Galerie Eric Coatalem

Laurent de (LaHyre) LaHire

(French, 1606–1656)

l’annonciation / annunciation by laurent de (lahyre) lahire

Laurent de (LaHyre) LaHire

L’Annonciation / Annunciation

présentation au temple by laurent de (lahyre) lahire

Laurent de (LaHyre) LaHire

Présentation au temple

Biography

Timeline

Laurent de La Hyre was, along with Eustache Le Sueur and Philippe de Champaigne, one of the few significant French artists of the first half of the 17th century who did not travel to Italy. While his training seems to have amounted to a few months in the studio of the Mannerist painter Georges Lallemant, La Hyre’s first significant works were painted in a Caravaggesque vein, notably the altarpiece of The Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew in the Cathédrale Sainte-Vincent in Maçon. The paintings of the first part of his mature career, typified by several works for Parisian churches executed in the 1630’s, find La Hyre at his most graceful and elegant. By the end of the decade he was well established as a painter of religious works, having earned numerous commissions from the Capuchin, Jesuit and Jacobin orders in Paris, as well as completing several paintings for Notre-Dame. By the 1640’s La Hyre was one of the leading artists in Paris. His paintings of this period, perhaps inspired by Poussin’s return to Paris from Italy at the beginning of the decade, became more refined and classical in manner, with a more idealized figure style and a cooler palette. As such he became one of the leading exponents of a style that has come to be known as Parisian Atticism, which was a reaction against the Baroque tendencies of Simon Vouet and his followers. He also began painting more historical and allegorical subjects and, beginning in the late 1640’s, a number of splendid landscapes. Many of his paintings of the late 1640’s and 1650’s were the result of commissions from private patrons, and served to decorate their Parisian residences. A founder member of the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in 1648, of which he became a Professor in 1655, La Hyre enjoyed a successful career until his death, with several pupils and followers who ensured that his influence and renown lasted well into the 18th century. Until recently, however, his modern reputation has suffered by comparison with that of such contemporaries as Nicolas Poussin and Eustache Le Sueur, perhaps as a result of the indifferent attitude to the artist evident in the writings of such 17th century critics as André Félibien and Roger de Piles.

Notwithstanding such contemporary critical assessment of his paintings, La Hyre’s drawings have always been greatly admired and avidly collected by connoisseurs. (The 18th century critic Antoine-Joseph Dezallier d’Argenville noted of La Hyre’s drawings that, ‘his works, executed with love and extremely well-finished, have a place in the finest private collections.’). As a result, a fairly large number of drawings by La Hyre have survived, certainly in relation to some of his contemporaries. As a draughtsman, La Hyre had a particular preference for black chalk, often enlivened with touches of brown or grey wash. He seems not to have adopted the Italian model of making numerous individual studies of every aspect of a composition, and most of his surviving drawings are instead finished studies of entire compositions. An inventory of the contents of La Hyre’s studio, drawn up shortly after his death, lists a large number of drawings by the artist, kept in four portfolios arranged by type and subject. While they included a number of studies of drapery and heads, the majority of the drawings in these portfolios were composition studies (‘dessins curieux contenant plusieurs figures et histories’), of which the present sheet, as a study for one of his most important commissions, was almost certainly one.