Maurice Quentin de La Tour (1704-1788) was a French Rococo portraitist who worked primarily with pastels. Among his most famous subjects were Voltaire, Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour. He was the son of a musician who disapproved of his painting career. That’s why he has as teenager left home and went to Paris where he was thought to paint. He went to Rheims in 1724 and to England in 1725, returning to Paris to resume his studies around 1727. In Paris he also had learned about new medium “pastel” made so popular by a young Venetian artist Rosalba Carriera. After returning to Paris, he adopted pastel as the sole medium of his portraits.
In 1737 La Tour exhibited the first of a splendid series of 150 portraits that served as one of the glories of the Paris Salon for the next 37 years. In the age of 46 he was appointed portraitist to the King, which established his reputation among the royalty and upper middle class.
There is an interesting story about his character and attitude: While painting Madame de Pompadour (click on the link to hear interesting story about this painting) he ask not to be disturbed but: “A quarter of an hour had scarcely passed when the door of the apartment opened and the King entered. Lifting his cap, La Tour said to his model, “You promised, Madame, that your door should be closed to visitors.” Louis laughed good at both the costume and the rebuke of the artist, and begged him to proceed with his work. “It is impossible for me to obey your Majesty,” replied La Tour: “I will return when Madame is alone.” There-upon he walked into another room to dress himself, saying as he went, “I don’t like to be interrupted.”
Towards the end of his life, he founded an art school and became a philanthropist before begin confined to his home because of mental illness. He retired at the age of 80 to Saint-Quentin where now stands the Musee Antoine Lecuyer with it’s wonderful collection of close to 80 works by this master of pastel
There is an interesting interactive tour of his work on interactive pages of the Museum “Antoine Lecuyer”.