Maurice Quentin de la Tour
The portrait above is of Marie Fel. She was a popular singer, still performing when she was 65. De la Tour loved her and judging by her expression she loved him too.
When I first started to paint portraits, I tried acrylics but I didn’t get on well. I was going to a weekly evening class and one of the other artists brought in a box of pastels that her grandmother had given her. I took one look and knew I had found my medium.
A few weeks ago a man who is interested in the history of art asked me which artist inspired my portrait style. So I immediately said Maurice Quentin de la Tour. I got my book, “The French Pastellists of the Eighteenth Century” by Haldane Macfall, from the book case, and showed him the images.
I found the book in a second hand bookshop. The prints are tipped onto blank pages in the book and I feel lucky to have found the book with all the prints in place. So many of those old books had the prints removed to hang on the wall. The book includes many Eighteenth Century pastellists, but it is clear that Mr Macfall considered that de la Tour was the star.
I am inspired by Maurice Quentin de la Tour because of the liveliness of the expressions he portrays. Most of his portraits tell me as much about the artist as about the subject. It is obvious from their amused expressions that he was an entertaining and witty man.
Most Eighteenth Century Portraits by famous oil painters look more like furnishings for their patrons’ mansions (chateaux?) than interesting individuals. I understand the desire of the patrons to want to present an image for posterity, but I don’t feel sad to think that I can never meet them. In de la Tour’s case I feel that I have already met them. So he inspired me to emulate him, not in wit but perhaps in kindness.
A lot of Maurice de la Tour’s portraits are in the Louvre. I haven’t been to Paris to see them but I have seen and appreciated a portrait of a young man in the National Gallery, London. It was in an obscure corner. Pastels are undervalued.
His most famous portrait is the one of Madame Pompadour (below) but there are many to see at this link which is where I downloaded the images on this page. It is free to download the jpegs and you can buy prints of the portraits from the site.
The site is a wonderful resource for looking at great art: