Jean-Antoine Houdon

Houdon, Jean-Antoine (zhäN-äNtwänˈ ōdôNˈ) [key], 1741–1828, French neoclassical sculptor. He studied with Michel Ange Slodtz, Lemoyne, and Pigalle, took the Prix de Rome at the age of 20, and spent four years in Italy. Many of his later works reveal his study of classical form, e.g., the marble Diana (St. Petersburg) and The Bather (Metropolitan Mus. of Art, N.Y.C.). He quickly became famous in Paris for his extraordinarily accurate portrait sculptures and received commissions from all over the world. In 1785 he visited the United States briefly and stayed at Mt. Vernon while making studies for his statue of Washington (capitol, Richmond, Va.). Among his portrait busts are those of Jefferson, Franklin, Diderot, Rousseau, John Paul Jones, Napoleon, Josephine, Lafayette, Molière, Mirabeau, Buffon, and Prince Henry of Prussia, and he also sculpted a full-length statue of Voltaire (Comédie Française). He succeeded not only in creating sculptural documents of his time, but in developing a type of portraiture remarkable for its elegance, measured realism, and depiction of individuality. Houdon exerted a strong influence over European and American sculptors for several generations.

See A. L. Poulet, Jean-Antoine Houdon: Sculptor of the Enlightenment (2004)

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