Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, (14 December 1824 – 24 October 1898), was a French painter, who became the president and co-founder of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts and whose work influenced many other artists. He was born Pierre-Cécile Puvis de Chavannes in Lyon, Rhône, France, the son of a mining engineer, descendant of an old family of Burgundy. Pierre Puvis was educated at the Lyons College and at the Lycee Henri IV in Paris, and was intended to follow his father's profession when a serious illness interrupted his studies. A journey to Italy opened his mind to fresh ideas, and on his return to Paris in 1844 he announced his intention of becoming a painter, and went to study first under Eugène Delacroix, Henri Scheffer, and then under Thomas Couture. It was not until a number of years later, when the government of France acquired one of his works, that he gained wide recognition.
In Montmartre, he had an affair with one of his models, Suzanne Valadon, who would become one of the leading artists of the day as well as the mother, teacher, and mentor of Maurice Utrillo. His work is seen as symbolist in nature, even though he studied with some of the romanticists, and he is credited with influencing an entire generation of painters and sculptors. One of his protégés was Georges de Feure. Puvis de Chavannes is noted for painting murals, several of which may be seen at the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) in Paris, the Sorbonne, and the Paris Panthéon, and at Poitiers, as well as at the Boston, Massachusetts Public Library in the United States. Puvis de Chavannes was president and co-founder in 1890 of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts (National Society of Fine Arts) founded in Paris. It became the dominant salon of art at the time and held exhibitions of contemporary art that was selected only by a jury composed of the officers of the Société. Those who translated best the spirit of the work of Pierre-Cécile Puvis de Chavannes' in their own creations were, in Germany, the painter Ludwig von Hofmann and in France, Auguste Rodin. Beginning in 1926, The Prix Puvis de Chavannes (Puvis de Chavannes prize) was awarded by the National Society of Fine Arts (Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts). The Prix Puvis de Chavannes is the retrospective exhibition in Paris of the main works of the artist awarded the prize that year. During the twentieth century, this exhibition was located at the Grand Palais or the Musée d'Art Moderne.
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