A Design for a Chapter Heading, with a Bust of Athena and Emblems of the Arts and Sciences

Jean-Michel Moreau, called Moreau Le Jeune

Biography



Known as Moreau le jeune to avoid confusion with his older brother, the landscape painter Louis Moreau, Jean-Michel Moreau is regarded as one of the greatest French illustrators of the 18th century. He studied with the painter Louis-Joseph Le Lorrain, wth whom he worked on theatre decorations in Russis between 1758 and 1760. He soon abandoned any intention of becoming a painter, however, in favour of establishing a career as a draughtsman and engraver, and to this end studied with the printmaker Jacques-Phillipe Le Bas. In 1770 he succeeded Charles-Nicolas Cochin as dessinateur des menus-plaisirs, in which role he was tasked with recording the official events and ceremonies of the French court.

At the same time, Moreau established his reputation as a book ilustrator, notably with his illustrations for Jean-Benjamin de La Borde’s Chansons and Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Oeuvres, as well as editions of works by Molière, Voltaire and others. His success continued into the 1780’s, and he was received as a full member of the Académie Royale in 1789. Following the French Revolution – of which he was a supporter – he continued to work as an illustrator, notably with a series of 113 plates for a Nouveau Testament, published in five volumes between 1793 and 1798. Much of his work over the last twenty years of his career was executed on behalf of the bibliophile and publisher Antoine-Augustin Renouard, and Moreau continued to earn a modest living from his illustrations. At the very end of his life, however, a cancerous growth on his right arm left him unable to draw.