If you’re a meme connoisseur such as myself, there’s no doubt that you have seen this meme (or a variation of it). But, do you know who this cheeky, well dressed, 18th century gentleman is? The short story is that his name was Joseph, Baron Ducreux and he was a French noble, portrait painter, pastelist, miniaturist, and engraver.
Ducreux was born on June 26, 1735 in Nancy, France. He originally trained under his father, who was also a painter, but eventually went to Paris at age 25 in order to pursue a more formal training. Under such greats as Maurice Quentin de La Tour and Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Ducreux refined his skills and developed his own style. Ducreux’s “big break” came in 1769 at the age of 34 when he traveled to Vienna to paint a portrait of Louis XVI’s future bride, Marie Antoinette. His work must have struck a chord with the Queen of France, as he was created both a baron and premier peintre de la reine, or First Painter to the Queen, by the monarch. This was unusual for the time since Ducreux was not a member of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, whose members these positions were customarily reserved for. Famously, Ducreux drew the last portrait of Louis XVI in London before the king’s execution during the French Revolution.
After the Revolution, Ducreux returned to Paris where he enjoyed a successful career. At his residence, he entertained many influential artists, musicians, and creatives who commissioned portraits from him. In addition to traditional portraits, Ducreux was known for breaking the mold of traditional styles. Instead of the prim and proper style of the times, he was more interested in capturing his subject’s personalities through facial expressions and outer appearance. Many of these styles of work were self portraits in which Ducreux can be seen yawning, asking for silence, or most famously pointing and laughing at the observer.
Throughout his life, Ducreux had several children, at least 3 becoming painters themselves. Much of his work still exists today, hung in some of the world’s most famous art museums. Ducreux’s work is appreciated by both visitors of the Louvre and memers alike.
Browse the gallery of some of his famous works below, maybe you’ll come up with the next viral meme of the man, the myth, the legend.
Head here to learn more:
Joseph Ducreux on Wikipedia
Joseph Ducreux at The J. Paul Getty Museum
Deep Dull History of Joseph Ducreux by Melissa Iazzi on Medium