Claude Ferdinand Gaillard Biography

Claude Ferdinand Gaillard





Painter and engraver Claude Ferdinand Gaillard was born in Paris in 1834. It is assumed that his early studies were with James Hopwood and Lecouturier. However his primary instructor was Leon Cogniet, with whom he began engraving in 1850, the same year he entered the École des Beaux-Arts.

His early professional career was spent creating fashion plates and other commercial pursuits to make a living. In terms of perception by the traditional Parisian art world, his style was considered too light of hand, without the drama of the Romantics, and he was often dimissed despite immense technical skill and heightened sensitivity of the human form. Yet his abilities did not go entirely unnoticed. His highly detailed, delicately rendered engravings brought him the Prix de Rome for engraving in 1856. By 1863 his worked had gained enough notoriety to be included in the famous "Salon des Refusés", the first exhibition ordered by Emporer Napoleon III of "refused" artworks to be put on display at the same time as the Paris Salon. His work of art, a portrait of Bellini, was hailed by Philippe Burty as the work of a master, "who engraved with religious care and showed a high classical talent". Following this enterprise, Gaillard's engravings and paintings were included in every Paris Salon. 

Gaillard's manner was to engrave with soft, delicate lines, drawn closely together but not crossing, and to render every fold, wrinkle, or mark on the skin with care. He was best known for his L'Homme à l'Oeillet, completed in eight days, which brought him only $100. 
His portraits of Pius IX and Leo XIII raised "the insubordinate scholar" to the rank of the reportedly the most celebrated engraver of his day. Another plate is the St. Sebastian, and there is a portrait of Prosper Guéranger. "My aim", he said, "is not to charm, but to be true; my art is to say all." Gaillard was decorated in 1876, became officer of the Légion d'honneur in 1886, and President of the Société des Graveurs au Burin in 1886. Just before his death the government ordered him to engrave Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper and Mona Lisa. He died in Paris in 1887.

Taken in part from the Catholic Encyclopedia.