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Descamps, Jean-Baptiste

Date born: 1706

Place born: Dunkirk, France

Date died: 1791

Place died: Rouen, France

Painter and art dealer; wrote extensive biographies of European artists. Descamps was raised and trained in art in Dunkirk. He moved to Antwerp where he studied further and then in Paris with Nicolas Lancret, Nicolas de Largillierre and at the Académie Royale. Descamps moved to Rouen and founded a small studio and school. In 1749 Descamps’s school received the designation Ecole Royale, Gratuite et Académique de Dessin, de Peinture, de Sculpture et d’Architecture on the model of the Académie Royale in Paris. Sometime during this period, Descamps begain dealing in Dutch and Flemish Old Master painting. In 1759, Descamps published Voyage pittoresque de la Flandre et du Brabant and his La Vie des peintres flamands, allemands et hollandais (through 1763), both highly popular, the latter appearing in German by 1771. Descamps became a member of the Académie Royale in Paris in 1764 with genre and homey subject paintings similar Greuze, exhibited at the Salon of 1765. In 1767 Descamps wrote a work outlining the importance of drawing schools for art education. The latter book was awarded a prize from the Académie Royale. Most of his paintings are in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dunkirk, and the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rouen.

Althought Descamps' writings included many inaccuracies, he described the Netherlandish masters, the van Eyck and others, with personal observations that set him apart from many who ignored this genre. He is considered the first among modern [French] art writers to acknowledge their importance (Ridderbos).

Home Country: France

Sources: Rostand, André. "J.-B. Descamps." Bulletin de la Société des antiquaires de Normandie 43 (1936): 271-290; Angremy, Annie, ed. Diderot et l'art de Boucher à David: les salons 1759-1781. Paris: Hotel de la monnaie/Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1984, p. 170; Bazin, Germain. Histoire de l'histoire de l'art: de Vasari à nos jours. Paris: Albin Michel, 1986, p. 54; Asfour, Amal. Dictionary of Art; Ridderbos, Bernhard. "From Waagen to Friedländer." in, Early Netherlandish Paintings: Rediscovery, Reception, Research. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2005, p. 218.

Bibliography: La vie des peintres flamands, allemands et hollandois: avec des portraits gravés en taille-douce, une indication de leurs principaux ouvrages, & des réflexions sur leurs differéntes manieres. 4 vols. Paris: Charles-Antoine Jombert, 1753-1763; Sur l’utilité des établissements d’écoles gratuites de dessin. Paris: s.n. (?) 1767; Voyage pittoresque de la Flandre et du Brabant: avec des réflexions relativement aux arts & quelques gravures. Paris: Desaint, 1769.

Subject's name: Jean-Baptiste Descamps