Gustave Moreau

Biography of Gustave Moreau

Biography of Gustave Moreau


April 6, 1826
Gustave Moreau is born in Paris.
His father Louis Moreau, an architect, instilled in him a solid classical culture. His mother, Pauline, surrounded the frail young boy with her care.

Secondary education at Rollin College.
Death of his 13-year-old sister Camille, Gustave Moreau is withdrawn from college because of his health. His father prepares him for the baccalauréat. Since the age of eight, the young boy has never stopped drawing.

First trip to Northern Italy, from which he brought back an album of drawings.

Gustave Moreau attends the private studio of neoclassical painter François-Edouard Picot, decorator of public monuments and churches in Paris. There, he prepares for the entrance exam to the Ecole Royale des Beaux-Arts.

View of the interior of Saint Mark's Basilica, Venice, Gustave Moreau, Photo © RMN-Grand Palais / René-Gabriel Ojéda
View of the interior of Saint Mark's Basilica, Venice,
Gustave Moreau, Photo © RMN-Grand Palais /
René-Gabriel Ojéda

Gustave Moreau is admitted to the Ecole royale des Beaux-Arts.

Moreau leaves the School after his second failure at the Prix de Rome.

He made copies for the Louvre Museum and received a few commissions from the Beaux-Arts administration.

Moreau befriended Théodore Chassériau, a former pupil of Ingres, and rented a studio next door to his on avenue Frochot, near Place Pigalle. Chassériau's influence on Moreau is crucial.

Moreau is admitted to the official Salon for the first time. He frequents the theater and the opera. His parents buy a private house in his name at 14 rue de La Rochefoucauld. The painter's studio is set up on the third floor.

Death of Théodore Chassériau.


Second stay in Italy from October 1857 to 1859. He made copies after the masters (Michelangelo, Veronese, Raphael, Correggio, etc.). After Rome, he travels to Florence, Milan and Venice, where he discovers Carpaccio. He befriended the young Edgar Degas. After a stay in Naples with his parents, who had come to join him, he returned to Paris in September 1859. Shortly afterwards, it seems, he met Alexandrine Dureux, whom he introduced to drawing. She remained his "best and only friend" until her death in 1890.

Death of his father in February.

Makes his return to the Salon with Oedipus and the Sphinx, acquired by Prince Napoleon.

In November, Gustave Moreau is invited to Compiègne by Emperor Napoleon III.

Exhibits at the Salon Prométhée* and L'enlèvement d'Europe*. He wins a medal, but is harshly treated by the critics. He does not exhibit again until 1876.

Named Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur.

Exhibits at the Salon Salomé dansant, Hercule et l'Hydre de Lerne, Saint Sébastien, and a watercolor L'Apparition.

Paris World's Fair. He presents six paintings.

Moreau begins an exceptional series of sixty-four watercolors to illustrate Les Fables by La Fontaine (private collection), the sketches of which are kept at the Musée Gustave Moreau.

Last Salon participation with Hélène and Galatée.

He ran for the Académie des Beaux-Arts but was not elected.

Officer of the Legion of Honor.

His mother's death plunges him into deep despair.

Moreau completes the polyptych La Vie de l'Humanité*.
He exhibits at the Goupil gallery. This is the only solo exhibition during the artist's lifetime.

Election to the Académie des Beaux-Arts.

Death of his friend Alexandrine Dureux; deeply distressed, he paints Orphée sur la tombe d'Eurydice* in her memory.

He succeeds Elie Delaunay as professor at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. His pupils include Georges Rouault, Henri Matisse, Albert Marquet, Henri Charles Manguin, Edgar Maxence...
On Sundays, he entertained his students in his home, as well as some young artists such as Ary Renan, his first biographer, and George Desvallières.

He completed the masterpiece of his old age, Jupiter et Sémélé*, and had the family home at 14 rue de La Rochefoucauld converted into a museum after his death.


He dies on April 18. Funeral at the Trinité church in Paris. He is buried in the Montmartre cemetery.


*Works followed by an asterisk are kept at the Musée Gustave Moreau.