of artistic pain in search of an impossible ideal. A true creative genius.
Today, Scheffer’s work can be found in various public collections, including the Van Gogh Museum, The Met, The National Gallery, and the V&A, along with many high profile private homes.
He also produced over 500 portraits including for Charles Dickens, Frédéric Chopin, and Queen Marie Amélie.
Born in Dordrecht, The Netherlands, to Johan Bernard Scheffer (1765-1809), a portrait painter, and Cornelia Lamme (1769-1839), a portrait miniature painter. Lamme was the daughter of landscape painter Arie Lamme. His brother, Hendrik (1798-1862) was also a painter.
Attended the Amsterdam Drawing Academy.
His father became the court painter to Louis Bonaparte in Amsterdam but died a year later.
Moved to Lille to study.
Moved to Paris with his mother and studied at the École des Beaux-Arts under Pierre-Narcisse Guérin.
Debuted at the Paris Salon.
Commissioned to produce a portrait of the Marquis de Lafayette.
Began giving drawing lessons to the children of Louis-Philippe, Duc d’Orléans.
Birth of daughter, Cornelia (1830-1899 who became a sculptor and painter.
Awarded the Legion of Honour.
Fought in the army of Cavaignac during the uprising in Paris. But he was so shocked by the level of Government cruelty that he refused any further commissions from Napoléon III’s family.
Married Sophie Marin and later became a French citizen.
Died in Argenteuil, France.