Jean-Pierre LAURENS

Paris 1875 - Fontenay-aux-Roses 1932


The son of the history painter and sculptor Jean-Paul Laurens, Jean-Pierre (known as Pierre) Laurens entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1895, studying with Léon Bonnat. He made his debut at the Salon des Artistes Français in 1898, winning a third-class medal, while the following year he won a silver medal and a travel grant, which he used to visit North Africa and Italy. His earliest exhibited works were mainly genre subjects and portraits. He also won a medal at the Salon of 1906, and in later years was a member of the Salon jury. Shortly after the outbreak of the First World War, Laurens served in the French 25th Territorial infantry regiment. Captured by the Germans in 1914, he spent much of the next four years at a prisoner of war camp in Wittenberg in Germany before being repatriated to France in 1918. After the war, Laurens continued his artistic career with renewed success, and was appointed a professor at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1924, a post he retained until 1931, when he retired for reasons of ill health. He also taught at the Académie Julian, and in 1930 was elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts. Apart from elegant portraiture, Laurens became known for his religious pictures, executed in a simple and direct manner somewhat akin to that of the painter Maurice Denis, who was a few years older. His most significant public commission was for the decoration of the newly-built church of Notre-Dame-du-Calvaire in Chatillon, a suburb southwest of Paris, constructed between 1932 and 1934. Laurens had received the commission from Cardinal Jean Verdier, archbishop of Paris, in 1928, but was only able to produce sketches for the project before his death in 1932. The extensive fresco decoration of the church - supervised by the artist’s wife, the painter and sculptor Yvonne Diéterle Laurens – was undertaken by several of his students, and was only completed in 1962. Paintings by Laurens are today in the collections of the museums of Beauvais, Bordeaux, Fécamp and Rouen, as well as in the Musée national d’Art moderne and the Musée de l’Armée in Paris.