Exhibition to be held at the Palace of Versailles from 14 November 2023 to 17 March 2024
14 Novembre 2023 - 17 March 2024 Horace Vernet
In November 2023, the Palace of Versailles is dedicating a major retrospective to the painter Horace Vernet (1789–1863). A key figure at Versailles during the reign of Louis-Philippe, the artist produced, over period of 13 years, some of the most beautiful paintings in the Historical Galleries, making Versailles home to the largest collection of his works today. More than 40 years after the last exhibition dedicated to Vernet, this retrospective of some 200 works provides an opportunity to discover many exceptional masterpieces, as well as sketches and drawings demonstrating how the artist worked.
Born in 1789 in the Louvre, Horace Vernet is the grandson of the artist Joseph Vernet and the son of Carle Vernet, an equestrian painter. A worthy heir to the family dynasty, despite failing to win the Prix de Rome, he quickly became a favourite of Napoleon I and his family.
Initially part of the Romantic movement of the 1820s alongside his friend Théodore Géricault, Vernet developed an easy and seductive style before discovering lithography. He became the favourite painter of the Duke of Orléans, the future Louis-Philippe.
After the 1822 Salon refused his paintings, Horace Vernet promptly organised a personal exhibition in his studio. A huge success, it cemented his reputation and marked the start of a long official career. The exhibition later this year will aim to demonstrate how the style of Horace Vernet’s works evolved, moving from the Romantic passion he shared with Géricault to more solemn depictions of battles.
The exhibition will highlight the importance of Horace Vernet’s travels, particularly in Italy and Algeria. Appointed director of the French Academy in Rome in 1829, Horace Vernet discovered the great classical Italian works and tried his hand at historical painting. In 1833, he became interested in Algeria and concentrated on Orientalist painting, depicting a variety of civil, religious and military subjects. Two years later, he was commissioned to depict the military conquests of Louis-Philippe’s heirs for the Africa rooms at the Palace of Versailles.
This period of major commissions also encompassed numerous trips to the East and to Russia. Under the Second Empire, Vernet’s career was recognised with a retrospective of his work at the Universal Exhibition of 1855. He died in 1863 after having received the medal of Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour.
A prolific painter, Vernet was both acclaimed and derided by critics, and aroused strong feelings among his contemporaries. This retrospective will emphasise the painter’s easy style and the breadth of his preferred subjects, revealing his love for horses and hunting, his attachment to the Napoleonic saga and military exploits, his fondness for Romantic literature and Lord Byron, and for depicting his family background. A talented painter, Horace Vernet shone in all genres, especially portraiture. The exhibition will showcase many of his portraits kept in private collections. Vernet also quickly gained a degree of celebrity, which led him to pose for several colleagues. The exhibition will present some of these portraits by his contemporaries.
This retrospective will chart the painter’s entire career, delving deep into the 19th century of Horace Vernet. For the occasion, the canvases in the Africa rooms will also be available to view.
This exhibition will be curated by Valérie Bajou, General Curator at the National Museum of the Palaces of Versailles and Trianon.