Thomas Couture Biography
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Thomas Couture (1815-1879)
Thomas Couture was born December 21, 1815 at Senlis Oise, France and at age 11, Thomas Couture's
family moved to Paris where he would study at an industrial arts school and later at the Ãcole des
Beaux-Arts. He failed the prestigious Prix de Rome competition at the Ãcole six times, but he felt
the problem was with the school, not himself. Couture finally did win the prize in 1837.
In 1840, he began exhibiting historical and genre pictures at the Paris Salon, earning several medals for
his works, in particular for his 1847 masterpiece, "Romans in the Decadence of the Empire." Shortly
after his this success, Couture opened an independent atelier meant to challenge the Ãcole des Beaux-Arts
by turning out the best new history painters.
Couture's innovative technique gained much attention and he received Government and Church
commissions for murals during the late 1840s through the 1850s. However, he never completed the first
two commissions, while the third met with mixed criticism. Upset by the unfavorable reception of his
murals, in 1860 he left Paris for a time returning to his hometown of Senlis where he continued to teach
young artists who came to him. In 1867 he thumbed his nose at the academic establishment by publishing
a book on his own ideas and working methods.
During his lifetime, Couture taught such later luminaries of the art world as Edouard Manet, Henri
Fantin-Latour, and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes. Asked by a publisher to do an autobiography, Couture
responded with words that are even more appropriate today: "Biography is the exaltation of personality
and personality is the scourge of our time." Thomas Couture died March 30, 1879 at Villiers-le-Bel,
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