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Transforming the French painting away from the Rococo style towards a more restrained and classicizing idiom, the French Neoclassical painter Louis Jean François Lagrenée was celebrated for his small scale cabinet paintings of classical and mythological subjects. Born on 30 December 1724 in Paris, Lagrenée was the student of Carle van Loo. In 1749, Lagrenée won the grand Prix de Rome award on his first attempt with the painting “Joseph interpreting the dreams of Pharaoh”.
Lagrenée's brief stay in Rome was highly influential. He was particularly drawn towards the artists of 17th century Bolognese school such as Guido Reni and Francesco Albani and later earned the nickname “the French Albania” due to the similarities of his work with Albani.
With the completion of the famous painting “The abduction of Dejaneira by the centaur Nessus” in 1755, Lagrenée earned the membership of Académie de peinture et de sculpture by unanimous vote.
From 1760 to 1762 Lagrenée served as Director of the St. Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts. Upon his return to France, Lagrenée exhibited frequently at the biennial Paris Salon and completed many commissions for eminent patrons and raised through the ranks of the Académie Royale.
Between 1781 to 1787 Lagrenée was the Director of the Académie de France à Rome and spent his years at Villa Madici. In 1804 he was appointed honorary curator-director at the Musée Napoléan (now Musée du Lauvre). He held the position until his death in 1805.
Lagrenée's allegorical depiction won great praise from his contemporaries and were highly prized by the collectors. Rejecting the exuberant, artificial aesthetics of mid 1700s, Lagrenée revived the previous century’s taste for cool colors and polished refined techniques through his elegant and meticulous brushwork and harmonious colouring.
Lagrenée was made a Knight of the Legion of Honour (Legion d'honneur) on 15 July 1804 by Napoleon l. The painter was died on 19 June 1805 in Paris.