by Scholes, Robert
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Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1824 - 1898)
Pierre Puvis de Chavannes was born in Lyons, France, into an old Burgundian family. His father, a civil engineer, sent him to school first in Lyons, then to the Lycee Henri IV in Paris. Interested in science, Puvis prepaired for the Ecole Polytechnique. He also attended some lectures in law. These studies were interupted by illness and a trip to Italy, where he was so struck by Piero della Francesca's frescoes in Aresso that he became interested in frescoe as a medium. He studied in Paris, first under Henri Scheffer and then, until 1852, under Thomas Couture, but was influenced more by Theodore Chasseriau than by either of his teachers. He established himself in a studio in the Place Pigalle, where he stayed until the year before his death. Most of his large paintings were done in a studio at Neuilly in the Paris suburbs, to which he walked every day. He is especially known as a painter of large decorative canvasses that function as murals. Sometimes categorized as a "symbolist," his work features idealized landscapes and human figures. To the surprise of many, his work was admired by modernist painters from Gauguin and Seurat to Matisse.