The Prodigious Painter

Achille-Etna Michallon
Born: 22 October 1796, Paris, France
Nationality: French
Movement: Romanticism
Died: 24 September 1822, Paris, France

Michallon was a prodigiously talented artist who tragically died at the very young age of 25. He was the son of a sculptor and studied under Jacques-Louis David and Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes. In 1817, he won the Prix de Rome for landscape painting. He studied in Italy for two years but died of pneumonia before he could develop what he had learned.

Achille-Etna Michallon

After the death of both his parents, Michallon was raised by his Uncle, the sculptor Guillaume Francin. He drew from life from an early age and studied with Pierre Henri de Valenciennes. Jacques-Louis David, and Jean-Victor Bertin. He began exhibiting in 1812. In 1814 he travelled to Vichy, and in 1815 drew the fortifications erected around Paris.

Goatherd Opposite the Falls of Tivoli by Achille-Etna Michallon, 1819. Oil on canvas. Currently housed by Indianapolis Museum of Art, USA

Michallon won the 1817 Prix de Rome. Before leaving for Italy he painted a series of sepia wash drawings in Dieppe, Saint-Valéry-en-Caux, and Fécamps for the Baron Isidore-Justin- Sévérin Taylor’s Voyage pittoresque de la Franc. He left for Rome in 1818 at the same time as Léon Cogniet and the two formed a friendship. While in Rome Michallon created the Death of Roland for the Diana Gallery as Fontainebleau an exhibited at the 1819 Salon in Paris.

After the Thunderstorm by Achille-Etna Michallon, 1817. Oil on canvas. Currently located at the Bowes Museum, County Durham, UK

Michallon travelled through Sicily and southern Italy during 1819 – 20, making numerous drawings and painted studies of architectural subjects, including the Temple of Neptune at Paestum and the Forum of Pompeii, and of picturesque characters, such as Countrywoman, near Rome. He also painted landscapes without figures, such as the Island of Ischia and Eruption of Vesuvius at Night, displaying his talent for observing atmospheric conditions and time of day.

Landscape with Philoctetes on the Island of Lemnos by Achille-Etna Michallon, 1822. Oil on canvas

Returning to France in 1821 Michallon opened a studio and produced several paintings based on his memories of Italy combining the Classicism of the landscape with studies in nature. In such dramatic paintings such as Landscape with a Man Frightened by a Snake, he suggested passionate violence . In his final paintings Michallon became more sensitive to the melancholy of nature and the drama of natural elements. He died of pneumonia in 1822 and his paintings and drawings were sold in Paris

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