NAVEZ François Joseph

A Pensive Boy

Oil on canvas 44 x 56 cm
Signed Lower Right

Painter of religious and mythological subjects, portraits and genre scenes.

Navez was a pupil of Joseph François in Brussels. He won the grand prix in painting in Ghent in 1812. He then went to Paris where he studied with David, remaining there until 1816, when he accompanied David on his exile to Brussels.

He settled in that city, becoming one of the founders of the Belgian Neo-Classical school.

He then went on to Rome, staying there from 1817 to 1822, and met Ingres. Upon his return to Brussels he was named director of the Académie Royale des Beaux-arts, becoming one of the principal teachers among hte 19th Century Belgian masters, and became a corresponding member of the Institut de France. In 1836, he was named chevalier in the Order of Leopold. He was promoted to Officier in 1855, and Commandeur in 1859.

His portraits are distinguished by a profound humanity. Though rendered in a classical style, they nevertheless anticipated the approaching Romantic generation. Indeed, many of the Romantic artists were among his pupils, including Stallaerts, Baron and Eugène Smits. His historical subjects demonstrate a direct association with French Neo-Classical School. His influence on the Belgian school was extended through the work of his son, Poraels, and he also taught Charles Roux and Alfred Stevens. His art derived both from David and Ingres combining a taste for purity and vibrant colours.

His works are extensive, almost all his portraits are masterpieces. Camille Lemonnier said: “he was a traditionalist, especially because of his severe sense of fidelity to the ancients”. And further mentioned that “the entire bourgeoisie, the financiers and the aristocracy sought his beautiful portraits”. Another contemporary, L. Van Puyvelde said that “Navez’ work is charecterized by two outstanding qualities: deep sincerity and quality”.

Charleroi 1787 – Brussels 1869

Louvre Museum Paris

P&V Berko, "Dictionary of Belgian Painters born between 1750 & 1875", Brussels, pp. 488
E.Bénézit, "Dictionary of Artists", Paris 2006, vol. 10, pp. 199