Alexandre Cabanel was an Academic French painter, greatly influenced by the Rococo style. He was highly distinguished as both a professor and an artist. He became one of the most fashionable and respected French artists from his generation.
The artist was born in September 1823, in the city of Montpellier, France. Cabanel enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts at seventeen years old and maintained a close relationship with the institution throughout his life.
Cabanel’s first exhibition at the Paris Salon was in 1844, and in the following year, he was awarded the highly distinguished Grand Prix de Rome scholarship. He was elected an Institute member in 1863 when he was forty years old, and in the next years, the artist was appointed as a professor a the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he taught until his death.
Cabanel was closely connected with the Paris Salon, being appointed regularly as a jury, and his pupils made a strong presence in the Salon as well, counting more than a hundred of them. Through them, it is possible to notice that Cabanel had a strong influence in developing the character of the belle époque of French painting.
Ironically, Cabanel’s influence existed as a Paris Salon jury even with his refusals; His refusal along with William-Adolphe Bouguereau, to accept Impressionists painters such as Édouard Manet and many others at the Salon in 1863.
The artist was the primary moving force that led to the establishment of the Salon des Refusés.
1863 was also the year that Cabanel would finish and exhibit what probably his most known and celebrated artwork, as well as considered his magnum opus. The Birth of Venus was an instant success, which displayed the artist’s academic style with a strong stylistic influence from the Rococo. The aforementioned picture was later bought by Napoleon III; today, a smaller replica can be admired at the distinguished Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Cabanel was awarded the Grand Medaille d’Honneur at the Paris Salon of 1865, 1867, and 1878.
Cabanel had several pupils, many of them became recognized artists.