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Réattu Arelatensis

 

Jacques Réattu was born in Arles in 1760. In 1775, he entered the royal academy of painting and sculpture. He aspired to become a "History Painter", the noblest of the "Genres" according to the classification given to painting at that time.   This ambition relied on obtaining the Grand Prix de Rome, which was awarded by a competition which he first entered in 1782. He did not achieve the success he yearned for until 1790 (the competition going ahead despite the revolutionary events), but when he did it opened up the opportunity to spend a year in Italy, as a boarder of the King. Unfortunately, the political climate did not allow him to stay in the pontific capital for four years as intended. Even so, the stay did provide an opportunity for Jacques Réattu to achieve a major work, Prométhée protégé par Minerve et élevé au Ciel par le Génie de la Liberté dérobe le feu, the painter's first work on a revolutionary theme. On his return to France in 1793, he stayed in Marseille initially. Then, in 1795, he was commissioned to paint the interior of the Temple of Reason, consisting of eight monumental paintings "in grisaille", in imitation of bas relief and illustrating revolutionary ideals. In 1796, he returned to Arles, where he bought the Commanderie de Saliers, then all of the lots issuing from the Grand Prieuré de l'Ordre de Malte, whose confiscated property was sold off from 1793 onwards. It was there that he set up his studio, looking out onto the Rhone in an intimate tête-à-tête.

Between 1802 and 1819, Jacques Réattu threw himself into managing the property he owned. He did not pick up his paintbrushes until 1819, when he embarked on one of the most productive periods of his life, undertaking large-scale decoration projects, particularly for the theatres and city halls of Marseille, Nîmes and Lyon.  Alongside the grand allegorical output  of the period, Jacques Réattu also turned once again to works inspired by history. Finally, in 1826 , the artist began his first and only great religious interior for the church of t St Paul de Beaucaire, but he died in 1833, completing only three of the five works he had set out to paint.