Georges de La Tour was born in north-eastern France in a commune named Vic-Sur-Seille. He was the second born in a large family of seven children of Jean and Sybille de La Tour. It is possible the artist had noble blood from his mother’s side.
Inspired by Caravaggio, La Tour became famous for his use of chiaroscuro in candlelight scenes. During the beginning of the XVII century, a large group of Baroque artists was influenced by Caravaggio’s paintings, and they were mostly from the Utrecht School.
The beginning of his formal education is not well documented, but historians believe he may have traveled early to the Netherlands or Italy. It is also thought that he studied under the artist and printmaker, Jacques Bellange.
La Tour moved to the quiet town of Lunéville to settle his studio after getting married to Diane Le Nerf in 1617. The couple established themselves well, as Le Nerf was from a noble family. By this time, the artists focused mostly on religious and genre paintings. His patrons and clientele were mainly composed of the local French bourgeoisie, but he also produced paintings for Duke of Lorraine in 1623.
One of La Tour’s most famous masterpieces is The Penitent Magdalene, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The artist creates a mysterious and captivating scene by working with chiaroscuro. The woman seated, apparently posing for the painting, is looking to the back of the room, making her face not visible to the viewer. The model places her hands with her fingers intertwined over a skull that lays on her lap. A lit candle illuminates the room and reflects on a small mirror, creating a gloomy atmosphere.
By 1638, the Baroque artist was appointed as the King of France’s painter. During a period of about three years after, little is documented about La Tour, but he was possibly studying painting abroad. Historians believe he had contact with the work of Gerrit van Honthorst around this time, as influential traits begin to appear in some of La Tour’s art.
While in Lorraine, La Tour was involved in a strong religious revival led by the Franciscans, which led him to begin producing almost exclusively artworks with religious subjects. A beautiful example of a religious painting featuring the artist’s signature candle lighting is Christ In The Carpenter's Shop, now in the Louvre Museum.
Georges de La Tour died tragically along with his family in 1652 because of an epidemic that hit Lunéville.