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Nicolas-Bernard Lépicié

(1735-1784, Paris)

Sitting male nude with knees bent, his head resting on his left arm. Red chalk drawing. 43.5 x 34.2 cm. Signed “Lépiciè” in pen and brown ink.

The painter, Nicolas-Bernard Lépicié, received his initial training from his father, the court engraver and secretary to the academy, Bernard Lépicié (1698-1755), and was then apprenticed to Carle van Loo. He entered the Académie Royale as an agréé with a historical painting in 1764 and became a full member of the academy the same year. Lépicié made a successful academic career for himself in a relatively short space of time and became a professor in 1777. Although trained as a history painter, a discipline in which he was successful for a long time thanks to the official commissions he received, the last years of his life were overshadowed by a deep creative crisis, for his contemporaries valued him above all as the author of entertaining, highly decorative genre scenes and as a willing portraitist of Parisian society. Lépicié’s works were thus quickly forgotten after his death.

The artist left an extensive oeuvre of high-quality drawings. The present nude drawing is treated in a vigorous, simple, almost schematic style that gives the picture a classical severity. Particularly noteworthy is the remarkable economy of means, which reveals the artist’s experience as a draughtsman. The contours of the muscular body are defined with confident, powerful lines. Lépicié is not wasteful, concentrating rather on the essentials. The sense of abstraction he demonstrates goes hand in hand with an effective distribution of light, which enhances the three-dimensional quality of the individual parts of the body. The male model is sat on a block of stone; the terrain and the background have been swiftly and masterfully sketched with vigorous, narrow parallel hatchings.

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