Jean-François Raffaëlli

No artwork matches

Biography of Jean-François Raffaëlli ( 1850-1924 )

Born inside a well-to-do family who possessed several manufactures of print on silk, Jean-François Raffaëlli grew up in Lyon before arriving in Paris. His family met a sudden setback of fortune forced the young 14 years boy to find a job. He first began to work as a bookkeeper in a shop but the boy didn’t really like numbers. Then, he won his life through music, by composing and singing especially during marriages. He was also regularly employed by the Athénée lyric theater. He took time to visit museums and became aware of his painter’s vocation. So, Raffaëlli began drawing and then painting. 

He joined the army when he was 20 and participated at the battles of Bourget and Champigny before coming back to Paris during the Commune. He lived this bloody and difficult period with anger and desolation. He fully felt each moment that he painted with an obsession of details in his works from 1870 to 1880. This complete self-taught man entered the Fine-Arts School in Jean-Leon Gérôme’s studio in 1871, but the atmosphere of the academy was not suitable for him. He prefered to visit the Louvre, chose to study by his way and began to travel at that time. His steps lead him to Italy, especially Rome, Milan and Naples and then in Algeria. He painted here some coloured canvases in which moved figures in costumes.

He exhibited his first paintings at the Salons in 1873, and then in 1875 and 1876. He obtained his first successes that allowed him to live from his art at only 26. During the 1877’s Salon, he presented La famille de Jean le Boiteux, paysans de Plougasnou, Finistère. This canvas with faded tones has instantly been recognized by critic. It introduced a new period in Raffaëlli’s art who rejected artifice in order to capture true moments of life and catch their reality.

Settled in Asnières near Paris, the painter found here new themes for his painting: people who had odd jobs, road menders, shallots dealers, rag-and-bone men, caners. Landscapes by Raffaëlli are very different from the ones by his contemporaries the impressionists who developed their art in a luxuriant nature. Friend with Degas, Raffaëlli exhibited thirty paintings with the Impressionists in 1880 and again more than 30 works in 1881. But he is finally excluded from the group, on the demand of Monet and Caillebotte who judged him too invasive. He came closer to the “Groupe des XX” in Brussels and exhibited once again at the Salon of French Artists. He gained there an honorable mention in 1885, was nominated knight of the Legion of Honour in 1889 and won a gold-medal during the 1889’s Universal Exhibition. Appointed officer of the Legion of Honour in 1906, he became member if the Fine-Arts Society.

At the end of the 1890’s, he exhibited in Pittsburg and New York. He met success everywhere and settled in a private mansion situated rue de Courcelles in Paris where he welcomed the Tout-Paris, of whom Octave Mirbeau, Maurice Barrès, Georges Clémenceau, Auguste Rodin or Émile Zola. His painting continued to evolve and from now on Raffaëlli made portraits and Paris views. Little by little, he abandoned popular subjects that made his success to turn into bourgeoisie’s theme with light and divided style.

32 avenue Marceau
75008 Paris, France
Monday to Friday from 10am to 7pm
Saturdays from 2 to 7 p.m.
NEWSLETTER: If you would like to receive our newsletter, please enter your email address: