Alexandre Cabanel (28 September 1823 – 23
January 1889) was a French painter born in Montpellier, Hérault. He painted
historical, classical and religious subjects in the academic style. He was
also well known as a portrait painter. According to Diccionario Enciclopedico
Salvat, Cabanel is the best representative of the L'art pompier and Napoleon
III's preferred painter.
He entered the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris at the age of seventeen. Cabanel
studied with François-Édouard Picot. He exhibited at the Paris Salon for the first
time in 1844, and won the Prix de Rome scholarship in 1845 at the age of twenty
two. Cabanel was elected a member of the Institute in 1863. He was appointed
professor at the École des Beaux-Arts in 1864 and taught there until his death.
Cabanel won the Grande Médaille d'Honneur at the Salons of 1865, 1867, and
He was closely connected to the Paris Salon: "He was elected regularly to the
Salon jury and his pupils could be counted by the hundred at the Salons. Through
them, Cabanel did more than any other artist of his generation to form the
character of belle époque French painting". His refusal together with
William-Adolphe Bouguereau to allow the impressionist painter Édouard Manet and
many other painters to exhibit their work in the Salon of 1863 led to the
establishment of the Salon des Refusés by the French government.
A successful academic painter, his 1863 painting The Birth of Venus is one of
the best known examples of 19th-century academic painting. The picture was bought
by the emperor Napoleon III; there is also a smaller replica (painted in 1875 for a
banker, John Wolf) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. It was given
to them by Wolf in 1893.