biographie de Jean Antoine HOUDON (1741-1828)

Birth place: Versailles, France

Death place: Paris, France

Addresses: Worked briefly in the United States for several months in 1785

Profession: Sculptor

Studied: Acad. de Rome ( Grand Prix de Rome, 1761); 1764 -69 in Rome

Exhibited: PAFA, 1906

Work: Pierpont Morgan Lib., NY; Mt. Vernon, VA; Virginia State House, Richmond (the full-length George Washington statue)

Comments: One of 18th-century France's greatest sculptors. After studying in Rome he returned to France and quickly established himself as a portrait and ideal sculptor of the highest rank, his most notable work being a bust of Voltaire executed in 1778. In 1784 he was commissioned by the Virginia state assembly to make a marble statue of George Washington. Accompanied by Benjamin Franklin (whom Houdon had sculpted in 1778), Houdon traveled to America in September of 1785 and went to Mt. Vernon to meet Washington. There he made a life mask (Pierpont Morgan Library); modeled a terra cotta bust (Mt. Vernon); and took Washington's measurements to ensure accuracy for what was to be life-size likeness. By the end of the year he had returned to France (permanently), where for the next several years he worked on the statue. Finally in 1796 the statue was unveiled in Virginia where it was placed in the rotunda of the State Capitol building. Houdon's bust of Washingon served as the model for the head of Horatio Greenough's large-scale seated portrait of George Washington (see entry on Greenough). Many of Houdon's works, including busts of a number of famous Americans are in the United States.

Sources: G&W; Hart and Biddle Memoirs of the Life and Works of Jean Antoine Houdon, the Sculptor of Voltaire and of Washington (Phila., 1911). See also: Chinard, Houdon in America: A Collection of Documents in the Jefferson Papers in the Library of Congress (Baltimore, 1930); L. RÈau, Great French Sculptor of the 18th Century," Connoisseur (June 1948), 74-77; Thieme-Becker; BÈnÈzit. More recently, see Craven, Sculpture in America, 51-53. "

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