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Francesco Paolo Hayez was a notable Italian painter of the Romanticism, exceeding in portrait painting, as well as in portraying historical and biblical themes in his art. Francesco was born in Venice in February of 1791.
Hayez was the youngest of five brothers and came from a humble background. He was raised by his aunt on his mother’s side and displayed his talent for drawing at a young age. His aunt was married to an art restorer named Giovanni Binasco, who taught Hayez all about his craft.
During his years of study to become an outstanding painter, Hayez learned under Italian artists like Francesco Maggiotto and Teodoro Matteini, both who brought strong Neo-Classical influence to his work. The beginning of his artistic career was marked by grand historical themes, a reflex of the Neo-Classicism, but he would eventually open up to Romantic paintings.
Hayez was awarded a scholarship to study in Rome at the Accademia di San Luca after winning a contest at the Venice Academy. Hayez lived in Rome from 1809 to 1814, studying art and painting until he left for Naples. Marchal Joachim Murat commissioned to paint one of his first major paintings, Ulysses at the court of Alcinous. By the 1830s, the artist was in Milan, where he participated in Salons and received the prestigious position of director of the Academy of Brera, known today as Milan’s central public art gallery.
Hayez was mostly known for his portraits, which have a clear influence from Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. These paintings are not only of noble people, but he also includes other artists, like painters and musicians, in his repertoire of portraitures. By the end of his career, Hayez was able to use photography as reference for his paintings as well. The painter became well known for his provocative portrayals of women, mostly seminude and wrapped in beautifully draped fabric, like in Odalisque.
The Italian painter, like other Romanticists of his time, also concluded many Orientalist artworks, with themes of the Middle East, as seen in The New Favorite. Scenes of Harems and beautiful women were made possible in Orientalist works; subjects often frowned upon by European society.
Without a doubt, The Kiss is Hayez’s most famous piece and continues to gain praise in the contemporary world. Many of his paintings don’t contain date or signature, making the work of art historians much more difficult.