Gabriel-Jacques de SAINT-AUBIN

Paris 1724 - Paris 1780


Gabriel de Saint-Aubin’s career was, by and large, devoted to drawing. Only a relative handful of paintings and etchings by him exist, and it is as a draughtsman that he is best known, and on which his modern reputation rests.

Trained in the studio of François Boucher, Saint-Aubin is first recorded in 1747 as a teacher in the Ecole des Arts established in Paris by the architect Jacques-François Blondel. He tried to gain admission to the Académie Royale by competing for the Prix de Rome three times, between 1752 and 1754, without success. By the end of the 1750’s he had largely abandoned painting in favour of an almost obsessive focus on drawing. Saint-Aubin produced countless scenes, usually on a small and intimate scale, of 18th century Parisian daily life, society, theatrical performances and public events. As his elder brother noted of him after his death, ‘he drew all the time and everywhere’, while another posthumous account recorded that ‘He was the most prolific draughtsman that we have, perhaps, ever seen. One never met him without a pencil in his hand.’

Saint-Aubin also recorded, in the form of thumbnail sketches in the margins of exhibition and auction catalogues, the appearance of thousands of works of art exhibited at the annual Salons or sent for sale in Parisian auctions. Some one hundred such annotated catalogues are listed in the inventory of the artist’s estate after his death, along with several thousand drawings.