Jules-Joseph Lefebvre (1836-1911) was an academic French portraitist of the impressionist movement. His specialty was the female nude, and his paintings are usually very refined. He was born March 14, 1836. His father a baker who sent him off to study in Paris in 1852. Lefebvre studied under Léon Cogniet, and the following year attended l'École des Beaux Arts. In 1855, he debuted at the Paris Salon, and passed the next few years striving for the Prix de Rome. In 1859, he competed for it, and made second place. In 1861, his painting, The Death of Priam, won him the first prize of five years study in Rome, and great honours. In Rome, he was able to study the Italian artistic masters, and was struck with the work of Andrea del Sarto and other Mannerist painters.
In 1863, Lefebvre painted his first nude. In 1866, one of his paintings was quite ill received, and both of his parents, and one of his sisters died; not as consequence - simply to illustrate how difficult a year 1866 must have been for him. In 1870, he painted Truth, which was a great success, and shortly thereafter, he was made an Officer in the Légion d’Honneur. Because his work on the nude was so exquisite, he began to rival William Bouguereau in success.
In the 1870s, he taught with a focus on precise life-drawing to both men and women at a workshop, l'Académie Julien, in preparation for their entry to l’École des Beaux Arts. In 1889, he won the grand prize at the Exposition Universelle, and in 1891, was made a member of the Académie des Beaux Arts. In 1898, he got a promotion in the Légion d’Honneur to Commander.
Among his numerous students, there were the famous American painters Child Hassam, Edmund Tarbell, Ernest Lee Major, and Frank Benson, as well as the Belgian Symbolist Fernand Khnopff. Even William Bouguereau’s second wife, Elizabeth Bouguereau, studied under Lefebvre.
Jules-Joseph Lefebvre died on February 24, 1911. Paris’ town hall is decorated with several of his paintings.
His works include: